“Every child has a gift; it just has to be discovered.”
Listening to National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman yesterday at President Biden’s inauguration, I was struck by her poise, her diction, the melody of her words…just the entire performance! So I was blown away when I learned that Amanda had been diagnosed in Kindergarten with an auditory processing disorder and speech articulation issues. How does a child go from these learning differences to becoming the first National Youth Poet Laureate at age 19?
We needn’t look any further than Amanda’s mother, Joan Wicks. As a teacher and a mother she believes “[e]very child has a gift; it just has to be discovered.”
Most students who learn differently are acutely aware of what they are not good at, but very few know what their strengths are. When a student’s strengths are known, her learning environment can be adjusted to accommodate those strengths. Perhaps a school with smaller classes and more interaction, or hands-on, experiential learning for a student who learns best by watching and doing. For a student with a reading disorder, having audio books available levels the playing field for that student. Some students learn best when they are moving; whether walking around or bouncing a ball, this activates their brain and they are able to retain more information through movement. Regardless of the need, we should be focused on finding the right environment for each student.
Students need to be made aware of how they learn best. When this is nurtured, it increases the student’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Unfortunately, society has told us that reading and writing is what makes one a successful student. However, parents with children who learn differently know that there are many other strengths that lead to student success.
How many parents focus on their child’s A in Art rather than the C in math? The student knows that he is not good at math. He doesn’t need to be reminded of it constantly. Yes, he might need a tutor to help him learn the material, but if the parent celebrates their child’s natural ability to draw and hangs up the child’s drawings around the house, that child is going to grow up with a better sense of self. Compare that to the student whose parents focus on the C in math, which implies that being good in art is not important to them.
The truth is, students with learning differences often have strengths in areas other than what we consider traditional academic subjects. They are often more resilient from having to work so much harder than their peers. This resiliency propels them beyond their neurotypical peers in the long-term.
Amanda stated in a recent article, “My challenges were always, just for me, something that was reality,” she says. “But I knew I had strengths, too, especially with words and writing.”
As a parent, what strengths do you see in your child that you can nurture?