Fostering Self-confidence in Students Who Learn Differently in 5 Steps

As special educators, we are trained to look at students’ test scores, and to discover what strategies or programs may work for them. But do we look enough at fostering their self-confidence and self-esteem and uncovering the many amazing strengths that every student with a learning difference possesses?

While it’s important to examine test scores to determine a student’s strengths and weaknesses and to determine strategies, it’s equally, if not more important, to dig deeper into what makes that student feel good about themselves. What’s more, it’s crucial to explain to a student that just because they have a different learning process, it doesn’t mean that they are not smart!

Oftentimes our learning different students not only struggle with academic areas that are difficult for them, but with their self-confidence and self-esteem, which may hinder them from being able to grow and reach their maximum potential.

So, how can we help these unique students uncover their strengths and foster self-confidence and self-esteem? At Da Vinci, we have a lot of experience dealing with learning differences, and these are the 5 most important lessons we’ve learned over the years.

1. Communicate
Before diving right into the work, TALK TO YOUR STUDENTS! Get to know them, ask them what they are interested in, what makes them “tic.” Take notes so you don’t forget, and use their interests and hobbies to weave them into their learning process.

2. Involve the parents
Send home an inventory to parents if you are having trouble obtaining information from your student(s). Ask questions that specifically pertain to interests and talents, and get the parents’ point of view to find out what students are passionate about.

3. Turn weakness into strength
Talk to your students about how their learning difference is not a weakness, but an actual strength. Help them look at their learning difference as a superpower, which makes them stand out from the other students. Explain to them that this difference only means that they have a unique learning process, and that you are going to help them learn in their own way.

4. Make it personal
Don’t just use the same strategy or approach with each student. Try and incorporate their interests into the curriculum. For example, if they like art, find a way to include art into their assignments. If they like music, have them come up with their own lyrics that pertain to a topic being studied. There are lots of creative ways to do this!

5. Celebrate small wins
Many of our learning different students need consistent encouragement. Reassure them that it’s OK if they don’t catch on to something right away. Remind them that their brain works a little differently and it may take them a little longer to learn something new or remember information. Also assure them that in no way is this a reflection of who they are as an individual, and it certainly does not negate all the wonderful strengths they have.

A different approach to learning differences

It’s easy as teachers to get caught up in focusing solely on academics and IEP goals with students who learn differently. While it is our job to help them be successful academically and figure out what helps them learn best, we must not forget about getting to know them as individuals. Their self-confidence and self-esteem is most likely already low because they know they have trouble learning certain things. Getting to know what interests them, what talents they have, what their strengths are, will ultimately help them be successful academically.

Discovering the strengths, interests, and talents of these students is just as important as looking at their test scores to know what their academic strengths and weaknesses are. It is almost imperative to divulge this information in order to foster their self-confidence and self-esteem to help them reach their fullest academic potential and to see how successful their future can be. That’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve at Da Vinci Center. Reach out to us if you want to learn more or if you’d like to enroll your child in one of our programs.

Lisa Fiore
Director of Assessment & Data Collection Programs
Da Vinci Education & Research
631-928-4815

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