Written over the period of several months in early 2011, this essay was the result of spending a lot of time reflecting on the kinds of approaches that seemed to work best for my students.

IT'S ANYTHING BUT EASY!

By Tyson Schoeber, THRIVE Program Teacher • Last Updated: 06-01-2011 • Clip Art: Philip Martin

A few years ago, my youngest son played on a soccer team with a boy who scored a whole lot of goals. He could dribble, pass and shoot the ball better than virtually everyone else in the league — and their team won nearly every game as a result. While not yet ten years old, it was obvious that this kid was tremendously talented!

Have you met kids with some kind of amazing skill? I really hope so! Without a doubt, there are lots of them out there — and taking a moment to think about them is a good way to introduce a topic that's been on my mind a lot lately!

It's human nature, I suppose: we instinctively admire people with impressive talents and stand-out skills. Our world richly rewards those who reach the top of their fields and most of our best athletes, actors, business leaders and technology specialists make a LOT of money.

Moreover, the benefits of being so highly-skilled start early, too! When children do well on projects and tests, get A's on their report cards, create beautiful artwork or excel in sports, we feel proud and shower them with praise! For the most part, this all seems to happen without much thought or planning! Our words flow quickly and easily as we marvel at their abilities! Even if we sometimes stumble or say the wrong thing in such situations, no lasting harm is done because the mistake is quickly forgotten!

IN STARK CONTRAST

Yet how DIFFERENTLY we feel when a child we love is struggling in school! I cannot count how many times people have told me that they "just don't know what to say" to their kids about these kinds of problems! They feel tongue-tied and confused — like they have failed as parents! For just as it rewards success, our fast-paced, performance-driven world tends to judge pretty harshly kids who don't do well in school.

These are issues we're just not very comfortable at talking about! So parents caught up in this reality often end up feeling alone and afraid — reluctant to raise the topic with family and friends; unsure of who they can safely ask for help.

In this situation, we may find ourselves laying awake at night; comparing our child with others; wondering what we could have done differently; or worrying about the future! The fear of "what others may think" competes with the pressure to DO SOMETHING that will help. Our worries mount if the situation doesn't improve, gets worse, or we begin to sense that the school's best efforts aren't working. Even the most patient and skilled among us can sometimes be pushed to the breaking point by these stresses. 1  


In the second part of this article, I outline a bunch of effective ways of reaching and teaching kids with LD.