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Parent Perspective: Why Our Kids Say “Can’t”

As a student with ADHD and dyslexia, my daughter started hearing about all the ways she was “bad” at a very young age. She was told she can’t sit still, can’t be quiet, can’t read, can’t write, can’t complete worksheets, can’t do grade-level work, and more.

As a student with ADHD and dyslexia, my daughter started hearing about all the ways she was “bad” at a very young age. She was told she can’t sit still, can’t be quiet, can’t read, can’t write, can’t complete worksheets, can’t do grade-level work, and more. Every day in the classroom, she took in these negative messages and her reaction was expectedly negative. She developed anxiety and depression, and then was told she can’t control her emotions. 

She was punished and excluded at school. She was put in the corner, in isolation, in the hallway, in pull-out classes, and even suspended once in fourth grade. The message was clear: she can’t be included. 

Now in high school, it is difficult for her to have a growth mindset, and she is shamed for feeling pessimistic. She’s told she just shouldn’t say “I can’t”; she should say “I’ll keep trying!” Although most people can’t see it, she is trying, and trying really hard

Like my daughter, many students with learning differences have had negative experiences in school that have shaped their beliefs and attitudes about themselves and school. To undo this requires complicated, long-term hard work. She needs more than sound bites about grit and growth mindset; she needs real support for her differences, including her emotional differences.  

It’s been a challenging year for everyone. Modeling resilience for students can help them feel hopeful and like they “can.” 

  • Parent of LD High School Student

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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