Building Self-Confidence – The Key to Success and Prosperity

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.

Why Technology Based Activities Are Beneficial

Technology plays such a major and important role in today’s world that I refer to children born in past twenty years as “digital babies”. The fact is that technology has been part of these children’s lives from birth. As a result, they are comfortable with technology and very competent with its use. They see technology as their “friend”. Technology entertains them, assists in their learning, fascinates them and most importantly never scolds them. This “friend” allows them to develop many important skills including: executive functioning, application of logic, development of artistic abilities, performing investigative procedures and research and much more.
Although most of us, as parents, are alarmed by the amount of time our children spend playing games on their various devices and in some cases rightfully so, the fact is that many games today involve making sound and logical decisions in order to progress through the game. Without realizing it, those who play these games are exercising their executive functioning and their decision making skills.
In addition, with the development of technology, many applications are now available to allow our children to express their artistic side. Photoshop allows them to process pictures and add their own captions and effects. There are a slew of applications that enable them to process and edit videos in hundreds of ways. From the earliest days of Windows, programs such as Microsoft Paint have been available. Today there are a multitude of graphic design programs. Although some of these applications may be beyond our comprehension the fact is our children embrace them.
With the development of the latest Camcorders and Webcams, children can write, produce and create their own videos. They can, and do, create Youtube accounts which allow them to proudly share their productions.
As wonderful as many of these things are for children in general they are fabulous for children with Special Learning Needs such as ADHD and LD’s. Technology fascinates children. They will sit and maintain their focus for hours. Hence, it is important that we take advantage of technology. If we encourage our children to be creative with technology I assure you the results will amaze you. I have worked with identified students for fifteen years. I have been very successful in encouraging them to strive to reach their potential. One of the things I credit for my success is the fact that I have the passive form of ADHD and a learning disability. I know firsthand how technology, when used properly, can stimulate self-confidence and self-esteem in these children. Teach them how to program a computer game and watch them strut around the room proclaiming their accomplishment and wanting to proudly show their creation to everyone. Have them build and operate a remote control robot and observe the excitement. Allow them to storyboard, direct, film, act in and edit their own video and observe the excitement as they share it with others. In addition to the huge boost in confidence, in the case of the producing a video they must also work well and willingly with others. I know this sounds somewhat incredible, but in order to accomplish their desired goal, they will work as part of a team. Finally, teach them how to produce exciting Powerpoint presentations including animation, transitions, video and music and they will wow their teachers and friends. All of this I have done over the past eight years.
During the school year I work exclusively one-on-one with children. During March Break and the summer I run Science, Technology, Entertainment and Music Camps. Over the past eight years I have watched hundreds of children regain their self-confidence and come to the most important of all realizations. “I can succeed, I am intelligent, I can accomplish many things on my own and I know it’s alright to ask for help if I need to, my ADHD and/or LDs will not prevent me from succeeding”
People always ask why I work with these children. The answer is simple. When I see their heads rise, their chests go out and they start walking with confidence I have gained the greatest reward any educator can ever imagine.
Our children are the future, ensure they are given the opportunity to excel and make our great country even greater.