One of our goals on DyslexiaHelp is to increase understandings about the potential of those with dyslexia. This month we are featuring stories about engaging students in learning and building self-advocacy skills through topics of interest that utilize their strengths.
I have previously written about what the literature says on interest-based learning.
For my dissertation, I followed sixth-grade students as they studied topics that were derived from their genuine interests, which we called interest-based inquiry settings. We found that these students talked about their strengths in ways that matched the areas of strength identified by their cognitive testing. In other words, at the age of 11 or 12, students know what they do well – in fact, they can tell us. Moreover, they are interested in learning about topics that map onto those strengths.
It is very important to foster these interests and strengths in our students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. We all can imagine the stress and angst that is produced when our LD students are in a classroom for 6+ hours/day where nearly everyone else is succeeding; and they cannot read the text, pass a spelling exam, or write a paper without much challenge. So, much of the school curriculum is beyond their control. It behooves us to create as many situations where our dyslexic students are engaged in activities of interest that foster their strengths. As noted in the above article, many successful dyslexics talk about learning to read as they pursued areas of interest, and for many, this led to their vocations.
As spring emerges, parents begin to look forward to summer activities for their kids. While it is important to continue intervention for your child’s learning difficulties, it is equally important that your child has fun! I want to remind you to, as much as possible, include your child in discussions about what he or she would like to do. I will point you to another piece that I wrote about balancing intervention with fun.
We all want to do well in life. Engaging in activities in which we are successful fosters positive self-worth and builds resilience, which we can then use when we are tackling challenging tasks. To paraphrase Malcolm Alexander, sculptor and dyslexic, it behooves us to help our children and teens “find their gifts.” And, that can be done through engaging in activities of interest.