As parents, you know your children better than anyone else. You know their strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between. One of the more difficult aspects of raising a child with a learning disability is watching the struggle—it can be unbearable. A learning disability may come with an unfortunate stigma, one that makes it hard to view the disability as anything other than an obstacle. These obstacles or roadblocks certainly do complicate things in and out of the classroom, but it is important to recognize the unique strengths that often accompany a learning disability. In the same amazing way that people lacking one of the five senses are able to somewhat compensate with the strengths of the remaining senses, a child with a learning disability will often present with extraordinary strengths in other areas.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit periods of difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—these likely interfere with learning and can make school difficult. But, believe it or not, ADHD symptoms may also have their own unique benefits. One of these benefits is called hyperfocus, which is exactly as it sounds. When children with ADHD are able to hone in on one specific activity or task for long periods of time, they maintain an acute focus, one that outlasts that of their peers. Whether this form of hyperfocus comes about athletically, artistically, technologically, etc., children that are able to channel their attention and excess energy find great success in their interests.
Furthermore, having adapted to managing the ADHD symptoms over time, children learn to self-check and recognize when their level of attentiveness dips and peaks. Again, because of the weakness in other areas, children with ADHD are often forced to think or learn a little differently. They build strength in other areas and become experts at streamlining information. With practice, they are able to hone in on significant details and gauge their own comprehension. This sort of self-awareness helps students play off of their strengths and develop creative means of achievement.
As you have likely noticed about your own child, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are also highly sociable and friendly. Because they are prone to being talkative, their verbal language skills, including vocabulary, are often higher than those of their peers. Storytelling, public speaking, and debating are likely some of your child’s common social strengths.
Dyslexia, a learning disability that affects a reader’s ability to decode, comprehend, and read fluently, certainly presents its own challenges in and out of the classroom. Reading levels can range from below grade level to nearly illiterate—which is not only frustrating for parents, but greatly discouraging for children, as well. The advantages of dyslexia are widely unknown, as the disorder is seen as a major educational roadblock. However, there seem to be undeniable benefits. Since reading presents a major challenge, some believe that the following behaviors are a means of compensating for the gaps in reading. For example, children with dyslexia typically thrive at tasks involving abstract thinking, creativity, and holistic or “whole picture” thinking. This flare of creativity is simply another type of intelligence, one that is equally important and beneficial. Children with dyslexia also display strengths in reasoning, problem-solving, and persistence.
Similarly, dysgraphia, a disability that affects written language, has its own unique benefits also. Since motor skills affect pencil grip and the ability to master written language, children with dysgraphia compensate by sharpening their listening skills. These learners are masters of recalling oral details, memorization, and storytelling. These conversationalists thrive in social situations and are often helpful problem solvers. Again, the weakness in one area allows your child to strengthen other areas of importance. Therefore, while a learning disability will certainly present difficulties, a “glass half full” viewpoint means that your child’s alternative forms of learning, understanding, and expressing can be major benefits.