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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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