It's not enough to identify and diagnose a learning disability. Assessment processes are excellent in determining accommodations that might be needed to help an individual improve in an academic environment, as well as in skills development.
In this article, we'll delve deeper into some of the challenges that confront teachers, school districts, and other students when it comes to learning disability accommodations in a classroom environment, as well as special education needs. We'll offer a brief discussion on devising catered instructional plans for skills development, and offer a brief overview of how short-term and long-term educational development plans are created.
Utilizing Catered Instructional Plans for Skills Development
When it comes to teaching strategies for the learning disabled, a firm sense of direction and structure is vitally important. Strategy instruction is not a new approach to student-centered teaching, but it is one that is especially beneficial in helping students with learning disabilities or other types of disabilities learn, function, and remember what they have been taught.
Such strategies often focus on nontraditional methods of schooling and teaching, depending on the needs of individual children. For example, this may be achieved through different settings other than a classroom environment, teaching one-on-one, or through group-based activities.
Cognitive strategies are defined as those that are based on specific, action-based activities. This is especially beneficial for tactile and visual learners. Cognitive or metacognitive awareness strategies take advantage of a student's focus and attention when engaged in the learning process.
An example of metacognitive awareness is one that encourages the student to perform a critique on his or her assignment, tasks, or homework. While this is more directed toward older learners, the strategy aids in monitoring comprehension and encourages the student to understand, in greater focus, their own issues when it comes to reading, writing, and comprehending. Metacognitive awareness leads right into self-regulatory strategies, which encourage students to think of themselves in positive ways.
The strategic instruction model or SIM, is another popular method that has been used more than 25 years in the educational field. This strategy focuses on content enhancement, teaching methods, and routines that consistently help the teacher organize and deliver content in a learner-friendly and interesting way.
The focus of the SIM model is to encourage passive learners to become more active in applying their knowledge and skills in a variety of environments, including the basics of reading, writing, and math. It also helps them study and remember -- and motivates and encourages them to interact with others.
As you can see, creating instructional plans for skills development depends on many things: the student, the teacher, the parent, and the overall needs and goals of each when it comes to learning and skills development.
Not too long ago, any child diagnosed with a learning disability was automatically shuffled into a special-education class. However, Princeton University, in a research paper regarding the future of learning-disabled children, presented a thought-provoking comment in a book written nearly 26 years prior: "LD is not a distinct disability, but an invented category created for social purposes. Some argue that the majority of students identified as having learning disabilities are not intrinsically disabled, but have learning problems caused by poor teaching, lack of educational opportunity, or limited educational resources."
As mentioned earlier, learning disabilities are not to be equated with brain dysfunction, slow learners, or an ongoing or chronic handicap. A diagnosis of a learning disability does not in any way imply that a child or adult is of lower than average intelligence, experiencing either behavioral or emotional difficulties, or is at a disadvantage based on culture or demographics.
Again, the mere and rather dramatic increase in children identified with learning disabilities in recent years has caused numerous researchers to question the criteria, the definitions of learning disabilities, and the validity of various assessments and identification of learning disability processes. Indeed, many believe that the "learning disability" term is overly broad and that specific types of disabilities should be labeled or defined in a less ambiguous manner.
Biology, genetics, brain trauma, and brain developmental issues all come into play for many children requiring special education, as do levels of severity. In some school districts, interventions may be several years delayed depending on identification, diagnosis, and ability to accommodate to those needs.
A traditional special education class environment is often broken down into four different categories. For example, a special-education student may be placed in a special room with a small group of students with a greater teacher-to-student ratio. This may provide a more relaxed routine and structure within "regular" classroom environments.
A self-contained "special-ed" classroom removes a learning-disabled child from the general school population, overseen by a specially trained special-education teacher. These instructors may utilize different textbooks, offer a variety of academic levels, and a different curriculum than their same-aged peers learn in the "regular" classroom.
A third type is called a district placement, where a child is sent to a different school entirely, enrolled in a school that specializes in specific learning, as well as behavior based scenarios, while an inclusion class defines mainstream placement of a learning-disabled child with his peers in a mainstream classroom. In this environment, the instructor oversees the child's development. This instructor may adjust or adapt regular classroom activities, assignments and curriculum to better meet the child's specific needs. While this is typically the best scenario, as it promotes social, emotional, and behavioral development and growth, the student-to-teacher ratio, as well as the level of needs of the child, may not always be met in such an environment.
When a parent or teacher is considering a special class for a student, educators and parents need to ask themselves several questions. For example, why does a general education classroom, even with supplementary aids and services, not meet a student's specific needs? When considering including the learning-disabled child in a "mainstream" learning environment, one must always take into account the level of time the teacher may need to spend with the child, the potential for disruption, and the degree to which curriculum and classroom instruction will need to be adapted.
Before any student, regardless of age, is placed in any type of special-education class or service, educators and parents should be satisfied that special-education teacher support and accommodations for the student in mainstream classrooms have been considered and attempted, and that the child has had access to supplementary aids and services.
Creating Educational Development Plans
When it comes to interventions for the learning disabled, a number of methods have been utilized, and are currently under further development in school districts around the country. Due to the diverse types of learning disabilities and varying levels of severity, creating a "one-size-fits-all" development plan is impossible. Multiple aspects must be taken into consideration, such as the age of the child, his or her overall development, instructional scenarios, both in mainstream classrooms or special-education classrooms or groups, as well as combinations of each.
In addition, the term "different strokes for different folks" also applies to teachers and teacher approaches. For example, focus and guidance in phonological awareness instruction for children at the kindergarten level has shown positive effects and results in reading development of first-graders. This implies, that with proper teaching, guidance and instruction, knowledgeable teachers can help prevent reading failure in children diagnosed with learning disabilities -- not only in reading, but in language development activities.
As mentioned earlier, some children are not recognized with a reading disability, or any other type of learning disability until perhaps the third grade, when levels of homework, classroom involvement, and expectations rise beyond curriculum and demands for kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders.
However, based on a study, 65 dyslexic children with severe levels of disability were given 65 hours of one-on-one instruction, as well as focus on analytical, synthetic, and phonemic awareness. They improved reading scores from an approximately 77 to a 98.4 average in alphabetic reading skills.
Such short-term educational development plans have shown positive results since those studies were completed in the early 1990s. In determining academic placement, older students today are assessed to determine what they do and don't know about math, reading, or writing skills.
In conjunction with Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System testing (CASAS) and Tests for Adult Basic Education (TABE), assessment tests help determine proper classroom placement for older students -- high school, college and adult education -- as well as provide an ongoing review and documentation of aptitude level changes and progress. We mention that such tests listed above serve as the main, and most commonly used, tools in regard to academic placement challenges faced by teachers and school districts.
Long-term plans must always include a focus on "mainstreaming" a student into a regular classroom environment as often as possible. Most children and teens diagnosed with learning disabilities are able to maintain a presence in general education or "mainstream" classroom environments, with nominal disruption to either curriculum, additional time required by a teacher, or disruption to other students.
In many scenarios today, it is up to the parents to provide the extra time and support in helping their child either adapt to, or improve in, certain areas of education. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, due to numerous scenarios and factors.
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- Famous People with Learning Disabilities
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- Designing a Comprehensive Discipline Program
- Research on Child Development in Understanding Positive Parenting
- Building Self-Esteem in a Child
- The Balancing Act of a Single Life and Parent Life
- ESL Reading Comprehension Strategies
- Substitute Teaching Preparation: Classroom Management
- Reading Comprehension Help: How to Identify Difficulties in Reading
- How to Support Your Child's Socialization
- Understanding Child Development