Thursday, April 8, 2010

Motivating Dyslexic Children

Often dyslexic students are affected by what is termed "learned helplessness." This is when a child who faces failure over and over again begins to feel their not going to succeed and don't see any sense in trying. In fact, as they get older this idea can become permanently fixed in their mind and leads to a loss of motivation , especially if they have already suffered failure previously. Students can become withdrawn and become unwilling to tackle new tasks.

So how can parents and educators help to prevent this from happening ?

Richard Lavoie, who is a popular author and speaker about learning disabilities ,states that although every teacher can’t approach every child differently – they could however come up with a wide variety of motivational techniques so that they catch all of the different kids in the classroom.

Praise should be not solely be given for academic achievements but also for non-academic achievements.These non-academic achievements should be recognised and rewarded by teachers.

Examples include:-
Helping in class ,being organised with own equipment for lessons; showing kindness to others; willingness to take part in discussions; sitting quietly and attentive, showing good effort (regardless of outcome).

In Turkey, very often classes are very large and crowded .In most cases the teacher plans the lesson with about the “best” top 10 pupils of the class in mind. Very little thought is given to the different levels and types of students in the class.

Generally the only feedback students receive is from grades on tests / exams and report cards. Schools however need to give praise for other achievements. Reward for individual effort versus achievement is virtually non-existent in the Turkish education system.

Turkish schools generally foster competition—where the focus is always on who is the “best”. Competition in fact certainly doesn’t work for all children. It can be discouraging to children, especially those who may never be “the best” in school.

Students can sometimes be punished for not being able to complete a task properly . For example, a student who is not able to read or write sufficiently well maybe put in the back row of the classroom as a form of punishment. As Lavoie states , punishment is totally an ineffective way to motivate kids , in fact in most cases it has the opposite effect, it demotivates kids.

Middle and high school teachers tend to come in the classroom ; deliver their lesson and leave; giving little consideration on how to motivate students in their classroom . Older students are expected to motivate themselves In fact ,teachers really need to make it their priority to develop motivating techniques, especially for those students who may well have formed fixed ideas about their abilities .

Lessons taught in Turkey are usually very traditional and text- book based. Teachers need to endeavour to make lessons more interesting for students in order to encourage students to learn. Students especially with learning disabilities will benefit from lessons which are both stimulating and which involve a a multi- sensory approach to learning.

Parents, of course, also have a role in motivating their children .If parents work with children at home they should try to make lessons fun and interesting. The use of games are a good way to stimulate interest . Rewards could also be given for achievable targets.

Parents and teachers can help to motivate their children by looking for "islands of excellence".

Islands of excellence are activities which children enjoy and are good at.Parents and teachers need to praise children for these activities.

Parents should consider What are their child's "island of excellence"?
What are they interested in Art? Model making ? table tennis ? music? Computers? Gardening? .

Parents should give children opportunities out of school to pursue their interests and hobbies. They should provide opportunities where the child can feel good about themselves and feel proud of there achievements.

Parents could record their child’s achievements by taking photos,making a blog , keeping a scrapbook , displaying school work or art work etc at home …

On the Dyslexia Teacher site it suggests that parents could carry out a confidence building exercise with their child in order to help to boost their self confidence.

This exercise involves discussing with the child what things they are good at and not good at .After they make a list of these things. Usuallly the list of things they can do outweighs the list of things they can't do. For more details about this exercise see :

Here are the ways Richard Lavoie lists in his book ,”The Motivational Breakthrough”; of how teachers and parents can motivate young people (The 6 P’s)

Praise – Praise should be sincere and focused on effort and improvement.

Power – Empowering children to make choices gives them a sense of autonomy.

Projects – Projects are wonderful tools for connecting disciplines and is a great way to motivate inquisitive children.

People – Establishing a positive relationship with children is the basis for building an effective motivational process.

Prizes – Prizes can appeal to children motivated by status, recognition, affiliation or power.

Prestige - Consistent encouragement and opportunities to showcase their talents are important.

Phil Beadle , the inspirational teacher from the TV programme The Unteachables has written a book called “Could do better” .It is a a guide for parents whose children are underachieving at school.

The Unteachables invited a number of kids with serious attendance and behavioural problems in school to take part in a project which endeavoured to try to get them to get more out of school.

Here are some suggestions from his book “Could do Better” on how parents can help their child :

Find out the unique way in which he/she is clever.
Have books in the house, and be seen reading them.
Ration television and computer time.
Never criticise their teacher.
Protect them from pressure. “Your best is good enough.” – (very important I think.. ).
Sit down to meals together and use the time to play mind-stretching games.

In summary, both teachers and parents have a role in motivating students. We need more and better co-operation from both parties in Turkey to help students with learning disabilities reach their true potential.


kekik said...

Dear Ann,

Thank you for your effort in putting together all these information together, it's a valuable source! I try to motivate Can at home but it's not enough. Unfortunately, he's at school most of the time, and he prefers not to participate because of his bad experiences:( He is starving for a praise.. If only teachers make him believe that he can do it! He will just do it!


Betul / Ann said...

Thanks for your comments.I understand what you are talking about - its not easy .Dyslexia doesn't frighten me as much as the school system in Turkey.Dyslexia is not a disaster as long as teachers and parents work in conjunction.

Ms Creativity said...

This is a great website. Do check out some of the articles I've written on Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.