Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities
by David Flink
Review by Jenna Ellis, PEN Board Member (Silicon Valley)
Finally, an owner’s manual for the parent of a child with learning and attention differences! Thinking Differently offers parents specific advice and practical tools for every step along the LD/ADHD journey. In Thinking Differently, author David Flink, Cofounder and Chief Empowerment Officer at Eye to Eye, shares his own personal experiences as a LD/ADHD adolescent, college student and professional in a sincere and sometimes brutally honest first-person voice. Intertwined throughout the book are passages about Eye to Eye’s creation, development, methodologies and impact. In effect he “put(s) the lessons of Eye to Eye in your hands”.
While dispelling myths about the causes and implications of LD/ADHD, Flink sounds a convincing call to action for parents who suspect something might be awry. He calls on parents to take the critical first step of having their child tested NOW. Good advice for parents who know “something’s not right here” and perhaps are waiting a year to see if the child grows out of it. That myth has been dispelled: your child will not grow out his/her LD/ADHD. Having your child tested will reveal his/her learning challenges, and also strengths, and knowing this will empower you and your child to create an effective learning environment. Flink argues that “environments are really what predict whether a student with LD/ADHD can be successful” and encourages parents to focus on fixing the environment, not the kid.
Tools in Ch. 1-3: identifying LD/ADHD signs, how to talk with your child about testing, how to talk with your child about the results while boosting his/her self-esteem, how to boost your child’s self-esteem outside the classroom
The author succinctly sums up the benefits of metacognition: “a happy brain is a successful brain”. An essential job of the parent of a child with LD/ADHD is to help your child uncover and understand how his/her brain learns best. Knowing this will empower you to know what kind of accommodations will help your child in the classroom and make you a better advocate for your child. Better yet, Flink contends, your child will be better at advocating for him/herself and more likely to reach his/her goals if he/she knows how he learns best. Also on the list of parenting jobs is seeking accommodations and encouraging your child to ask for help. Flink shrewdly advises: “Don’t wait till you fail to ask for help”. Ask for accommodations, get the accommodations and use the accommodations – those are the critical steps to teach your child to work smarter.
Tools in Ch. 4-6: understanding educational assessments, how to prepare for an IEP/504 meeting, how to help your child uncover his/her strengths, understanding potential accommodations that might work for your child, how to use your accommodations to work smarter
Allies are essential to your child’s self-confidence. “Sometimes your best accommodation is an ally,” Flink maintains. In addition to supportive parents, your child needs someone who believes in them and someone with whom they have a shared LD/ADHD experience. These allies can be found everywhere in both adults and peers. Your child’s allies will help him/her build her LD/ADHD community and find “kids like me” who appreciate each other’s differences. In addition to allies, your child needs advocates acting on his/her behalf and to be taught self-advocacy skills. Your child will use these skills throughout her life, and it’s the parent’s job to teach them.
Flink concludes the book with another call to action. He encourages parents and students to become involved in the LD/ADHD movement to “create a world where all learners are recognized.” An inspiring message no matter where you are on the LD/ADHD journey. The LD/ADHD movement is currently just a “nudgement”, but this book may just inspire enough parents and students to join in and transform it to the tidal wave that will be necessary for change.
Tools in Ch. 7-9: how to find the right ally, how to advocate for your child, how to teach your child to advocate for herself, how to empower your child, how to help your child develop his/her own LD/ADHD story, how to tap into the LD/ADHD community
As a mother of two tremendous teenage sons with learning differences, I only wish this book had been published back in 2000 when we were “waiting a year” for my sons to grow out of it. They didn’t. And so my sons and I began our (albeit sometimes bumpy) LD journey together. I’m quite certain the path forward will be smoother relying on Flink’s advice and using the tools he has given us. Parents, just starting or who have been on the LD/ADHD journey for a long time, will surely find Thinking Differently a helpful road map along the way.
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