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10 Things To Remember If Your Loved Ones Suffer From Learning Disabilities

10 Things To Remember If Your Loved Ones Suffer From Learning Disabilities

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”- Scott Hamilton

Problems with learning are often caused by a learning disability (LD). We are probably more familiar with the ones which cause difficulty in reading (dyslexia) or in problems with math formulas (dyscalculia). There are many others such as having problems with interpreting symbols and maps which is a visual processing disorder and another one where interpreting sounds causes difficulty in understanding the spoken language (auditory processing disorder).

But whatever the disorder, it is essential to remember one thing: a learning disorder simply means that a person’s brain is wired differently and certain information processing takes a different route from that of the majority of the population. They may take longer but they will get there with some encouragement from you. A famous example is Erin Brockovich, the consumer advocate, who was brilliant at passing oral tests at school but could not pass the written tests. Here are 10 things to keep in mind if your loved one has a learning disability.

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.”- Chinese proverb

1. They need our support

People with learning disabilities are much more likely to suffer from mental health issues than their normal peers. One report estimated that up to 36% of those with learning disabilities are likely to have problems compared with 8% of the normal population. We have to make sure that they the best possible support at home and at school. They are more likely to suffer from sort of discrimination at school and later at work and may be disadvantaged because of this problem.

2. They can get special tests at school

Once a student is recognized as having a problem with a certain ability, there are special test procedures which can make it a more level playing field when it comes to final exams. This applies to students who dropped out or who felt that the exams were far too difficult in their standard format. It is well worth it to take these tests because having a high school credential means you can earn up to $568,000 more in your lifetime.

The best known ones are the High School Equivalency exams such as the GED (General Educational Development). Depending on their disability, students taking these exams can avail of a talking calculator, large print formats, more time, use of a scribe, exams in auditory format and private facilities.

3. They need help to conquer the stigma

Having a label slapped on you, just because you learn in a rather different way, can be demoralizing. We know only too well that ignorant people call them mentally retarded and that they cannot learn anything. This leads to learners themselves trying to hide their disability and they also may suffer from low self-esteem. Unfortunately, a learning disability is also a life disability and many adults struggle with shopping lists, paying bills and budgeting, and filling out application forms. We can help by correcting ignorant people and telling them to be better informed. This is one of the great advantages of social media as we can teach people a few things!

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4. They must get special educational needs

In many countries, children can avail of special educational needs (SEN) so that they can maximize their learning. Parents can support their children best by collaborating with the teachers and making sure that both parties are fully informed about problems, progress and expectations. In the UK, the scheme allows the older ones from 16 – 25 to be fully involved in deciding what their priorities and needs are so they get a more custom built learning path. A key element is encouraging kids and teens to discover new ways of approaching a learning task.

5. They need to be encouraged to vote

The recent elections in the UK were an interesting example of how the Dimensions charity was able to raise awareness about learning disabilities. For far too long, people with these disabilities were intimidated by the procedures to actually register to be able to vote. Even an online registration form can be quite challenging. In the last election, about 60% of people with learning disabilities found they could not vote because of the difficulties they had in registering. The majority (70%) of those interviewed said they definitely wanted to vote. These charities are helping people overcome the obstacles and thus empowering them to become full members of the community. They do that by organizing Easy-Read presentations and mock voting so that the whole procedure is less intimidating. Help your loved ones by going along with them to these sessions.

6. They are more likely to come from a disadvantaged background

The University of Lancaster in the UK has done a very interesting study which shows that children with learning difficulties are much more likely to have suffered domestic violence. They also found that they came from unhappy homes where conflict reigned and they were more likely to be poor. Unemployment among parents and low educational achievement were other factors which contributed to the problem. Before you judge a colleague’s performance too harshly, it might be worthwhile reflecting on their background and the enormous obstacles they faced at home and in society.

7. They are more likely to suffer from other disorders

Sometimes, a learning disability is just one condition of a wider range of disorders. For example, we know that kids who have learning disabilities are 33 times more likely to have autism and they are 8 times more likely to have ADHD. The importance of getting any of these conditions properly diagnosed cannot be stressed enough. If you have a loved one in difficulty, do not think they will grow out of it! Take action and help them.

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8. They may have visual and hearing problems

Many children are wrongly diagnosed with a learning disability and/or with ADHD, when in reality they are only suffering from eyesight or hearing problems. This is one of the first things that parents should do when they suspect that there is a problem. They should have these simple tests done so that they can be ruled out or treated straightaway with visual and hearing aids. This is another practical way you can help your child or partner.

9. They may never have discovered their disability as children

Many adults never had their disability diagnosed or even properly treated and may have been unaware of what the real problem was until they entered the workplace. These problems become acute when the worker has to do a training session, give a presentation, write a report or write an error free email. Progressive organizations make sure that modified training manuals are available so that employees do not feel threatened or discriminated. Ideally, there should a department within the HR section which can deal effectively and sympathetically with these problems. At home, you can discuss what they can do and assure them of your support.

10. They may have to struggle with disclosure

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 63% of those surveyed know someone who is affected by LD. The problem for many sufferers is whether to make a disclosure or not. It is not a legal requirement but there are many issues they have to consider. Will they be demoted or put on a lower pay scale? Will other workers resent the fact that a worker may receive an accommodation? It is depressing to note that disability discrimination charges are increasing all the time.

But there are solutions and many workplaces could do a lot more to help. For example, they can give dyslexic sufferers verbal instructions while those with auditory problems can receive everything in writing. Software for creating graphics, voice-recognition software, talking calculators or extra large computer screens together with large print manuals can all make a world of difference.

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There is so much we can do to help our loved ones. We should be on guard to identify a possible learning disability and be there to support them when they have to make a few changes so that they can function better at school or at work.

Featured photo credit: Opportunities Fair 2012 aimed at people with learning disabilities/ Guy Evans via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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