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Updated: Mar 17

Kids with learning disabilities and mistakes

Kids learn at a very young age that there are right and wrong ways to do things. They receive a clear message that they should avoid mistakes as much as possible. But how would kids learn to deal with failure in the future if they only experience success?

Making mistakes is crucial for growth, learning, and developing tools to cope with failure and challenges. This article will examine the positive aspects of mistakes and how we can help kids learn and grow from making mistakes. We will focus on kids with learning disabilities and ADHD.

Mistakes are a common occurrence for kids with learning disabilities. They might make mistakes when required to read, write, or solve math problems. They may not understand written materials, struggle to organize their writing assignments, have difficulty concentrating, and make mistakes due to lack of attention and implosion.

Kids with learning disabilities learn to read questions multiple times to avoid making mistakes. Like any other, these kids look for positive feedback and are disappointed when making frequent mistakes. These feelings may be accompanied by a sense of failure, frustration, and disbelief in their capabilities, which may lead to overall avoidance of challenges and learning.

Experiencing these difficult emotions has many implications for kids' sense of their learning ability, overall low self-esteem, and motivation for learning. These perceptions are crucial to kids' functioning in the present and future. How can we help these kids? We praise them for success, but should we also praise them for mistakes?

First, we must recognize the positive things that come with making a mistake and instill it in our children.

Making mistakes allows kids to change their thinking and recalculate their "route." They learn additional ways to solve problems and avoid wrong strategies in the future. When making mistakes, kids develop new ways of thinking, which leads to more complex and creative thinking in the future.

Mistakes teach kids to ask for help and assistance from their friends, teachers, or parents to solve problems. This way teaches kids to seek support and benefit from their environment. Kids learn they are not alone and have a safety net to turn to when they experience difficulty.

Mistakes help kids learn to practice self-control and improve their ways. For children with ADHD, whose reactions may be accompanied by impulsivity and recklessness, self-monitoring and frequent testing are very helpful and prevent much frustration down the road.

Dealing correctly with mistakes teaches kids that their mistakes don't attest to their value in the world. It helps to reduce rigid and dichotomous thinking of success and failure. In addition, kids learn to deal effectively with failures and get the best outcome out of them. For kids to benefit from their mistakes, we, as adults, need to create anchors to help them deal with their mistakes in the best possible way.

There are several ways to do it:

Explain the source of the mistake explicitly and clearly - often, when kids make a mistake, we automatically offer them the right way to solve the problem without explaining the cause of the mistake. Learning would only happen with an explicit explanation of why an error occurred, and kids will repeat incorrect solution patterns. We want to avoid a situation where kids repeatedly experience the feeling of failure without understanding why they were wrong. Therefore, we need to recognize and explain the source of the mistake. Tip: ask kids to explain why they made a mistake to ensure understanding and internalization.

Create a safe space to make mistakes - make it permissible to make mistakes and to demonstrate the mistakes of adults or adored characters, clarifying that every person is wrong no matter how successful and smart he is. Treat the mistake lightly and explain that it does not express the kids' value in the world. The most important thing is learning from the mistake, not the mistake itself. Strengthening kids frequently and encouraging them to describe their feelings and emotions is advisable. This way, they learn to share their feelings with others, even when they are unpleasant.

Create a space for success alongside the mistake - once a mistake occurs, it is essential to create small successes to help kids feel capable and self-confident. Kids should know that even though they made a mistake, they still have areas of strength in which they are successful. Tip: start with easier difficulty levels than the actual study material to establish a space for success.

Mention previous successes - praise kids for their previous achievements and areas of strength, and even ask them to list the qualities or achievements they're proud of. This way, kids learn that even when they make errors, they have a "safety net" of successes and areas in which they excel. This prevents one mistake from "painting" kids' entire self-esteem. Tip: hang the list of strengths in a prominent place in the house, for example, above the desk or on the refrigerator, so that kids can encounter it frequently.

We can help kids deal with failures and reduce resistance and lack of motivation by providing ways to deal with mistakes and explaining the positive aspects of making mistakes. Today, in an age where excellence and achievement are praised and encouraged, we must remember that some children experience difficulty, often make mistakes, and need positive feedback, even for their mistakes.

As adults, we must show how to deal with and learn from our mistakes. This way, we can create a more supportive, accepting, and encouraging society to help each child grow from their difficulties.

Tehila has a Bachelor's in Behavioral Science and a Master's in Learning Disabilities. She specializes in diagnosing and treating learning disabilities and is the founder and Owner of "Learning to Grow." Tehila conducts didactic assessments for children, teens, and adults at her clinic. She also builds customized intervention programs, counseling, and guidance.


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