I love this quote by Albert Einstein, because everyday I work with children who fail in one way or another to live up to society’s expectations. At school they are often found to be wanting. In a private school setting they may be asked to leave. In public school they soon carry one or more labels and a list of IEP goals to address their weaknesses. Their often-beleaguered parents are typically doing everything they can to help their children ‘fit in’ and succeed. And while I fully appreciate and support they need to help children grow, learn and adapt, I think too often an unbalanced focus on ‘perceived or identified deficits’ leads to frustration for both parents and child, and may miss a child’s gifts. So while we educate and remediate areas of challenge, let us also find how our children can soar.
Identify Your Child’s Strengths
Howard Gardner’s work in identifying multiple frames of intelligence has been invaluable in helping people recognize that there are different ways of knowing and interacting with the world. As a result, we can now identify the ways a particular child learns best and then hopefully find an educational program best suited to their learning styles. But even if your child’s educational program doesn’t speak to their strengths, you can make sure that some of their leisure time does. In addition you can use their strengths to support their learning abilities. Most children will have one to three primary modes of learning.
Visual-Spatial: Provide opportunities for art exploration. Have a variety of art supplies on hand. Don’t worry about the mess or the final product. Check out books by [easyazon-link asin=”0876591683″ locale=”us”]Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product[/easyazon-link], which focus more on process than product. Use picture cues/directions/schedules as needed.
Verbal: Help your child expand writing beyond school expectations. Introduce [easyazon-link asin=”144130357X” locale=”us”]journaling[/easyazon-link] to explore ideas and dreams. Encourage your child to write notes to you. Help him establish a pen pal relationship. Use written schedules, goals, and lists as needed.
Kinesthetic or Physical: Let your child get physical and messy. Spend lots of time outside exploring the physical world. Create [easyazon-link asin=”1580625576″ locale=”us”]science experiments[/easyazon-link]. One parent set up a ‘mad scientist’ area outside complete with lots of substances to pour and mix together.
Logic/Mathmatical: Involve your child in problem solving activities. Play [easyazon-link asin=”B00004TDLD” locale=”us”]math, board and card games[/easyazon-link]. Encourage your child to express information through charts or graphs. Explore [easyazon-link asin=”B000PWNGV8″ locale=”us”]magic tricks[/easyazon-link].
Naturalist/Nature Smart: Plant a garden. Raise animals. Keep a naturalist notebook, filled with drawings of the outside world. Involve your [easyazon-link asin=”0696220008″ locale=”us”]child in cooking[/easyazon-link]. For years, I work with a child identified with severe ADHD and moderate cognitive impairment. School was a significant challenge. But John, from a very young age loved to cook. His favorite shows were cooking shows. When he got to high school, part of his program included work release to the cafeteria, the highlight of his day. His ‘nature smart sense’ will ultimately lead to a job as well as greater living independence.
Interpersonal/social: Join groups such as scouts. Involve your child in volunteer projects visiting and playing with individuals needing extra attention, e.g. group homes, nursing homes, day programs. Consider involvement in theatre. Many communities have classes for children and some have programs geared to children (and adults) with special needs.
Intrapersonal: Recognize that your child may learn best when allowed to follow his or her own interests – to explore in depth a topic of interest – on their own terms.
Existential Intelligence: Interest in exploring the big questions of life. Be open to your child questioning beliefs. Incorporate yoga and/or meditation. Look for ways for your child to be of service to others.
Your Child Can Soar
While most traditional school settings continue to have a verbal and mathematical/logical bias, many children identified with a special-ism of one sort or another, have as their strengths other areas of intelligence. Take the Kinesthetic learner and put him in a classroom where he must sit still for extended periods of times and he is going to struggle. Put him on a dinosaur dig or in a farm setting and he may shine.