Yesterday, I went to a fantastic workshop about ADHD at a high school for children with learning differences. The speaker, Dr. Edward (“Ned”) Hallowell, is a child psychiatrist and Harvard professor. He is also someone who has ADHD, dyslexia, as well as a painful childhood and family history of mental illness and addiction.
As he stated yesterday, “I shouldn’t have made it. Statistically, nothing was in my favor.”
Yet he did. Why?
Because Ned is bright, talented AND had two sensitive, caring teachers come into his life during crucial times. The first angel (his word, not mine) was his first grade teacher, who sat next to him and showed him patience and support as he stumbled while reading. The second angel was a high school English teacher who gave him an assignment that was difficult, but the teacher knew Ned could succeed. Once he did, Ned knew he was more capable than he previously thought. His expectations – and dreams – rose to a new level.
The take-away from Ned: Kids don’t need the latest research on neuroscience. They need compassion. They need care, patience and emotional support. They need to be told that there is nothing “wrong” with them, but that schools value certain things, and that their brains work a little differently. Their day is coming and success is their destiny.
If you have a child with a learning difference, tell them this:
- Hang in there. Do your best.
- I will help you.
- The next few years may suck. That’s okay. We will get through them together.
- Spend a good part of your time and efforts building your challenging areas, BUT…
- Spend more time building your strengths and interests, because those will be the game-changers, the things you build the rest of your life around.
For a little extra inspiration on what is possible for an “atypical” learner and K-12 underachiever, read about Jetblue Airlines founder David Neeleman.