Q: My son has a tutor to help with homework. In addition, I spend many evenings going over math problems, while my husband works on Gemara with him. Many years ago, my son was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder (SPD) and through different interventions (like the ones I have mentioned), he has made significant progress. However, we have never really spoken to him about what his learning disability means. Recently, I heard someone speaking about the “demystification process” that teaches children about their learning disabilities (LD). She mentioned that this often helps children with LD overcome their struggles. Have you ever heard of demystification?
A: Demystification is a fancy educational way of saying “explaining to the child the facts about their learning disabilities and helping them to understand the challenges and strengths learning disabilities can bring.”
Demystification is actually a wonderful tool for helping children overcome their learning disabilities because it enables children to understand how they learn. They identify and understand their individual strengths and weaknesses – thereby learning how to advocate for themselves.
Take the case of Zevi, a ninth-grader I worked with two years ago. Zevi came to my office because he was struggling with his biology curriculum. Though Zevi was extremely smart, he had ADHD, which made it hard for him to focus on all of the material presented during class. Before we even looked at the material together, I asked Zevi how he learned best. He looked at me with a blank look on his intelligent face, “Um, Mrs. Schonfeld, I really am not sure.”
We spent the next hour discussing the learning strengths and weakness of children with ADHD. I explained that often children with ADHD are wonderful at memorization, are visual learners, and are particularly adept at creative endeavors. On the other hand, reading long passages of text and performing rote operations can be difficult.
When we were finished with our conversation, it was like a light bulb went off in Zevi’s head. He had always had the tools to succeed – he just didn’t know what they were. Together, we created a study plan that emphasized his strengths: graphic organizers, flash cards, and information set to song. I’m happy to say that Zevi hasn’t needed my help since then.
How can you go about the “demystification process?”
- Explain the science of the disability. Helping your son understand what it is that makes learning hard for him will facilitate his learning in the future. If he is able to recognize what is going wrong – he might figure out a way to make it right.
- Identify his strengths. Most learning disabilities come along with positive aspects too. Understanding what his strengths are will not only reinforce his skills, but it will also increase his confidence.
- Create a tailored learning plan. Based on your child’s disability and ensuing strengths and weaknesses, develop a learning plan that plays to his assets.
The demystification process can be empowering for you as a parent as well. Once you help your child understand his disability, it takes some of the pressure off of you. Maybe with a personalized learning plan in place, you and your husband might be able to take an evening off from homework duty!