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LD and Low Self-Esteem
Q: My daughter has a nonverbal visual/perceptual deficit. She wants to quit what she tries after a few months. She's always putting herself down, even though we praise and compliment her. She still says, "I'm stupid." No matter how we try, she just does not have any self-esteem. She has an IEP, but we're very frustrated when the school doesn't do what's best for her. We're learning as much as we can about the disability and we go to counseling. Is there anything else we can do?
A: Unfortunately, low self-esteem is an all-too-common companion of learning disorders. You are doing many of the "right" things to support your child. Increasing self-esteem is not something that will happen overnight. I've found that concrete representations of a child's steps towards independence and success go a long way. Vague praise doesn't carry the same weight as applauding specifics. For example, "Good job!" isn't as good as "Even when you really wanted to watch TV, you finished your homework first. That took a lot of self-control!"
For more tips about meaningful praise, read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish. It's an excellent guide with many examples of how to turn difficult situations around and help kids to recognize their own accomplishments.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.