YouTube is Making a Difference for Learning Disabled

May 01, 2017

As a parent, I must admit I have a love-hate relationship with YouTube. Even in safe mode, there can be some very questionable videos that my children are able to access. On the love side, YouTube is also an amazing source for content that is not available on traditional TV, especially for characters and storylines that address the unique social and emotional issues a child with learning or attention issues (LAI) faces. LAI kids have access to videos packed with tips and tools on how to read, but what is sorely missing are relatable stories with characters and the everyday challenges they face. For LAI kids, in addition to struggling with school work, they also face feeling different from everyone else, often embarrassed, bullied, lonely or depressed.

How YouTube is Making a Difference with the Super d! Show

One of my favorite series that addresses the social challenges is the Super d! Show. I had to let every parent I know how incredible this series is! The Super d! The show is a new web series, created for and by kids with dyslexia and other learning differences. The Super d! Show concept is similar to other children’s programming – featuring a group of kids in a clubhouse setting and is made up of fifteen kids ages 7 to 12 who have different learning disabilities. The story lines are designed to instill confidence and teach children with learning disabilities that they can overcome obstacles by learning and thinking differently.

I can’t even imagine what a difference a show like Super d! would have made in my own life. In second grade, my parents were told I would probably never be able to read or write and despite my obvious learning challenges, the school system each year continued to promote me to the next grade. I was dyslexic, but it went undiagnosed until 5th grade when a young teacher, Miss Sasco, changed my world. She told me that I was just as smart as my classmates – I just learned differently from everyone else. Within a few years – with a lot of grit, tenacity, and perseverance – I not only overcame my learning disability but was excelling and on the school’s honor roll. The emotional baggage, anxiety, and self-confidence issues I developed, however, took much longer to get beyond.

My experience is not unusual. According to National Center of Learning Disabilities, who published, "Student Voices: A Study of Young Adults with Learning and Attention Issues", children and young adults with LAI are four times more likely to struggle with confidence than non-LAI peers. Young adults with LAI usually fall into three groups – those who struggle, cope or thrive.

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IEP are Important but Positive Parenting Matters More

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) recently did a survey and found that having an Individual Learning Plan (IEP), while valuable, was not the most important factor in predicting a student’s success after high school. Young adults who thrive after high school have 3 things in common: a supportive home life, a strong sense of self-confidence and a strong connection to friends & community. I was lucky to have parents that were advocates for me within the school system and encouraging me to get involved in activities outside of school to bolster my self-confidence.

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What Can Parents Do to Help Their LAI Child Thrive

Parenting is never easy, and parenting a child with learning or attention issues can be even more challenging. But there are some important steps parents can take:

  1. Remind your child that they are just as smart as their peers - they just need to learn differently.
  2. Make them aware of the many successful adults who have spoken openly about have their struggles with LAI have contributed to their success – like Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, JetBlue founder David Neelman, pioneer of discount brokerage business Charles Schwab, clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger, and astronaut Scott Kelly.
  3. Encourage your child to find their passions with afterschool activities, youth groups, scouting, and other volunteer or faith- based activities so they can help build positive connections in your community with other kids.
  4. If you suspect your child has a learning or attention issue, get them tested as early as possible and request in writing an evaluation or early screening. I learned the hard way with my own child that casually mentioning concerns at parent-teacher conferences may not be enough, so make sure to send in a request in writing and copy the special education teacher and principal.
  5. Get Your child involved in their IEP or 505 plan. Students who take an active role in their plan are more likely to have better post-secondary school outcomes.
  6. Learn everything you can about your child’s learning issues and know your legal rights. (My favorite website for parents is Understood.org.) And be ready to take action if your school is not doing enough to address your concerns.
  7. Set screen time limits on your child’s mobile devices and the type of content they consume. Every child can easily get distracted but for a child that is LAI challenged it is especially important, so make sure your child unplugs from technology prior to bedtime so they can decompress. Don’t forget to look at a parental control solution that allows you to schedule when they can and can’t access the Internet and apps.
  8. Take care of yourself. You can’t be an advocate for your child if you don’t take care of yourself first! If you feel overwhelmed, seek out help by finding local options through your child’s school or look into online support options.

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Director of LD Resources National Center for Learning Disabilities, has one of my favorite quotes for anyone who loves someone who has LAI. He states, “Learning disabilities are not a prescription for failure. With the right kinds of instruction, guidance, and support, there are no limits to what individuals with LD can achieve.”

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