A few weeks ago I met a young man in his twenties who in the course of our conversation disclosed what exactly his mother had done to help him at home when he was young and having great difficulty learning to read and write. What she did gave him the opportunity to fulfill more of his potential than is usual for poor readers and writers. It enabled him to complete tertiary study, and find interesting work that required good reading and writing skills as well as problem-solving skills, flexibility, lateral thinking, and communication skills. He mentioned that he still found reading aloud difficult when one of his bosses was listening, because it made him anxious, but otherwise not; and that he doesn’t have any difficulty understanding the deeper meanings of text now, or writing reports.
I was very impressed by this young man. He was currently working with teens who could not read, write, or do maths well; and he showed great empathy and concern when talking about them. I also watched him engage with the young men around us, and he was warm and fun. He is exactly the sort of person you would want working with your young teen if they needed mentoring, and he was involved in many community activities, and obviously a thoughtful and hard-working man. The sort of person many employers yearn for. His mother must be so proud of him!
As this young man’s mother must have done, I encourage you to continue working with your child at home no matter what others think, what the school is currently doing to help them, and even whether your child wants you to help them. This year I have worked with several students who took a long time to realise that if they applied a little effort, and regularly practised the strategies I coached them in at home with their parents, they could master skills they had thought impossible to learn. For quite some time these particular students were not keen to work with me, and for much of the time I coached them, they were certainly not grateful or willing to learn with their parents.
However, we never gave up, and the penny eventually dropped for them. They realised that we were not going to stop working with them and that we continued to believe in their ability to learn, no matter how poorly they behaved. At about the same time they began to notice that they were actually enjoying doing some of the reading, writing, or maths, because the work had become easier and so much more interesting. As they began to comply with their parents and complete regular coaching sessions at home, the parents, the child, and I all noticed a rapid improvement in how fast they learned new skills. They also became less anxious, demanding, controlling and reluctant when their parents and I coached them. Instead they became keen, confident, and self-motivated students who worked willingly and with deep concentration to master skills they now wanted as badly as we had wanted those skills for them. They became a pleasure to coach!
Every parent wants their child to achieve to the limits of their ability…wherever that is. That limit has to be found, then pushed, to see if it is actually the limit to what can be achieved. I have found that we often set limits much too low for ourselves and for our children, and that the actual limits can be much further away than first seems possible.
The young man I had met a few weeks ago was lucky enough to have a mother who believed that although he had Dyslexia, which made reading and writing more difficult for him, he still could and would learn to read and write well. She didn’t stop at just believing in his abilities though. She worked regularly and persistently with him as long as he needed her too. She read aloud to him for as long as he needed her to so that he would have the opportunity to understand and use all the ideas and vocabulary his peers were currently learning, and she helped him develop his reading and writing skills until he could read and write easily for himself.
Plan to succeed. As that wonderful mother of that out-standing young man did, and all the other persistent parents do whom I have worked with and continue to work with right now, create ambitious and exciting goals for your child, then keep them in sight, and each week take small steps towards those goals. Each step counts.
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