Special Needs Topics with Don Peek
This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.
The term learning disability is a classification used to describe students who have difficulty learning in the usual ways. This type of disability is caused by unknown factors which affect the ability of the brain to receive and process information. Almost 13% or about 6.5 million students are enrolled in special education classes. Of those students, approximately 2.5 million are identified as learning disabled.
However, it is not enough just to know that a student is learning disabled. You need to know the type of disability. There are four different types:
1) Reading disorder – difficulty with accurate and fluent word recognition, word decoding, reading rate, oral reading, and/or reading comprehension. Many students who have a reading disability are dyslexic.
2) Writing disorder – difficulty with handwriting, spelling, organization, and/or composition. Writing disorders are also referred to as dysgraphia.
3) Math disability – difficulty with concepts, memorizing facts, organizing numbers, and/or understanding how to organize problems. A math disability is termed dyscalculia.
4) Nonverbal learning disability – shows up as clumsy motor skills, poor visual-spatial skills, poor social relationship skills, problems with math, and poor organizational skills.
While these learning disabilities cannot be cured, skills can be learned that help some students cope with or overcome their disabilities almost entirely. Like many others disabilities, being learning disabled is not a black or white situation. Some students have a severe learning disability. Others have a mild disability. That makes it more difficult for teachers to find the type of activities and skills that best fit each student’s disability level.
When LD teachers step into their classrooms, they might be facing students with up to four types of learning disabilities, and those disabilities could range from very mild to very severe. Obviously, it is helpful to have a small number of students in each class and also the help of an aide whenever possible.
I believe two major problems exist when we try to teach learning disable students. First, some special education and many regular education teachers have low expectations for some students identified as learning disabled. If they do not fully understand the nature of the learning disabilities of their students, they might make the mistake of feeling that their students are learning disabled in areas where they have no disability at all. All teachers who teach learning disabled students need to be aware of the exact nature of each student’s disability.
The other problem is the exact opposite of the first. Teachers have expectations that are too high for the learning disabled student. Material is not presented in a manner or at a rate that is manageable for the student. When the student fails, the teacher often sees that student as lazy or uncooperative. In reality, the student simply needed the material presented in a different way, at a slower pace, or both.
These two problems should not occur if thorough assessments are done on learning disabled students, and both weaknesses and proper teaching strategies are listed in each student’s individualized education program. These IEP’s should, of course, be shared with the student’s special and regular education teachers.
Grant Name: DonorsChoose.org Grants
Funded By: DonorsChoose.org
Description: DonorsChoose.org is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers register, and then submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals choose projects to fund.
Program Areas: Disabilities, Special Education, All Other
Recipients: Public School
Proposal Deadline: None
Register: Teachers must register and create an account on the website below
Availability: All States