“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!Advertising
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.Advertising
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.Advertising
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
Last Updated on May 21, 2019
How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship
For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.
If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:
You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.
You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.
In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.
You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.
People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.
You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.
You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.
The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.
You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.
Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.
If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.
Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:
- Understand your own communication style
- Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
- Communicate with precision and care
- Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger
1. Understand Your Communication Style
To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.
In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.
Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.
2. Learn Others Communication Styles
Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.
If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:
“How do you prefer to receive information?”
This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.
To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.
3. Exercise Precision and Care
A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.
On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.
Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.
I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.
I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.
In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.
The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.
Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.
4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger
Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.
In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,
“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”
Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.
Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.
It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.
It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.
It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.
Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.
Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.
The Bottom Line
When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.
I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.
More Articles About Effective Communication
- Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com
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