The Power to Learn: Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem
For many individuals, both with and without learning disabilities (LD), self-esteem is a powerful predictor of success. Not all students with LD have problems with social competence and self-esteem, but many do, and struggling daily with the challenges posed by a learning disability can erode the enthusiasm and confidence that make learning, at all ages, fun. Knowing one's assets and liabilities, and feeling good about one's self can be an invaluable tool for negotiating the sometimes tumultuous path to achievement in school, success in the workplace, and acceptance at home and in the community at large.
Positive self-esteem is a powerful thing
It has been said that positive self-esteem is as important to success in school and on the job as the mastery of individual skills. And there's no question that doing something well helps a person feel better about themselves, their accomplishments and their potential to succeed in the future. Learning disabilities, however, often pose formidable hurdles to positive self-esteem, and these in turn contribute to a hard-to-break cycle of self-doubt, frustration and failure.
Self-esteem can be described as how we think of ourselves and view ourselves in the context of our surroundings. Students in school have self-esteem shaped by how well they get along with peers and teachers. They are constantly making judgments about how "good" they are in comparison to their peers. Self-esteem is also shaped by how well children negotiate relationships with parents and siblings, and how successful they are in understanding and responding to many ever- changing interpersonal demands across many different settings. It is precisely in these areas that students with LD have the greatest difficulty, thus contributing to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
The importance of social competence
Building social competence is a key to becoming a self-reliant and confident person. Individuals who demonstrate this quality seem to know how to move from person to person or group to group, seemingly relaxed and at ease regardless of whether they are talking or listening. They also seem to demonstrate traits such as:
- knowing how to initiate and maintain positive relationships with peers and others
- knowing how to interpret social situations and judge how to interact without drawing negative attention to themselves
- engaging in interactions without being disruptive or drawing negative attention to themselves, sustaining attention and contributing to conversations, and controlling their impulses and delaying the need to draw attention to themselves, even in well-intended ways
Once again, it is these traits that often pose the greatest challenges to individuals with LD.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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