Challenge Me!

By Samantha Turner

AT A GLANCE

Some parents of children with LD may not hold their kids to high academic standards, thinking they’re creating more challenges for their already struggling student • Though well-intentioned, the message they’re sending is that their child is not capable of being a successful student • It’s the antithesis of what a child with LD needs to tackle school work confidently


I have dyslexia. I’ve been through the ringer of Special Education classes and support and have dealt with the usual anxieties that come from comparing my learning style with that of other students.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some parents are reluctant to set tough academic standards for their children with LD. They fear that setting the bar high will cause their kids to become overwhelmed and filled with anxiety.

In reality, that attitude does more harm than good. Their insecurity comes across as a lack of confidence in their child’s ability to do well in school. Truthfully, many students with LD want to be challenged!

Uphill Battle

Every day, students with LD are reminded that they learn differently. From the support they receive to the accommodations they’re given, the message is loud and clear: You don’t learn like everyone else, and because of that you need special treatment.

Support is highly beneficial, and even essential to a student with LD, but it can also mess with their self-confidence.

Parents have an opportunity to counter the message kids get at school. By maintaining high academic standards and holding their children accountable for their schoolwork, they telegraph their belief that their kids can achieve at levels equal to, if not better than their peers.

For students with LD, school is often not a safe zone. They may spend a large part of the day feeling out of place and discouraged. Home, on the other hand, is a safe haven. It’s an environment where the pressure is off, and they’re free to explore who they are and gain self-awareness along the way.

Parents should take advantage of that comfort level and push their child academically, helping her to gain confidence and develop the determination to succeed. With consistent encouragement and accountability, students will internalize the belief that they can meet any academic challenge that comes their way. 

Lesson Learned

One important way for students with LD to bolster their feelings of self-worth is through hard work and a sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving good grades.

I learned that lesson early on, and it’s one I’ve never forgotten. When I was in fifth grade, one unit of my history class was dedicated to the Colonial Era. My father, a History major, helped me through this class, explaining topics I didn’t understand. But as a student with LD, tests were hard for me! On the first test my grade was 32%.

I was pretty disappointed and nervous about showing my father, even though I was sure he would tell me it was okay. Instead he responded with the most motivating words I have ever heard: “I don’t ever want to see a grade like that again.”

Harsh, yes for a 10-year-old, but empowering! I knew exactly what he meant: He had confidence in me, knowing full well I could do better. On the next exam I studied with determination and got a 100%! I couldn’t have been prouder to show him that grade!