Individuals with Learning Disabilities (LD) are likely at a higher risk of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. This is because the greatest challenge they face in today's society is that of being labelled lazy, stupid, or ill-mannered. However, with support and kindness, they can become among the most creative, and productive members of our society. I believe individuals with LD should be admired for their abilities and provided guidance for their disabilities.
What is a Learning Disability? According to Dr Elizabeth Walcot-Gayda, Ph. D., learning disabilities range in severity and may interfere with the advancement of one or more of the following:
- Oral language (listening, speaking, understanding) - Reading (decoding, phonetic knowledge, word recognition, comprehension) - Written language (spelling, written expression) - Mathematics (computation, problem-solving) - Organizational skills, social perception, social interaction and perspective taking
In addition, Learning Disabilities Association also states that individuals with LD usually have strengthened abilities in non-academic areas such as; music, art, drama, dance and sports. They are bright individuals and need most support with problem-solving and decision-making skills, which of course play a great role in building self-confidence and self-esteem.
Okay, so let's dig deeper with the help of Dr. Neel Burton, Ph. D., a psychologist. He states that the word esteem derived from the Latin aestimare, which means "to appraise / value". This leads me to state that to have self-esteem is to acknowledge self-worth. Confidence comes from Latin fidere, which means "to trust." So basically, to be self-confident is to trust yourself.
Thus, if we help those with Learning Disabilities and Abilities to feel proud of their unique strengths and help them trust themselves to make the correct decision, we can help build their self-esteem and self-confidence. But how? We can do the following:
1. Help them feel appreciated. 2. Avoid judgmental comments. 3. Praise their effort. 4. Be empathetic for their level of frustration. 5. Don’t compare children with LD to peers or siblings. 6. Compliment their personality – kindness, helpfulness, sense of humour… 7. Provide opportunities for them to help others. Helping others makes us feel that we have something to offer.
No body is perfect, we all have our imperfections. They make us who we are - unique. Let’s embrace each other's uniqueness and guide one another in gaining self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem.