Perseverance naturally follows goal-setting as a significant success factor for individuals with learning disabilities. Successful individuals are able to stay focused on a particular path or course of action even in the face of challenges.
Equally important, they demonstrate an ability to be flexible and shift strategies as necessary to achieve their goal.
Persevering can be especially difficult for students with learning disabilities because they often feel they are already working harder than everyone else and resist having to work that much harder, and because of their difficulty in being flexible and shifting from one strategy to another. Shifting and flexibility, in fact, are part of a group of skills identified as Executive Function Skills. Like other skills, there can be delays and even deficits in developing the ability to shift and be flexible. With guidance, however, children can learn to apply a more flexible approach and increase their perseverance.
To help children develop a mindset of perseverance, we can model our own thought process when faced with a challenge and ask questions aloud such as: ‘What else can I try? Who can I call for advice? Did I let something get in my way?’ We can share times when our plans didn’t work as we thought they would; how we had to modify them to reach our goal; and what we learned from our setbacks. Further, we can reinforce our children’s efforts. When we observe a child sticking with a difficult task, completing a chore or learning a new sport, for example, we can offer specific praise for her perseverance. We, also, can talk with him about how he feels when he is able to maintain his focus on a goal. And, we can provide opportunities for her to share these successes with others.
Each of these opportunities to reinforce perseverance will lead to a greater awareness of what it takes to succeed and a growing belief in one’s ability to achieve success.
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