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A Lesson From Potty Training  

by Joyce Herzog


    A child (adult) who is learning disabled is not learning as you would expect, even though he is not mentally retarded, he is not educationally deprived, he is not culturally disadvantaged, and he is not.......

His not learning must be in the areas of:

*basic reading skills

*reading comprehension

* listening comprehension

*written expression

*oral expression

*math computation

*math reasoning

This is like saying because your  3 1/2 (7 1/3) year old child is not potty trained and you have tried to adequately potty train him and he isn't yet.......he must be potty disabled. .....AND therefore you schedule him for one hour daily potty training lessons, work him till he can recite the steps to proper potty procedure, and make plans to send him off to his wedding in diapers!

Fortunately none of us react to delayed or resistant potty training in that way. We back off, reward, entice, project success, model proper potty training behavior, try new angles, incorporate fun, have Daddy talk to him (and for a boy show him how), put him back in diapers until he is ready to try again, tell him how wonderful it will be (feel) when he doesn't have to sit in those wet

(dirty ) diapers anymore, and wait a while and try again.

It's really amazing. As moms we just do what seems right. Maybe we consult with all of our more experienced friends. Maybe we pray. maybe we even ask for advise from a professional. But in the end, we do what we think is right.

When the problem is regarding education, some panic and pay thousands of dollars to identify whether their child is "learning disabled" and what to do about it. And if he meets the legal definition of learning disabled, that only means he is not learning and not all those other things in the first paragraph. It doesn't even tell us what to do. Let's look back at those things Mom did when she hit resistance in potty training, and see if we can apply the same wisdom to out present situation.

Prayer is the place to begin. if we try to accomplish anything in our strength for our purposes, we fail. Only when we put it in God's hands and leave it there does it work for His glory and our good.

Back off. Sometimes doing nothing is the best technique! There are many reasons why a child may not be ready to learn a certain concept at a particular time. This may be mental, emotional, or maturational, but the only answer to this problem is to wait. If you don't you may spend many frustrating hours drumming in what could be learned in brief moments later. That doesn't mean to stop working, but keep nagging. It really means to drop the subject and leave it alone for a few weeks - or even months. The child may be ready to tackle the job with renewed vigor after he's had a break and some success in other areas.

Reward. We all work for rewards in life. How many of us would stay at our jobs if there were no pay check at the end of the week? How long would we keep fixing pleasant meals if we never heard a thank you or saw a smile of recognition? Children need rewards too, but they need rewards they can touch and see with brief time between achievement and actualization of reward. This is more true the younger the student. "I love the way you ---------! Here's a -------- for your effort."

Entice. "I'll be so proud when you can --------." "When you have mastered this, you may have a free day (a trip to the museum, a dinner out, a new book, whatever.)" "I've planned a special surprise. It will be yours when you have mastered this. I'll write it down (draw a picture of it) and put it inside this envelope. When you're successful, you may open the envelope and the surprise will be yours!"

Project success. Often it is encouraging to believe that we will have success. Project success with your words: "Keeps at it, you'll get it!," "You're on the way!," "So close! Maybe tomorrow." Project success by choosing projects and activities or altering assignments as necessary. Project success by finding a way to simplify the way of approaching or responding to the task.

Model proper behavior. Some children learn by observing. When we model proper behavior, we make it possible for them to have success. There is something comforting about seeing someone do what we are trying to do---especially if it is done in love.

Try new angles. There may be a different way to approach the subject --a different method, a different person to present it, a visual aid. Sometimes we don't even realize that we are stuck in a rut and repeating the same words every time we speak. If a child doesn't understand, this gives him no way to gain a new perspective.

Incorporate fun. It's like the old adage..."Just a spoon fun of sugar helps the medicine go down.." Children enjoy a very elemental level of humor. They like to be silly and pretend and tease. They also have a tendency, of course, to carry it too far for too long; but the parent who learns to use and control humor and games in the learning setting is miles ahead.

Have Daddy talk to him (and for a boy, show him how). Usually Daddy holds a special place in the heart of a child - and a special force as well. When a Daddy speaks, there is authority behind it. One of the most important jobs of a homeschool dad is to put his authority behind the actions of mom. When a child knows that there is unity of purpose and unity of power, a different approach may benefit the situation greatly.

Tell him how wonderful it will be (feel) when he doesn't have to sit in those wet (dirty) diapers any more.

 This is a combination of projecting success and helping the child understand the problem. If the child is perfectly comfortable sitting in wet and dirty pants, he sees no personal need to make the effort to change. Find a way to help him see, feel, and experience the benefit of change or negative side of staying the same.

Buy him some grown up style pants and put them where he can see. Most children want to grow up. We can assist this by putting around them the symbols of achievement. If a child hasn't mastered the multiplication facts, let him watch as some others enjoy a game based on fast manipulation of numbers. If he hasn't learned to write, let him see the joy you get in expressing your ideas on paper. Find a way to show him how great it will be to have mastered the skill. Many of us accomplish the things we do, not because we enjoy doing it, but because we enjoy having it all done.

Wait a while and try again. Hmmmmm. Didn't we say that before? Yes, but how very important it is both to wait and to try it again. Don't give up. Don't drone on. Just put it aside for a time and then try again.

Consulting with all of our more experienced friends can be comforting in two ways. First it gives us the opportunity to sound off and vent our frustration on someone other than the child involved. Second, in the multiplicity of counsel there is sure to be someone who agrees with us...Oh, I mean someone who has some good advice. Anyway, we are likely to be confirmed or redirected and either may help.

When all else fails, consult a professional. Realize that professionals are still people. They do not have a computerized machine to attach for diagnosis. They are also, in most areas, quite expensive.

When a problem in life seems too big, simplify it. We have just looked at techniques we successfully employed in potty training to apply to other learning situations. In the same way, we can sometimes look back to a success to glean methods to deal with a more difficult problem.

We started with prayer.

We end with prayer.

Where would we be if we didn't have a loving, caring, omnipotent Father to turn to?