February 18, 2019
By Susan Baum, Ph.D.
As parents we spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring out the best in our children. We are natural fixers of whatever is wrong as we kiss the hurts away and repair anything that is broken. So it is when our children have a learning disability or ADHD. Our first instinct is to get it fixed. Indeed all resources are directed toward helping these children read, write, and achieve up to their potential.
In our effort to fix what’s wrong with our children, we often lose sight of what is right with them. We tend to ignore or pay less attention to strengths, interests, and talents. Despite our best intentions, that tack does our children a disservice.
Research shows that paying attention to the positive reaps tremendous benefits. Dr. Ned Hallowell, renowned psychiatrist and expert on ADHD explains: “I have learned first and foremost to look for interests, talents, strengths, shades of strengths, or the mere suggestion of a talent. Knowing that a person builds a happy and successful life not on remediated weaknesses but on developed strengths, I have learned to place those strengths at the top of what matters.”
Focusing on strengths allows children to form a positive identity. They engage willingly in activities that show how smart they are and revel in accolades based on what they can do, rather than being defined by what they can’t do. This in turn, helps children develop a sense of self-efficacy as well as a favorable picture of what they can do.
Start with the Basics
Think about opportunities that play into your child’s strengths and interests.
- Find extracurricular activities, web sites, and books that relate to your child’s interest area
- Try setting up lunch dates with adults who have similar interests
- Enroll your child in clubs and classes that align with his strengths and talents
In short, have fun and enjoy experiences together that both develop and expand interests, strengths, and talents—but be careful not to take over the interests that your child has developed on her own as she may stop sharing them with you.
The author is the Co-Director of the International Center for Talent Development, and the Director of Professional Development at Bridges Academy for students with LD.