Learning Disabilities in the Classroom What does it mean for you as a teacher?Mini Etai: Jackie Teplitz 2008
“Life is not so much a matter of holding good cards but of playing a poor hand well” Robert Louis Stevenson
A Few Questions…. How many teachers in this room have classified learning disabled students in their classrooms? Raise your hand! How many teachers in this room , whom in your opinion, have non classified learning disabled students in their classrooms? !Raise your other hand
How many teachers in this room have classified or non classified learning disabled students in their classrooms who are being given remedial intervention in school? !Lower one finger How many teachers in this room have classified or non classified learning disabled students in their classrooms who are being given remedial intervention after school? !Lower one finger
How many teachers in this room find this scenario familiar? First they push the parents to do a diagnostic test. Then they say……Oh, he/she is diagnosed! Discussion ends…cause he/she is diagnosed. The discussion shouldn’t end…it should start!
Let’s Define a Learning Disability A learning disability interferes with someone’s ability to store, process or produce information Such disabilities affect both children and adults Its not always immediately obvious that a person has a learning disability They can be quite subtle and go undetected throughout life
For the students we see in our classrooms, learning disabilities create a gap between a students true capacity and his or her day to day performance The most straightforward indication is academic failure or underachievement by someone who seems capable of more Levine 1984
A learning disability is not indicative of lower intelligence. In fact, people who have a learning disability are often very intelligent It is true, however, that their difficulty to process or store information then causes them to see things differently and sometimes obscures their intelligence While they will always have a learning disability, they can be taught strategies to compensate. We, as classroom teachers, can help in this process
What is a Learning Disability? There is no clear and widely accepted definition of "learning disabilities" There are currently at least 12 definitions that appear in the professional literature!
Five Areas of Agreement 1.The learning disabled have difficulties with academic achievement and progress, discrepancies exist between a person's potential for learning and what he actually learns 2.The learning disabled show an uneven pattern of language development, and/or motor-development, academic development and/or perceptual development 3. All learning originates within the brain and, consequently, a disorder in learning can be caused by a dysfunction in the central nervous system
4. Learning problems are notdue to an environmental disadvantage 5. Learning problems are notdue to intellectual disabilities or emotional disturbances
In Other Words The term learning disabilities refers to a neurobiological disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding spoken or written language. It may influence an individual’s ability to speak, listen, read, write spell, reason, organize information or do mathematical calculations.
Math Disorder (Dyscalculia) Nonverbal Learning Disability Reading Disability (Dyslexia) Written Expression Disorder (Dysgraphia) Visual-Spatial & Social Difficulties Reading Difficulties Writing Difficulties Spelling Difficulties Handwriting Difficulties Math Difficulties
Skill Areas That May Be Affected By Learning Disabilities Receptive & Expressive Language Auditory/Phonological Processing Visual-Motor Processing Visual Processing Attention / Concentration Memory Metacognition Organizational/Study Skills Social Skills
Disorders of Attention Does not focus when a lesson is presented; short attention span, easily distracted, poor concentration; may display hyperactivity
Psychological Processing Deficits Problems in processing auditory or visual information (difficulty interpreting visual or auditory stimuli)
Oral Language Difficulties Underlying language disorders; problems in language development, listening, speaking, and vocabulary
Lacks Phonological Awareness Poor at recognizing sounds of language; cannot identify phoneme sounds in spoken language, and cannot manipulate these sounds
Poor Cognitive Strategies for Learning Does not know how to go about the task of learning and studying; lacks organizational skills; passive learning style, does not direct his own learning
Poor Motor Abilities Difficulty with gross motor abilities and fine motor coordination (exhibits general awkwardness and clumsiness)
Writing Difficulties Poor in tasks requiring written expression, spelling, and handwriting
Social Skills Does not know how to act and talk in social situations; difficulty with establishing satisfying social relationships and friendships
Mathematics Difficulty with quantitative thinking, arithmetic, time, space, and calculation facts
Reading Difficulties About 80% of students with learning disabilities have disabilities in reading; problems in learning to decode words, basic word recognition skills, or reading comprehension
Each Student is Unique! Looking just at the learning disability is too limiting! Students with learning disabilities manifest strengths and weaknesses in !different mental processes Teachers need to look at students’ islands of competence!
Who are the Students in our Classrooms? Four Classifications in Practical Terms 1.The student who had no trouble acquiring reading in his L1 in the first and second grades 2.The student who had no trouble acquiring reading in his L1 in first and second grades but in the third and fourth grades had reading comprehension difficulties
3.The student who had trouble acquiring reading in Hebrew but with learning strategies was able to overcome his difficulties and now reads relatively fluently in Hebrew 4.The student who still has trouble reading Hebrew
We all know the student who constantly fidgets, who doesn’t finish his/her work, never knows what page we are on, or doesn’t hear the assignment It may be true in some cases that people displaying these and other behaviors are simply unfocused or even lazy; learning disabled people are often termed lazy They are always being told to try harder!
Moreover, there is little understanding of the fact that it is not a matter of having students with learning difficulties do a class or activity over again; it is a matter of having them do it differently Vulnerabilities in language skills are exacerbated for ELL students, especially those with learning disabilities, because those students are trying to learn not only language, but a new language!
These researchers believe that if the learning style of the student is at odds with the style required to succeed in the classroom, serious learning problems can occur
We as teachers should focus on the students’ diverse strengths and help them approach learning from their strengths. Although the research is not clear, all students do not learn in the same way
Learning Styles All learners have preferred ways of receiving new and sometimes difficult information. Awareness of these modalities for language teachers are important so that they can accommodate to the individual differences and learning styles.
Sensory Modalities When we teach using the students' different sensory modalities the class as a whole receives information in one or several channels This Multisensory approach can also reinforce a learner's use of their less developed senses Grinder, 1989
Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences and the different ways that we each learn, remember, perform, and understand may be helpful Of similar importance is Betty Edwards work on the roles that the left-brain and the right-brain play in our thinking, reasoning and complex mental functions Teachers can improve the learning climate for many students and most assuredly for those with a learning disability by planning tasks so that differing intelligences are called upon and by balancing the involvement required of each hemisphere of the brain
Researchers believe that students with stronger visual processing skills may learn better through sight word or language experience methods and that students with stronger auditory processing skills may learn best through phonics methods Lerner, 2006
I Teach Everyone Like They Are LD! Beginning learners of a second language do not have native speaker competence in English phonology Thus, their language and literacy development must take a somewhat different path than from a native speaker's development Many believe their path takes on qualities of a L1 learning disabled student, demanding a highly individualized approach with linguistic instruction and remediation (Jannuzi, 1998)
The burden is on us as teachers to ensure that the classroom environment does not perpetuate learning failure. Students who encounter reading problems suffer from many consequences of a reading disability. In school these students are forced to see day after day, that they use textbooks they cannot read and homework they cannot do. In response, they may turn to misbehavior or simply give up, displaying what is called learned helplessness.
Here are some suggestions that are easy to incorporate into classroom routine; naturally, different strategies will be of more or less value to different students, particularly with a culturally and linguistically diverse class
Explicitly state the topic at hand and proceed in a structured, concrete manner; progress from the obvious to the concrete to the abstract; don’t jump without warning from one topic to another Reduce the level of distraction in the room Always write the page number and exercise number on the board so that the LD student can always find his place without asking
Whenever appropriate, present material using graphic and/or sensory media Combine both auditory and visual stimuli, say it and write it on the board whenever possible Use videos, demonstrations, and concrete materials
Give the gift of time whenever it is at all possible Students with learning disabilities may require extra time to complete in-class and homework assignments as well as tests
Consider administering tests in alternative formats such as orally or on computer Have students use a word processor to whatever extent is possible Word processing makes rewriting and revising so much less laborious, its value is immeasurable for those students with fine-motor, sequencing, spelling and other language manipulation problems
. Make it easy for students to ask for repetition; bear in mind that it is important to use the same language when you do repeat so that you do not change the construct and defeat the purpose of the repetition; Frame material by relating it to past classroom or personal experience and highlighting new material;Whenever possible, cluster material so that it is organized by category;
. Don’t issue too many instructions at the same time. Break tasks down into their component parts and issue the instructions for each part one at a time Allow time in advance for students to think about items to be covered in class. Provide plenty of pre-discussion, pre-writing, pre-reading lead time and other pre-teaching activities
Begin each lesson with a review of what has been learned Tell students the goal of the lesson Reorganize the seating to help students by placing students with special needs near the teacher
Counsel student so your expectations are clearly understood Set up expectations for behavior. Give positive feedback when behavior is satisfactory “I like it when you……..” Give feedback when behavior is not satisfactory “I want you to……..”
Really get to know the student. Target his strengths and help him shine in these areas Assure him that you care how she/he feels!
Use an assignment calendar to give student a clear idea of due dates If student cannot read text, use tape-recorded books in a listening center or assign a peer to read to the student Upload a “Read Aloud” program so your student can hear the digital text read aloud from the computer by an automated voice
Allow student extra time on timed tests if they are not standardized tests Provide student a quiet setting free of distractions in which to take tests Talk with student to determine prior knowledge and begin instruction at the appropriate level of understanding
Use multiple-choice or matching tests instead of full recall tests Give open-book study sheets to student and to parent two weeks before major test so parent can review information several times with the student.