Children who live with failure experience negative feelings such as shame, isolation, and anger. These students need guidance to develop personal skills that support their success. According to research conducted by the Frostig Center in Pasadena, six personal attributes form the core characteristics that contribute to success for special needs students. Successful individuals do not necessarily have all six of these qualities. These attributes are:

Self-awareness and self-acceptance
Individuals who understand their strengths and limitations, who realize that they have many talents, and who do not define themselves in terms of their weaknesses, are more resilient to life’s challenges than those who see themselves as overall failures.

Engaging in a variety of activities and interacting with different types of people encourages individuals to understand the power they have to create their own lives. Proactive (as opposed to reactive) individuals believe in their capacity to achieve. They look for opportunities to grow. They do not blame others for their problems; instead they take responsibility for their own part in their situation and realize they can change their circumstances with their own actions.

Successful people see their setbacks or failures as temporary, not as life-defining. They don’t give up in their belief in their goals. When they encounter setbacks, they reevaluate, making adjustments if necessary, rather than continuing on a non-productive course of action.

Goal setting
People who are successful have learned how to set long-term goals. They also have developed the capacity to break the long-term goal into bite-size pieces that represent actions they can take to achieve their goal. They are flexible, being open to unexpected opportunities, yet they don’t lose site of their overall goal.

Use of effective support systems
Both successful and unsuccessful individuals have support systems; however, the successful individuals learn to set realistic, achievable goals. They learn to seek support when they need it, rather than waiting passively for help to be offered.

Strong emotional coping strategies
Those who develop ways to reduce stress, feelings of failure, isolation, and the desire to quit, find the internal resources to persist until they succeed. Successful individuals have learned to identify situations that can trigger negative reactions, they can monitor their internal reactions to sense when negative reactions are present, and they have a set of strategies to reduce these negative reactions so they can keep on track.

Marshall H. Raskind, PhD, Roberta J. Goldberg, PhD, Eleanor L. Higgins, PhD, and Kenneth L. Herman, PhD, of the Frostig Center in Pasadena, California, have developed a guide for parents that helps them mentor their special needs child to success. It is entitled Life Success for Children with Learning Disabilities—A Parent Guide.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Kari Miller is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and Director of Miller Educational Excellence in Los Angeles. She began her career almost twenty-five years ago as a special education resource teacher. She has worked with students in a vast array of capacities, including special education teacher and educational therapist. Dr. Miller has a PhD in Educational Psychology and Mathematical Statistics, a master’s degree in Learning Disabilities, Gifted Education and Educational Diagnosis, and a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Behavior Disorders.

To contact Dr. Miller
Phone: 310-280-9813