- Difficulty paying attention
- Poorly developed study skill strategies for learning
- Poor motor skills
- Difficulties in oral language skills
- Difficulties in reading, written language, and mathematics
- Poor time-management and organizational skills
- Problems with social behavior
- Difficulty adjusting to change
- Immature speech patterns and delayed speech development
- Difficulty sounding out words
- Difficulty remembering names of familiar things
- Trouble listening and following directions
- An inability to tell time or know right from left
- Poor self-image
Let’s take a short quiz about students with disabilities. No fear! Everyone will pass!
True or False:
__1. The student with learning disabilities has average or above average intelligence.
__2. The potential for a child with learning disabilities to succeed is present.
__3. Ways to increase learning must be developed for the individual child.
__4. Learning disability programs support the mainstream classroom and are not a replacement for the mainstream classroom.
__5. Students with learning disabilities need to learn to function in a mainstream classroom setting.
__6. Students with learning disabilities almost always need their self-concept improved.
__7. If the problem is not recognized or diagnosed, it will not go away on its own and will
continue to interfere with learning.
__8. The child with learning disabilities can succeed if provided with assistance both in school and at home.
Answers: All true
What Are Learning Disabilities?
The term learning disability is one of the most misunderstood in education today. It’s difficult to come up with a universally accepted definition of what a learning disability is. What we do know is that the child with learning disabilities appears normal physically, is of average or above average intelligence, and is one who fails to learn at the expected rate. It is believed that one out of every 10 school-age children in the United States has a learning disability.
A learning disability refers to one or more significant deficits in the learning process. A child with a learning disability most likely will demonstrate a discrepancy between expected and actual achievement in specific subject areas. The school and/or parent may be able to ascertain if a child has a learning disability by observing one or more of these traits:
- Hyperactivity—The child is unable to sit still and concentrate on one thing for a period of time.
- Distractibility—The child has a short attention span and cannot concentrate if surrounded with noise.
- Perception—The child has poor visual and/or auditory skills.
- Language—The child lacks verbal skills and is unable to put ideas into complete sentences.
Once a child is identified as learning disabled, the school can play a big part in remedying the problem. The school can provide a quality program by attending to the needs of students with learning disabilities. Most, if not all of these students, can function effectively in the mainstreamed, inclusive classroom if teachers are adequately prepared. The goals for the student with learning disabilities are the same as for the mainstreamed student, with one exception: The method of instruction, including the rate of presentation and reinforcement techniques, will vary depending on the student and his or her assessed needs. At times, the teacher may have to form homogeneous groupings in order to provide the child with learning disabilities extra help and support. Still, I am not in favor of segregating these students into “special” classes because of the negative effects on the students’ self-esteem that may result. In my opinion, teachers, can utilize an array of strategies to accommodate the learning needs of all students.
Before I close this basic introduction to students with disabilities, allow me to end this column by, perhaps, raising a few eyebrows. Most teachers I know don’t like to teach a heterogeneous class. Most teachers I know teach to the middle or the average student. But who determines what “average” means?! Students who are academically advanced and students with moderate to severe learning disabilities usually fall by the wayside. Why? It’s not because teachers disregard these children intentionally. Rather, they simply were not prepared to teach students at the extremes. Teachers who were credentialed years ago attended teacher preparation programs that neglected to address the inclusive classroom along with the diverse learning needs of all students. Thankfully, today, many teacher education graduates have been exposed to differentiated instruction. Differentiation is the way to address the learning needs of all students, and it is a crucial component of education which I will address in my next column.