Be Specific

When you have a child with a learning challenge, it is important that you be very specific in your directions. In general, struggling learners are not strong at making inferences and generalizing what they’ve learned. They tend to take things literally and have to be taught the meanings of figures of speech, idioms, and proverbial statements. In my family, they tend to take the path of least resistance and do the easiest and least time-consuming way to complete an assigned task. This is why you have to stay with them in the training phase and not leave them alone if you expect the job to be done the way you intended. For example, I asked Josh to remove some books that we don’t need from the top shelf of a bookcase. I also showed him another high shelf in a different room and a large box of books. I explained that I wanted to replace the books he would be removing with books from the box, and put other books from the box on the other shelf. The idea is to eliminate the box of books by finding spots on the shelves for them. Josh agreed to do it, and I left to run an errand with my daughter. When I got back home, there were fewer books in the box, but the books I wanted removed were still in their location. The shelf in the other room did have new books on it, but instead of sliding the current books over to fit the new ones in Josh had just dumped them on top. He didn’t leave himself enough time to do the rest of the books because he had to get to work. I did not specifically tell him how I wanted the books to be put on the shelf, so he plopped them up on top because that was fastest and easiest. When he gets home from work, I will be very specific about what I need done, and I will stay and coach Josh until the work is complete. My hope is that someday he will begin to infer more, based on what he knows of me or how I have had him do tasks in the past. In the meantime, things like this show me where the gaps are and what supports are still needed.

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