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Learning how to learn

Photo: There are lots of activities that you can do at home which can help your child develop and practice skills

Children need a wide range of skills to help them to be successful learners in school and throughout life. These skills are often called ‘soft skills’ and employers tell us that they’re just as important as knowledge and qualifications. There are lots of activities that you can do at home which can help your child develop and practice these skills. 

You can find out more about the different ways children learn how to learn below. 

Problem solving and positive thinking

Like all children, deaf children do best in environments that support and promote healthy ways of thinking. This is sometimes known as a ‘growth mindset’. Being resilient and problem solving is an important part of a growth mind set. When your child tries different solutions to a challenge, shows greater effort, and does not easily give up, they are more likely to be successful learners.

Having high expectations shows your child that you believe they can do it. This has a positive impact on their own beliefs, behaviour and outcomes.

It’s important to encourage your child to be resilient and not give up, even when they find something difficult or frustrating. We know that the brain adapts to new information and practise by creating new connections, so help your child to believe that a challenge is a positive thing because it means their brains are growing! This can help put them at ease with the things they struggle with and means they’ll see this as a sign of learning.

The fear of making mistakes can stop children from trying something in the first place. Encourage your child not to worry about mistakes but see them as learning opportunities.

Think about your child’s favourite athlete, musician or teacher and talk about their journey to success. Focus on their early efforts, strong work ethic and the mistakes and learning that led them to where they are now. Remind your child that just because someone has done well it doesn’t mean they were born that way.

Focus praise on the effort your child has made and not just on what they’ve achieved. This kind of feedback helps to develop children’s resilience to failure as it teaches them what to do when they’re challenged.

Good communication

Communication is so much more than just language. It helps us make relationships, convey meaning, respond to others and use language in the right way. Some deaf children find parts of communication challenging. For example, they might not always know how to respond in the right way in new situations. Improving and practicing communication skills can increase your child’s confidence and help them to feel good about themselves. Children with good emotional health and wellbeing are more successful learners.

We have lots of information on pragmatics and how to support your child develop their social communication skills. 

  • encouraging your child to use simple skills such as eye contact and facial expressions when they are communicating with you
  • practicing a range of everyday behaviours such as greetings, taking turns during a conversation or knowing when it’s OK to interrupt
  • showing your child the language, vocabulary, phrases and questions that appear in everyday conversations. Deaf children sometimes miss seeing and overhearing other people’s conversations
  • practicing different types of conversations with your child. For example, what you might say to a stranger at the front door or how to ask for something in the school canteen
  • helping your child communicate with different people in a safe environment. For example, asking a family member about their day or someone in shop to help you find something
  • practising active listening skills, that is showing others that you are listening to what they say
  • supporting your child to say if they missed information, didn’t hear or would like something to be repeated
  • helping them to think of different ways to communicate with people if they have trouble understanding
  • discussing how to communicate differently with friends and adults, strangers and family members.
  • supporting your child to tell someone they don’t know about their deafness. Studies show this can have a can have a positive impact on communication.

Becoming independent learners

Children who are independent learners not only take responsibility for their learning but also know when and how to ask for help.  An important part of becoming an independent learner is the ability to self-regulate. Self-regulation allows your child to understand and manage their behaviour. It also helps them manage their reactions to feelings and things happening around them, in order to achieve a goal. Children begin to learn to self-regulate when they are babies and these skills continue to develop right into adulthood. You can develop your child’s self-regulatory skills through practice and learning.

Find more tips about becoming an independent learner in this video

  • Identifying, acknowledging and labelling you and your child’s feelings and emotions and impulses. For example: Are you tired and hungry? Is that why you don’t want to do your homework?
  • Discussing how to respond to these feelings in the right way. For example: I can see that you’re upset and frustrated. Why don’t you have a break and a snack, I know I feel more ready to work when I’ve had a rest.
  • Helping your child to understand what they need to do and explain why. For example: I know that you are finding these maths problems difficult but it will help with your work at school if we go through them now.
  • providing choices and helping your child to make decisions. For example, you have three questions to do, choose which one you going to do now and you can leave the other two until later
  • playing games which help to develop self-regulation skills. These could be board games, card games or listening games like ‘Simon Says’
  • acknowledging self-regulation is difficult and remembering it develops over a life time.

As your child gets older you can support them to by:

  • encouraging them to set goals. What do they want to achieve?
  • helping them plan. How are they going to do this, how long will it take, does it need any special equipment and what do they need from you?
  • supporting them to prepare. Have they got the resources they need, do they need any other skills, knowledge or information before starting and are they emotionally and mentally ready?
  • stepping back and allowing them to problem solve and persevere