For the past sixteen years I have dedicated my life to helping students who struggle in school and with life skills. In fact, in 2006 I left the Durham District School Board to create a centre (Tutorwiz Education Centre) dedicated to helping students who struggle in school and in life. (This includes students with various Learning Disabilities, ADHD and high functioning Autism.) For the past fifteen years I have worked one on one with students during the school year and in groups in my summer camps. I have found over this time that the main factor that hampers students is an extreme lack of self-confidence.
Imagine yourself constantly struggling to keep up with your peers. Trying hard not to appear “stupid”. Trying to earn the respect of friends, teachers and your parents by producing the grades you believe they are expecting and demanding. In this scenario, it’s not very difficult to understand why your self-confidence becomes totally shattered.
As a Specialist in Special Education, I have come to realize that my first priority in helping struggling students is to help them rebuild their self-confidence. Nothing accomplishes this better than experiencing the thrill of success.
In fact, experiencing success is beneficial to all students. Every time any student achieves something new their level of self-confidence and self-worth grows. This leads to further and even greater accomplishments.
Even small things can help boost self-confidence. If a child is shown how to build a tower using Legos, then let them build towers. Most importantly, be sure you praise their work and congratulate them, no matter what it actually looks like. Then say “This is fabulous! Let’s make it even better.” The level of excitement you show is critical.
In today’s world we are very fortunate that there exists, in most cases, one common thread amongst youngsters – their love of computers. They have been born into the digital age. Computers, computer applications, tablets and apps are things they are both familiar and comfortable with. Computers are non-threatening and non-judgemental. In fact, students view them as their friends.
Prior to becoming a teacher, I was an advisory systems specialist with IBM Canada. Hence, it was only natural to become an expert in assistive technology when I moved into Special Education. My understanding of computer applications combined with my years of experience working with students with special learning needs has helped me to develop many ways to have students experience a high level of success while working on computers.
Creating a high quality animated presentation using PowerPoint or Google Slides to be submitted as a school project and receiving a high grade does absolute wonders. Creating their own computer games brings a sense of accomplishment which simply blows away any doubts in themselves.
I have been guiding students to produce incredible PowerPoint presentations since I opened the centre. The excitement of a student who has always been mired with low grades suddenly receiving an “A” or even an “A+” is unforgettable.
For several years I helped students create computer games using “Game Maker”. Hearing students stand up and proclaim, “I rock!” when they get their game working is very rewarding. (Especially as there is a great shortage of business oriented computer programmers currently in North America) The good news is that multiple sites, programs and videos now exist to start a youngster in the area of computer programming.
The bottom line is that these students have experienced the thrill of success. Once a child knows that he or she is in no way “stupid” and that they can indeed accomplish things on their own, there is no holding them back. The possibility of learning and achievement is now fore front in their minds.
During my years of operating summer camps I made great use of children’s love of music and computers. I started with campers producing either a maze game or platform game then incorporating music into them. Later, I partnered with a music school which taught the basics of writing, recording and editing a jingle. The jingle could then be used in a slide presentation to promote the student’s new game. The camps were an exceptional opportunity for all children.
In conclusion, remember – Nothing Succeeds like Success! In the case of students with special learning needs this is not just a saying but success is an absolute necessity for them to succeed and prosper in all aspects of life.