Thursday, October 26, 2017

Learning Disabilities

What do Leonardo da Vinci, Woodrow Wilson, General George Patton, Winston Churchill, Nelson Rockefeller and Albert Einstein share? They are all famous, successful and were considered learning disabled.

15-20% of the U.S. population have some form of learning disability, according to estimates derived from the latest research conducted by the National Institutes of Health on reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities has been defined in many different ways by many different organizations. Public Law 94-142 defines it as “A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, or mental retardation, or emotional disturbance or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.” Learning disabilities are often characterized by a significant difference in the individual's achievement in some areas, as compared to his or her overall intelligence. No one knows what causes learning disabilities as of now. There are many possibilities, and a few leading theories, one of which is that learning disabilities stem from subtle disturbances in the brain structured and functions. With early intervention, support and the appropriate teaching techniques and strategies, learning disabilities can often be minimized or overcome and individuals can lead productive successful lives.

There are two ways of diagnosing learning disabilities, informally flagged and actual diagnoses. Informally flagged is used by observing significant delays in the child’s skill development. A 2-year delay in the primary grades is usually considered significant. Actual diagnosis of learning disabilities is made using standardized test that compare the child’s level of ability to what is considered normal development for a person of that child’s age and intelligence. Test results depend on the not only the child’s abilities, but on the reliability of the test and the child’s ability to understand the questions, and pay attention.

Typical characteristics of individuals who have learning disabilities may include but are not limited to: Spoken Language: -Children may have delays, disorders, and deviations in listening and speaking.
-They may be slow to develop the ability to speak, understand stories, or follow directions.
-They may say words in the wrong order. For example: “Please up hurry.”
- They may start or stop talking in mid sentence, be unable to vocalize a word until someone says it and pronounce certain words in odd ways. For example: “aminals,” “emenies,” and “hopsitals.”

Written Language: 
-Children may have difficulty with reading, writing and spelling.
-They may persistently read “on” for “no” “14” for “41” “p” for “d”, or “q” for “b”.
-They may have difficulty associating the letter “c,” for example with it’s sound; or be unable to distinguish between words like “chop” and “shop”.
-They may have poor eye-hand coordination and be rather messy writers.

Math Problems: 
-Children may have difficulty in performing mathematic functions or in comprehending basic concepts.
-They may be able to add and subtract but not multiply and divide, or they can calculate in their heads but not on paper.

Orientation in time and space:
-Children often seen lost in time and space
-They may not know what time, day, year, or season it is.
-They sometimes have particular difficulty understanding the meaning of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
-They sometimes cannot remember what they were told an hour or two ago.
-They may have special trouble understanding concepts like up/down, left/right etc.

Perception of movement:
-Children may have problems with physical activities.
-they may be awkward and clumsy, frequently off balance and have trouble learning to tie their shoes.
-They may break things and be accident prone.
-They may be hyperactive and fidgety or underactive and appear tired most of the time.
-They may be unable to sit still or concentrate, although sometimes this occurs at school but not when playing a favorite game at home.

Abstract reasoning:
-Children may have difficulty in organizing and integrating thoughts.
-They may not be able to remember where their belongings are located.
-Their rooms and homework may be messy and disorganized.
-They may have a hard time following directions or making decisions.
-They may have difficulty planning an activity or carrying out a plan.

Social Actions:
-Children may be socially impulsive.
-Sometimes they can be free-spirited and bring freshness and enthusiasm to life. At other times, they want what they want when they want it.
-They can become upset instantly and over what seems to be “nothing.”
-They may lack self-confidence and self-esteem and refuse to try certain activities, saying “I Can’t,” “I don’t want to,” or “I’m not good at that.”
-They may have difficulty making friends.
-They may be socially immature, risk punishment to gain attention and constantly interrupt.

Professionals are currently debating whether special education there is a need for some groups of children who show LD characteristics. These groups include students who are at the low-average end of the intelligence scale, are highly intelligent, or come from linguistic, cultural, social, or economic backgrounds that differ significantly from their peers.

There are three types of learning disabilities, developmental speech and language disorders, academic disorders, and other (which includes certain coordination and learning handicaps not covered by the other two terms.
Speech and language problems are often the earliest signs of LD. Specific diagnosis may be: Developmental articulation disorder, Developmental expressive language disorder, or Developmental receptive language disorder. Children with Articulation Disorder may have trouble controlling their rate of speech, or may lag behind playmates in learning speech sounds. Articulation Disorders are usually outgrown or successfully treated with speech therapy. Children who have problems expressing themselves in speech are usually diagnosed with developmental expressive language disorder. There are a wide variety of abilities fall into this category. Like a four-year-old who cannot connect two words together like “my toy” to an eight-year-old who cannot answer the question “Where are you?” People who have receptive language disorder have trouble understanding certain aspects of speech, they hear fine but can’t make sense of certain sounds, words or sentences they hear. Examples include a pre-schooler who hands you a bell when you asked for a ball or a worker who consistently can’t follow simple directions.

Academic Skills Disorders include reading, writing, and arithmetic disorders. Students with academic skills disorders are often years behind their peers in the area in which they have difficulty. Reading disorders also known as dyslexia affects 2 to 8 percent of elementary school children. 

For children to read they must simultaneously:
Focus attention on the printed marks and control eye movements across the page
Recognize the sounds associated with letters
Understand words and grammar
Build ideas and images
Compare new ideas to what you already know
Store ideas in memory

Writing also involves several brain areas and functions. It utilizes brain networks for vocabulary, grammar, hand movement, and memory. A writing disorder may result from a problem in any one of these areas. For example, a child who has an expressive language disorder may not be able to compose complete grammatical sentences. Like reading and writing, arithmetic is a very complex brain function which involves recognizing numbers and symbols, memorizing facts, aligning numbers and understanding abstract concepts like place value and fractions. Arithmetic disorders are also known as dyscalculia.
Many of these areas are interlinked and overlap in diagnosis. There are also other categories, such as "motor skills disorders" and specific developmental disorders that are not included in the first two categories. These diagnoses include delays in acquiring language, academic, and motor skills that can affect the ability to learn but do not meet the criteria for a specific learning disability. Also included are coordination disorders that can lead to poor penmanship, as well as specific spelling and memory disorders.

Three of the most known LD are ADD, ADHD, and dyslexia. A child who has signs of inattention may be diagnosed as ADD. 

Some of the signs include:
-Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.
-Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play.
-Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly. -Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish tasks (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand.)
-Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
-Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork.
-Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities.
-Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
-Is often forgetful in daily activities.

A child is considered to have ADD when six or more of the above signs have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with the developmental level for the child’s age.

Some of the signs of hyperactivity include:
-Often fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat.
-Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected.
-Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which remaining seated is expected.
-Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly.
-Is often "on the go" or acts as if "driven by a motor".
-Often talks excessively.
Some of the signs of impulsivity include:
-Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
-Often has difficulty awaiting turn.
-Often interrupts or intrudes on others.

There are also other criteria to be considered in defining ADD and ADHD. They are 1. Some of the above symptoms were present before age 7. 2. Impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings, (e.g. in school as well as at home.) 3. Clear evidence exists of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning. Lastly, 4. The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, such as Schizophrenia, and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder such as a mood disorder or anxiety disorder.

Dyslexia is a language-based disorder, sometimes it is inherited, and is shown by a difficulty in single word reading. It affects many children and has been extensively studied. It is also a major source of reading failure. Although a child is unlikely to outgrow dyslexia, it can usually be successfully remediated and is identifiable early in the child’s school career. Dyslexia and ADD are not the same but may both occur in the same child. Dyslexia is a significant discrepancy that exists between intellectual ability and reading performance without and apparent physical, emotional or cultural cause. 

Studies have found common history in children with dyslexia, some of the findings are:
-Family history with reading problems.
-Predominance in males (8:1)
-An average or above average IQ and proficiency in math.
-No enjoyment of reading as a leisure activity.
-Problem of letter and word reversal.
-Developmental history of problems in coordination and left/right dominance.
-Poor visual memory for language symbols.
-Auditory language difficulties in word finding, fluency, meaning, and sequence.
-Difficulty transferring information from what is heard to what is seen and vice versa.

It has been said that at least 40% of the population has some kind of reading disorder that disrupts their ability to read. With these statistics in hand, our researchers and educators should all be aware and strive to find better ways to develop each child’s ability to learn and read.

With IDEA enacted, free public education is mandated for children with LD from birth through 21 years. Services may be in private, or public schools through a variety of programs. The most severe LD students are often served in self-contained classrooms or residential settings, while students with mild or moderate LD are usually mainstreamed in regular classrooms with a variety of additional services. Additional services may include time in a resource room, an LD teacher joining with the teacher working together, or consultation with an LD teacher who provides support, resources and ideas to the classroom teacher.
Teachers must choose approaches and materials to suit the needs of the individual child, age, severity level are two very important factors to consider. The teacher must not only set a goal of concepts to be learned but also provide an effective environment, have specific techniques and strategies that will maximize each students ability to learn in a mainstream setting. It is very unlikely that the same tools can be effective for any two student, which is a great problem for LD teachers. An IEP is a written agreement between the parents and the school about what will be done to address the special needs of the child.

In my search for information on this topic, I found many quality resources and stories to help me understand more about LD on the Internet. One of the stories I read was about a boy who had LD and it described how he was tested, and how he learned. If he tried something himself, if something was demonstrated to him or if he could read step-by-step directions, he learned, but if someone told him how to do something he didn’t learn well. His counselor and teachers worked together to make his school experience more effective by having him do as much “hands-on” learning as possible, and by having him always do something in school, he was instructed to draw pictures during lectures of what he thought the teacher was talking about. The student was, then, very successful in school.

Children with LD are all unique, as is any individual. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and some learn better with some tool, and some with others. I guess the whole lesson here is individuality, each child learns better with certain tools, and our goal as educators is to realize and utilize these tools to the best of our ability to maximize each child’s abilities.

Metro Detroit Mommy Blogger:

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