Educating Students with Learning Disabilities
Some of the students who struggle in the general education classroom are struggling because they have learning disabilities. Public schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education for students with learning disabilities. This means that any student who is thought to have a possible learning disability must be appropriately assessed and that any student who is found to have a learning disability must be provided with appropriate instruction, modifications and accommodations so that he or she can progress in the general curriculum.
Assessment for Learning Disabilities
If a child is suspected of having a learning disability then the school will seek parental consent to evaluate the child to determine if a learning disability is present. A parent may also request that an evaluation be done. Many children with learning disabilities enjoy art class.
The assessments conducted by the school district must comply with the legal requirements of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and any applicable state laws. That means that, at a minimum, all evaluations must be free from bias and administered by qualified people. Further, the student must be evaluated in all areas of suspected disability. The evaluation procedure should include more than one form of assessment. For example, a comprehensive evaluation should include formal assessments, teacher evaluations, parent reports, a review of the student’s educational record and classroom observations.
Learning Disability Strategies and Treatment
There is no medication nor is there a cure for learning disabilities. That does not, mean, however, that children with learning disabilities do not have treatment options.
Public school students with learning disabilities that affect their progress in the general education curriculum are eligible for special education. Special education requires that a Team including professionals who conducted the assessments, a general education teacher, a special education, the parent and others convene to develop a plan (IEP) for the child to make progress in school. The IEP will specify certain types of specialized instruction and accommodations that the student should receive. Each plan is required by law to be individualized to the student for whom it is drafted. Therefore, each plan may contain different modifications and accommodations for different learning disabled students.
Students with learning disabilities are only eligible for special education if their disability impacts their progress in the general education curriculum and they are in need of specialized instruction. Specialized instruction is a change in how the teacher provides instruction for that particular student as opposed to the whole class. Some students will also need accommodations that do not change the way in which the instruction is provided but make the material more accessible for the student.
There are many accommodations that can be written into your child’s IEP to help the child succeed in the general classroom. Accommodations are strategies that make it easier for your child to learn but do not change the way in which the instruction is provided.
However, not every learning disabled student needs every possible accommodation. Some common accommodations include extra time on tests. Extra time removes the pressure of having to work too fast and allows the student adequate time to think through each problem.
Other common accommodations include providing support for the particular student’s learning style. For example, accommodations could be made to audio tape a class if the student is an auditory learner and would benefit from hearing a second presentation of the material. Likewise, if the student is a visual learner, accommodations could be made to give the student a copy of the class notes.
Assistive technology, such as the use of computers, specific computer programs and other devices can also be useful for students with learning disabilities
It is important for both the parents and the teachers to carefully monitor the progress of a student with disabilities to make sure that the student is meeting his or her IEP goals and progressing in the general curriculum. If the student is having trouble either with the IEP goals or the general curriculum, the IEP Team should reconvene and revise the IEP as necessary to provide the student with the needed support.
A learning disability is not a life long sentence to struggling in school or getting bad grades. Special education is designed to provide a student with a learning disability with the tools that he or she needs to be able to learn.
Appropriate Education for Students with ADD
Virtually everyone with a child in public school knows a child with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both conditions are being increasingly diagnosed among school age children in the United States. Often the terms are used in everyday speech by people who feel that they are having trouble concentrating.
However, both conditions involve more than a lack of concentration and need to be diagnosed by professionals. So, due to the prevalence of ADD and ADHD and misconceptions associated with the terms, it is important to understand what they are, why the cases of each seem to be increasing in the United States and how they can be treated.
What Are ADD and ADHD?
ADD is an old term that has been replaced by ADHD. ADHD is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder that is estimated to affect up to 5% of the world’s population. The most common symptoms of the disorder are not paying attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. ADHD is further divided into three subcategories. The first is ADHD-I where the primary symptom is inattentiveness. This is the kind of ADHD that was formerly known as ADD.
Students with ADHD often are careless in their schoolwork, unable to sit still for long periods of time, are easily distracted and do not seem to listen or pay attention to their teachers. This often results in poor academic grades, frustrated students and aggravated parents and teachers.
Why does ADHD Seem To Be Becoming More Common?
The reasons why ADHD seems to be becoming more common among school children in the United States is often debated. Some people contend that more students are presenting the symptoms in school than students of earlier generations. Other people contend that ADHD was an often under diagnosed or misdiagnosed condition in earlier generations and that the increased numbers are actually relevant of the true prevalence of the condition across different generations. Still others contend that ADHD is being over diagnosed now and that any student who is impulsive or who has too much energy is diagnosed as having ADHD.
All of these reasons for the increase in diagnoses are plausible. However, if a qualified doctor is making the diagnosis then it stands to reason that students who need help will be receiving appropriate services. Doctors have strict protocols that they need to follow when making an ADHD diagnosis. Specifically, patients must be found to present 6 out of 9 very specific symptoms of inattention or 6 out of 9 very specific symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsiveness over a period of six months or more.
Further, the inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness must be significant to the point that they are found to be disruptive and inappropriate for the student’s development level. Additionally, some of the symptoms must have started before the child reached age 7, the symptoms must be present in two or more settings (such as school and home), the symptoms must significantly impair schoolwork or social functioning and the symptoms must not be accounted for by another disorder.
How Is ADHD Treated?
ADHD can be treated through a combination of medication, behavior modifications, life style changes and counseling. Of course a public school may not require a child to be medicated. So, medication and often life style changes are out of the control of teachers and administrators. If a child is medicated and a family is making life style changes that would be useful information to share with the school, however. Try these suggestions for your child’s education
Regardless of the family’s actions, the school has a responsibility to educate a student with ADHD. If the student’s ADHD is significantly impacting his or her progress in the general curriculum and the student therefore needs specialized instruction than the student will be found eligible for special education. IEPs will be written for students with disabilities with appropriate accommodations and modifications. Schools can appropriately work on behavior modifications and counseling as they relate to the child’s progress in school.
Whether you term the condition ADD or ADHD, students with this disorder often need help in school. It is a condition that is being increasingly diagnosed in the U.S. and that is leading more and more educators to be aware of the symptoms and effective strategies for allowing ADD or ADHD students to succeed in the general curriculum.