Success Traits and Learning Disabilities

Emotional intelligence and social skills may be a better predictor of future success that academics.

By Angela E. Rudderham

Most children with learning disabilities will receive some support for their academic areas of need, however, most social skill deficits are seen as a disrespectful attitude or behaviours the child is choosing to present. Sadly this is not the case; social deficits are very real as many children with a learning disability or ADHD struggle to understand social rules, non-verbal cues, figurative language, emotional control, problem solving, self awareness and awareness of others. A typically developing child may learn these skills through others who model the correct behaviour. For a child with a learning disability more direct teaching of these skills may be required.  If we ignore the need for teaching social skills and only focus on academics we are not teaching our children the skills they need to be truly successful.

There is a lot of research recently popping up that confirms common sense, we need social skills. This is a must in order to be successful in our relationships, in higher education and in our careers. Having straight A’s will not get you very far in life if you cannot handle stress or remain in control of your emotions, it will not help if you do not have enough self-awareness or awareness of others to be able to pass a job interview. If you work with others you need to problem solve and understand social rules. Even if someone found you a tiny space in a dimly lit basement to work with no other people around, what pleasure would life bring if you had no one to share it with or couldn’t cope with everyday stress?

Robin Stern, Ph.D., from the NYU Child study center, is quoted saying……..   “A growing number of educators recognize that students who receive an exclusively academic education may be ill-equipped for future challenges, both as individuals and members of society –it's just not enough to feed only the mind. The field of social and emotional learning (SEL) has emerged from these new understandings of the nature of biology, emotions and intelligence and their relation to success and happiness. Through social and emotional learning children's emotional intelligence (EQ) is bolstered, giving them an enormous edge in their personal and professional futures.”

Over 20 years of research conducted by the Frostig Center in Pasadena, California and coordinated with studies by Dr. Marshall H.Raskind and Dr. Roberta J. Goldberg studied personal attributes and behavior as well as demographic data to determine the best predictors of success at years 10 and 20. The results indicated what the researchers termed "success attributes" of self-awareness, pro-activity (decision-making, empowerment), perseverance (faces difficulties), goal setting, effective support systems, and emotional stability were more accurate predictors of success than background variables such as IQ and academic achievement.

Where does this leave the child with social deficits? We know childhood is a struggle for those who have social deficits; we must address these deficits before it impedes their future success as well. It is not typical that these deficits will simply get better or improve on their own without intervention so it is time to get proactive. We need to start teaching the success attributes at home and at school. Look for social skill groups in your area; seek professional guidance on how to teach these skills. Books at your local bookstore that can provide excellent resources and direction for teaching these important skills. An online search will reveal numerous websites on the topic as well. The information is out there for those who want to take an active role in helping to adequately prepare our children for future success.

Jan 04, 2017