Connor and Crystal loved playing in preschool and at home. Their home was hectic, and overly busy while they were continually exploring, coloring, playing, jumping and running – usually in different directions. Learning has been different since they entered kindergarten.
Connor loved to learn, explore, and try new things when he was in preschool, but that changed when he started school as a kindergartener. He appears to be just like his sister and peers, except that he has a really difficult time learning to read, write, and understand math. Despite his best efforts and the efforts of his parents, Connor still struggles. Connor is bright, very talented in sports, and is likeable. He realizes he needs extra help that his friends don’t need. Learning is not getting easier, and now Connor feels different. He is saying to his parents, ”I hate school” “I can’t do anything right.” Worst of all Connor has let “different” become his identity. Connor is unhappy at school and has no confidence, embarrassed that he can’t be more like his friends.
Connor’s twin sister Crystal loved preschool, too. She now loves kindergarten. She loves exploring, learning, and being with her peers. She goes to school with anxiety, because when she’s in class she can’t seem to pay attention. She doesn’t follow her teacher’s directions, and she sits quietly, hoping the teacher won’t call on her.
As a parent, having twins is an enormous responsibility. Balancing each child’s needs, at the same time, while trying to balance your own needs and keeping it all together day after day after day, is a huge job. As parents of twins you may find yourself being extremely sleep deprived trying to meet the needs of two precious children at the same time. You may think that when school starts you will have more time to yourself to do what you want, only to find out that as your twins enter school, one twin or both twins may begin to be “left behind.”
Unfortunately, there are many, many children who are bright and struggle with reading, spelling, math, and overall learning, as well, as social interactions. Yet most are not eligible for special education services or school-sponsored tutoring programs. These children are often misunderstood, as they appear to “not try” “not listen” “not get along well with others” or “have a bad attitude.”
Often times their behavior is misunderstood as they can appear to be oppositional not wanting to go to school when they actually don’t understand what the teacher is saying, and so the wrong assignment is done, which leads to staying in class and finishing an assignment while classmates go out to play.
Peers may begin to perceive these children as “not smart” when in fact they are smart. In our academic world, often times being “different” is seen as being wrong rather than what it is – different! Yet Connor represents so many children who are bright, talented, and gifted but are feeling badly about themselves. He has lost his confidence and joy, because so much emphasis is put on academic achievements, rather than being based on his talents and skills. Also having a twin sister who seems to fit into school, even though she seems to have her own learning difference, makes it much worse for him.
When a twin or both twins demonstrate learning differences, it is important to CHERISH each one by using these 7 tips:
Communicate your love equally to each twin so as not to favor one twin over the other A twin without a learning difference may be easier to love.
Help discover each twin’s learning style to access learning, and jump-start success. Twins, as similar as they may be, will not learn in identical ways, even though they may look as if they do.
Engage a team of professionals, therapists, tutors, etc., who have worked with children with learning differences to assist your child. Enlist other parents who have children with learning differences who can support you, and join you to establish goals for your child. There is strength in numbers.
Reach out and encourage each twin to discover activities, hobbies, sports, arts, etc., so talents and skills can be used, and happiness and success experienced. Remember comparing one twin to the other is not an option.
Include going to bat for your twins in order for them to experience success, confidence and happiness. You know your twins best. Advocacy is a process.
Share special and equal amounts of time with each twin. Make each one feel important.
Honor and value each twin for his or her own uniqueness. Avoid playing favorites.
Learning to CHERISH each twin with a learning difference allows you to see each child’s individuality, recognizing each one’s strengths and needs. All children deserve to be confident and joyful inside or outside of school.
Source: Drs. Deborah Ross-Swain and Elaine Fogel Schneider are speech-language pathologists. Their new book, Confidence & Joy: Success Strategies for Kids with Learning Differences (Crescendo Publishing, Nov. 1, 2018), provides parents and educators with tools to help children with learning differences realize lifelong success.