Book Review: Confidence & Joy: Success Strategies for Kids with Learning Differences, by Deborah Ross-Swain and Elaine Fogel Schneider

Children who succeed in learning at school build self-confidence and a joy of learning. But what happens to children with learning differences who struggle with schoolwork?

In their new book, Confidence & Joy: Success Strategies for Kids with Learning Differences, experts Ross-Swain and Schneider apply years of experience as clinicians to help parents and teachers instill success into the daily lives of children who learn differently.

The authors distinguish between a learning difference and a learning disability. Children with a learning difference are capable of learning everything their peers learn. They just learn in a different way. But mainstream education often has little recourse for these smart, but misunderstood students, and their struggles can end up robbing them of confidence and joy — both essential ingredients for their well-being.

Learning differences won’t usually show themselves until grade school when children matriculate from the hands-on exploration of preschool into academic subject matter of math, reading and spelling. Suddenly their love of learning comes to a screeching halt and is replaced with anger, frustration and a reluctance to go to school. Both parents and children are left feeling isolated and helpless.

The authors bolster both parents and professionals with guidance and inspiration to effectively intervene on behalf of children with learning differences. Rather than letting the child or others assign debilitating labels, such as “lazy,” “unfocused” or “stupid” that rob the child of confidence and joy, these experts share ways to quickly intervene and go to bat for the child.

For example, while our society tends to measure success by academic achievement, they make the case that every child is smart in his or her own way, and the trick is find ways to make success happen — even if it’s outside of the school setting. Children with learning differences may be a star athlete or a talented musician or show exceptional empathy for animals. Creating opportunities that allow these children to shine can feed their need for confidence and joy.

Parents need to establish a team of professionals who can advocate for the child with learning differences. The sooner that consultations with teachers and other professionals begin the better. If the child is left to struggle, secondary problems can arise, such as having difficulty making friends or choosing to withdraw and be isolated. Understanding how the child learns best and ensuring the necessary instructional techniques are provided will give the child a way to make success happen in the classroom. A few examples could be breaking down schoolwork into manageable steps, or helping the child transition from one topic to another with a statement such as, “Now we’re going to do something different.”

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Along with real-life stories showcasing successful strategies, the authors share checklists, questions to ask, lists of do’s and don’ts and detailed tactics that allow parents to be their child’s best advocate. All can be easily integrated into daily routines and shared with other advocates on the child’s “team.” The book also includes access to downloadable resources, such as a fact sheet of scientific studies that support the need to bring confidence and job into children’s lives.

With Confidence & Joy: Success Strategies for Kids with Learning Differences, parents and professionals will be armed with all they need to allow a child’s brightness to shine.

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