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LD Success Attributes

by Dr. Bruce Hirsch, Clinical Psychologist
What do you think is most likely to determine whether your child with learning disabilities will be successful as an adult? His reading level? Whether he earns a high school diploma? Actually, some long term research done at the Frostig Center in Pasadena, California suggests that certain traits of attitude and character are crucial for LD adults to be successful. The researchers at Frostig have identified six of these "success attributes"— self-awareness, proactivity, perseverance, goal-setting, support systems, and emotional coping strategies—based on a 20-year follow-up of former students at their day school. Perhaps most surprisingly, these success attributes were more predictive of adult success than factors like reading level or IQ.

The research team at Frostig is now engaged in a further study to determine how effectively these attributes can be taught as part of a school curriculum. However, you don’t need to wait until these research results are in to start helping you son or daughter attain the internal characteristics needed for success. The Frostig Center has published a Parent Guide available on-line at, which is full of strategies you can use to generate and reinforce the success attributes in your child.

On the other hand, there are times when parents hit a brick wall in trying to bring about change in their child, and a professional consultation might be helpful. For example, I have gotten calls from parents both at Frostig, where I am the Director of Clinical Services, and at my private psychology practice in Pasadena concerned that their child is not accepting the idea that he has a learning disability or an attention deficit disorder. While such acceptance is a crucial part of self-awareness and provides an important foundation for the other success attributes, we also know that we cannot force this acceptance of a disability.

Timing is critical and needs to be individualized. Some students are immediately relieved when they are diagnosed with learning disabilities and understand that they now have an explanation other than being "stupid" for their academic difficulties. They also understand that this new label is the beginning of receiving help. But, more commonly the process goes more slowly. If a child becomes defensive, it is usually best not to push, but to back off and reintroduce the idea of LD or ADHD at another time and perhaps in another way. Some children (and adults as well) are more comfortable coming to terms with these issues in the privacy of a counseling office. As with many issues in child development, progress is most likely when there is good teamwork between parents, school, and any necessary outside professionals.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this article. Bruce Hirsch, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist 626-395-7833

Bruce Hirsch, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Tel: 626-395-7833

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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