Transition proves to be difficult for many of us, but transition for teens with Learning Differences often proves to be extra tough. Teens with Learning Differences are more likely to have struggled in school, more likely to have been bullied, and far less likely to have high self-esteem. Because so much time is spent understanding these teens’ disabilities, they may not have a firm grasp on their unique abilities and interests, and the potential they possess to make an impact after high school. These three tools can help teens discern what their strengths are, what their interests are, and where their talents may lie. One of these helpful resources might be the key to starting your teen on the path of self-discovery and self-awareness that a successful transition requires.
Imagined and built by a multitude of professionals who work with and care for children with Learning Differences, Identifor determines players’ strengths, interests and abilities through game play. The site is incredibly interactive, featuring a guide who offers helpful advice and is available to answer any questions users might have. (Users with microphones can even ask questions verbally.) The experts who created Identifor used theories of multiple intelligences and executive function to inform the game designs. The platform is especially helpful for youth with Learning Differences because of its interactive nature – using visual and auditory cues to provide a more in-depth experience with some of the subjects that may fall flat in a traditional education setting. Identifor is easily accessible online, registration is free, and parents can even register to receive their child’s game results.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m an INTJ” or “I’m an ESFP”? These are examples of individual results of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The Myers-Briggs is a personality test developed by Isabel Myers and Katherine Cook Briggs. The multiple-choice test discerns what tendencies individuals have based on their personalities and interactions. The MBTI is especially helpful for youth with Learning Differences who don’t yet have a big picture idea of what their personality means to them. Understanding personality differences can help these teens to focus on career paths, learn better conflict resolution skills, and more easily interact with the world around them. Carol atTeaching Your Middle Schooler has some great ideas on how to use the MBTI as a basis for an interactive lesson plan for youth. The Myers Briggs Foundation further explores how understanding different personality types relates to learning. Of course, the MBTI isn’t going to answer every question a teen has about their personality. Alyssa Gregory details exactly What the Myers Briggs Personality Test Can and Can’t Tell You. The MBTI is mostly administered by paid, trained professionals, but an unofficial version of the test can be found online for free.
Developed by The Gallup Organization, the StrengthsExplorer focuses on 10 different talent themes: Presence, Confidence, Competing, Relating, Achieving, Future Thinker, Caring, Discoverer, Organizer, and Dependability. This tool is a combination of an online assessment, youth workbook, and parent guide. Parents or educators buy an access code, which the student then uses to take the online assessment. After taking the assessment, students receive a report of their Top 3 areas of talent. These themes offer a different way to view talent for teens with Learning Differences; rather than focusing on specific abilities, these themes focus on tendencies and talents in broader arenas. Although this test won’t determine exactly what career a teen should have, it will help them to better understand what kind of career they might enjoy. The StrengthsExplorer even provides students with action items, concrete steps students can take to further discover and develop their talents.
At Rachel Carson Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, the administration, teachers, and students used the assessment to see how it affected collaborative problem solving. The experiment was a success, as you can see in the video below.
When you work with youth who have Learning Differences, it is extremely important to encourage them to develop their strengths. Oftentimes, youth with Learning Differences become focused solely on what they can’t do, despite the world of talents and abilities they possess. Every teen can make a successful transition from high school to the real world; it’s just a matter of finding what first steps to take on the path out the school doors. Try out these tools with the youth in your life to help them take those first steps, and to develop a self-awareness that will guide their journey for years to come.