The green zone represents optimal well-being and mental health. Students in this zone feel positive, confident, and well able to manage their feelings. This section of the module will describe the foundations of positive mental health, and the ways in which educators can promote the well-being of their students.
To begin, watch this video in which Courtney shares her experiences of working towards well-being, as an individual with LDs. As you work through this section of the module, keep Courtney’s story in mind, and see if you can relate the Green Zone concepts to her experiences.
Resilience is the ability to cope with and overcome adversity, hardships, difficulties and challenges [i]. Resilience is essential for all children and youth, particularly those with LDs. Resilience is a powerful force in helping children overcome not only significant adversity and hardship, but also everyday stressors. Resilience is an important protective factor for children and youth who are at-risk, and it is essential for healthy development.
Resilience is developed through successfully navigating challenging situations, which involves:
- trial and error
- bouncing back from disappointments
- setting realistic goals
- solving problems successfully
- relating comfortably with others
- treating yourself and others with respect
Self-esteem and self-determination can help foster resilience.
Self-esteem is often understood as the feelings and thoughts we have about ourselves. Self-esteem is how much we value ourselves (who we are) and it is strongly tied to how capable we feel (what we can do). Low self-esteem is often understood as negative perceptions and evaluations of ourselves.
Self-esteem is like the immune system of the mind, heart, and soul; it protects and buffers our inner self from potential damage brought on by failure or blocked attempts at success. It can offer protection during life’s more difficult times and helps us control our emotional reactions to negative outcomes. If we have low self-esteem we may feel worse after experiencing challenges or failure, whereas if we have high self-esteem we may bounce back more easily.
Children’s self-esteem has been found to be particularly sensitive to the perceptions of caregivers, educators, and peers. For this reason, it is especially important to be mindful of your words and actions, and how they may be interpreted by your students. Model a “growth mindset” and take care that your feedback focuses on things your students can actually change.
Self-determination skills are also crucial to developing a sense of resiliency. There are many definitions for self-determination. For the purposes of this learning module, we will define self-determination as a combination of skills, knowledge and beliefs, which allow us to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated and autonomous behaviours [ii]. An understanding of our strengths and limitations, and feeling capable and effective is essential to self-determination [iii].
Self-determination often involves [iv]:
- making choices
- making decisions
- goal setting
Students with LDs face many barriers to becoming self-determined. LDs are invisible disabilities and, because having a disability is often viewed as stigmatizing, students may not acknowledge that they have LDs, or they may not understand the nature of their LDs. Self-acceptance and an understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses forms the foundation of self-determination [v].
Also many of the skills linked to self-determination are the very skills individuals with LDs find challenging. For example, the ability to plan, initiate behaviour, and respond flexibly to situations are linked to self-determination. Those skills are also closely related to executive functioning skills, which individuals with LDs may find challenging.
For more information about executive functioning, click here to access the article Executive Functions and LDs.
Self-determination supports academic success and achievement. Students who help choose school activities often show an enhanced motivation to perform those tasks and they are more likely to achieve their goals. Students who have self-determination skills are also more likely to sustain intensive efforts to learn challenging academic content, use their strengths, and take ownership of their actions [vi].
Self-determination is also essential to a successful transition to adulthood. Students with self-determination skills are more likely to be successful in post-secondary educational settings and employment [vii].
To learn about how self-advocacy cards can help students with LDs, click here to access the article A Teacher’s Journey with Student Self-Advocacy. To see how another teacher has used this concept with his students, click here to access the video Our Self-Advocacy Pamphlet Journey.
[i] Alvord & Grados, 2005
[ii] Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998
[iii] Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998
[iv] Carter, Lane, Pirson & Glaeser, 2006
[v] Field, 1996
[vi] Zheng, Gaumer Erickson, Kingston, & Noonan, 2014
[vii] Zheng, Gaumer Erickson, Kingston, & Noonan, 2014