Diffusion of Information and LD Students

{excerpt: Perceptions of Learning-Difference (LD) students on How their specific LD characteristics impact the post-secondary education experience: Tables removed but are embedded within the full text version}

Two questions that are often asked in school systems around the country are; “What are students learning?” and “How do we create an atmosphere that supports learning? (Brookhart, 2011, p. 4)”. These questions are asked at all levels of education, in relationship to all curriculum and teaching practices, and in the heat of political debates (Altbach, Berdahl, & Gumport, 2005). Rogers (1976) defines the diffusion process as the extension of a new ideas, thoughts, or innovations from its establishment to its adopters. Rogers (1976) differentiates the adoption process from the diffusion process in that the diffusion process occurs within society, as a group process; whereas, the adoption process pertains to an individual mental progression where a person moves from merely hearing the information to understanding it and being able to fully apply it in some way.

This is something with which Kelly struggles. Rogers (1976) is primarily speaking about new technology; however, his thoughts are applicable to education especially when he focuses in on the concept of innovation within an organization (p. 417). In this scenario, the students are in the school to learn new information and or ideas so that they can use it to gain new understanding and build better lives for themselves and their families (Honig M. I., 2006). Rogers (1976) highlights how organizations measure adoption of an innovation within an organization over a period of time like email systems and computer technology.

However, an LD student entering an undergraduate program is there to learn new tools and skills (Marzano & Kendall, 2007). These tools can be nursing technology, business technology, leadership skills, etc., but it is all new to the student and it is information that must be adopted or the student will not be able to advance in the program or have a career in that field after the program is completed (Cortilla, 2011; Rogers, 2003). Students with LD come to the learning environment with processing issues that put gaps in their ability to learn/adopt the new information (Opp, 1994). As noted earlier this gap in understanding has been equated to the appearance of Swiss cheese: the knowledge is there, residing in the spaces and pockets, but for whatever reason, the student is unable to access that information, rendering it useless to the student (Cooper, 2007; Cooper, 2005).

When the student enters the classroom, many times, they are entering “fresh”, new, ready to learn, because what was learned the day prior (a month prior, a year prior, years prior), has slipped away (Cooper, 2007). For this reason, the teacher, as the innovator or presenter of the innovation, is again needing to diffuse this new (or renewed) information to the LD student (Rogers, 2003). It’s a recursive process where the LD student learns and relearns until the innovation or new idea is fully adopted, though this is not copiously occuring for the LD student (Viel-Ruma et al., 2007). Cortiella (2011) noted that improved instruction, enhancement to disability planning, better application of programs, and greater skills assessments and training are needed to help students with disabilities understand themselves and grasp their educational process.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 has the potential to assist with disability planning efforts, because it allows individuals with disabilities to show their difficulties by documenting the disability and citing their problems (The United States Access Board, 2008). Regarding any future employer or post-secondary institution (PSI), it requires that “reasonable” modification be applied, without forcing changes or alterations that might be too difficult for the entity to implement (The United States Access Board, 2008). “Reasonable” is a problematic term, becausestudents with disabilities have had a great amount of difficulty in expressing, documenting, and receiving assistance for their disabilities as a direct result of their problems with communication (Cortilla, 2011). This makes it difficult for any employer or PSI to adequately identify what “reasonable accommodations” are, which is creating further gaps (in education and in employment) for the individual with LD (President’s Commission on Excellence in Education, 2002).

In their review of the history of change literature, Higgs and Wren (2009) discuss the complexities and failures of change models over time. They evaluate models that move from simple to sophisticated, and those that move from do-it-yourself models to emergent models (Higgs & Wren, 2005). Among the listed change literature historians is a theorist named John Kotter. Kotter (1996) believed that change required participation from the leader and that leaders needed a true sense of urgency in regard to the change. Others suggest that organizational capabilities and the cultures they impact are so disconnected, and that change cannot occur without structure and repetition (Beer & Nohria, 2000).

Some change literature theorists contend that institutional changes are difficult to conceptualize, because they ultimately have to apply in real world situations (UNPD, 2006). However, others state that the only way change can be effective is if one is willing to continually reshape one’s capacity to enhance one’s organization (Higgs & Wren, 2005; Jaworski & Scharmer, 2000). Altering a system and applying new standards is easy to theorize about, but research shows that changes, especially in educational systems are rarely executed as they are designed (Brugha & Varvasovszky, 2000). Thus, such changes do not spread throughout the entire organization and they are not sustainable in their ability to hold stakeholder or community interests long-term (Brugha & Varvasovszky, 2000).

Rogers (2003) noted that for an innovation to be effective it needs to have certain attributes: (1) it must be better then the innovation it follows, (2) it must be compatible with the current values, (3) it must not be preceived as being too difficult to use, (4) it must allow for experimentation, and (5) it must be transparent and observable so that results are clearly laid out. In the redesign of a new educational system, a stakeholder analysis (Brugha & Varvasovszky, 2000) and strategic plan that incorporate feasible living strategies (this is a method for making sure that a plan that is placed on paper can be effective in a real world situation) are key to a new innovation being successful (Marx, 2006, pp. 15-16).

It is important to determine who the stakeholders are and what role they will play in decision-making, organization policy, literature development and assimilation, and continuation of innovation practices (Rogers, 2003). While there is still some debate about who the stakeholders are (i.e are students stakeholders or are they customers), the majority of researchers find that educational stakeholders include a combination of stduents, parents, staff, community organizations, local governemtns, local businesses, retired citizens, citizens who no longer have students in school, institutions of higher education, media and educational agencies (Spector, Greely , & Kingsley, 2004; BFHE, 2009).

The question then becomes, Where do these stakeholders have buy-in and how does that buy-in impact the assimilation of information (Business Higher Education Foum BHEF, 2009). It might be easier to outline these stakeholders in a figure, by those who are outside of the organization versus those that are inside the organization and how their position in the structure determines their influence on decisions and information diffusion (Brugha & Varvasovszky, 2000). Understanding this relationship allows leaders to develop a proper analysis of whose interests are being considered and who is most impacted by any choice that is made when an educational system needs to be altered (Honig & Rainey, 2011).

Putting these stakeholders in a figure its clear to see that there are stakeholders that are influencers (Policy-makers, Administrators, Social groups, Professional Organizations) and stake holders are the influencees (Students and Instructors). Damanpour & Schneider (2008) might say influencers have “primary” adopter characteristics (those having intrinsic influence, dealing with value and policy) and they might note that influencees have “secondary” adopter characteristics (those having an internal value from the adoption process or that are requires to utilize the actual innovation).

Primary adopters focus on how innovation will be used by the organization from group to group. Secondary adopters focus on how the innovation will be put into practice (Damanpour & Schneider, 2008). Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, & Hall (1987) stated that the most important element in creating positive and successful change was a leader’s willingness to work, push, support and participate in the process (p. 10). A leaders role is important because it does take a quality leader to get an entire stakeholder community to implement new change (Hord et al., 1987). LD students do not have the power to speak for themselves, so they are dependent on their leaders (Cortilla, 2011).

Dalitz, Toner, & Turpin (2011) state that innovation formulas incorporate a variety of different tactics and procedures, but most formulas include life cycle changes, training changes, and skill needs that are either the major primary consideration or they are a close second in the consideration process (p. 11). It is possible that this is why school systems struggle to make some changes to the PSI environment. The change is possibly seen as too expensive or too difficult to implement. In consideration of changing the PSI environment for the LD student, The Cervero Model was chosen because of its incorporation of all elements on a somewhat equal setting, see Figure 2.4. The Cervero Model (Hubbard & Sandmann, 2007). This is relevant because PSI need to understand that, even though modifications at all levels are ultimately desired, change methods do not require PSI to alter every aspect of the educational process to be successful.

Studies have found that there is interconnectedness between change success rates, change context, leadership and methodologies to change (Higgs & Wren, 2005). If stakeholders are not committed, they will not follow the new process and it will fail (Higgs & Wren, 2005). This evidence is reported in The President’s Commission on Excellence in Education (2002) when the reporting staff discovered that LD students were not effectively learning and educational institutions were not able to produce quality, stable learning environments for students with LD. When considering how to assist students with LD, especially when policy has been mandated by legislation that governs how much change can happen at the PSI level, and when considering that many stakeholders have had no choice in the learning formats that are chosen (Dunn & Mulvenon, 2009), LD students must be included in the implementation of any changes that may need to occur in the future as a result of the lived experiences of the mandated educational changes (Hord et al., 1987).

The President’s Council on Excellence in Education (2002) states that the innovation that will help LD students to become solid academic learners will be found by and through engaging with and researching LD students outside of the parameters of the traditional student. If language is not stationary, and if it is not relegated to the sign or symbol as Derrida (1997) supposes, and if it is ontogenetic as Chomsky (1998) believes, and as educators have indirectly implied (Bloom, 1956; Bruner, 1966; Eisner, 2000; Enfield, 2010; Gardener, 2006; Vygotsky, 1978), then researchers must ask how students use language. They must consider how the use of language interferes with learning, and what can be done at the post-secondary institution (PSI) level to help the LD student to better cope in educational settings without removing the “reasonable accommodations” requirement (GOA, 2009).

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New News is Good News

It has been a long and interesting week here in my house.  My sons both underwent testing with a specialist in the field of cognitive disabilities.  There are varying reasons why, but the important part was that they both needed answers and this testing was going to provide that.  My oldest was diagnosed ADHD with sensory issues and my youngest was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. The oldest has additional testing he needs to complete.

I was not sure that I was ready to receive the news myself.  Yes, I have LD, ASD with SPD and I have a daughter with ADHD, SPD, and LD. I even knew my oldest son had LD’s.  Yet, the information impacted my sons and I in a strange way. Allow me to take a step back and tell you all about that day.

Knowing we were going to have the results meeting on this day, I took the liberty of taking the boys out of school. I had no idea that doctor would find anything. I felt that the testing had been stressful and even if nothing was wrong, the boys needed a day off.

We slept in that morning and took our dogs on a long walk. The mood was light. We were laughing and joking.   We mutually decided that we would have breakfast together.

As we loaded into the car, the mood began to change. It was silent. Then out of the blue we found our selves behind an advertisement that read “Stump Removal and Daughter”. We could not figure the sign out – even the picture on the advertisement was odd. And it quickly got us laughing.

I cannot explain how hard it was to point out the ordinary things in life, just as you are driving down to the unknown.  We had breakfast and watched President Obama address the Nation on the monitor in the dinning room. My sons had all these questions about Russia and the Ukraine. It was surreal – watching the news and watching the clock – hearing about this conflict as we had our own internal struggle about our own day.

Finally, it was time. We got to the elevators – walked to the office and I was eventually asked back to hear the results. The doctor and I then broke the news to the boys. My oldest had a few questions. My youngest quietly took it all in.

After we sat in the car for a little while. The boys both felt heavy and finally asked if we could do something fun.  I then drove them to the store, purchased real record players, bought albums, and took each son on a private walk to figure out if they could say the things that they were having trouble saying.

There were the obvious questions. What is this illness? Am I sick? Do I have to take medication? Then there were the other questions. Why me? Did I do something wrong?

Each new day brings more questions, as one might expect. Knowing though has had a great many benefits. It has helped my son to answer questions about themselves that had been unanswered for years. It has allowed my husband and I to take a second look at our children and focus on them over their grades. It has opened conversations at school that are helping our sons to navigate school better because they know what is happening and they are trying to avoid the pitfalls.

Parents as you consider testing, especially if you are worried about the labels that you child could potentially have, my advice to you is to take a deep breath and accept what comes. I only regret waiting this long to do this.  As we step out into the future, I plan to keep you all posted on our progress.

Kind Regards,

Dr. Richmond

“Why isn’t the school helping my child to learn?”: What every parent can do to help a struggling learner.

I often hear from parents about the frustrations they have regarding the amount of learning their children get when they go to school during the day, but I hear more of these concerns from parents of students who have some type of learning issue.  I use the word issue, because not all parents that approach me have a child with a learning disability, and some parents that approach me have children with physical or developmental disabilities.

Regardless of who these parents are or what issues their children face, the question is still the same, “Why isn’t the school helping my child to learn?” The problem is that there could be a lot of reasons why a child is not learning. It is possible that it is the teacher, it could be the curriculum, it could be the student, and it could be a host of other things (combination of things).

I am not taking up for all schools and all teachers. This is not a “they are right/ you are wrong” situation. We have an educational problem in America. WE do! We can all see it; we are all effected by it.  We all want better for our children.

Since we know this is going to take time, we know our children cannot wait and we know that schools need our help, let’s figure out what we can do as parents to make this work for now.

Parents, you have the ability to help your child grow.  You are one of the best resources your child has. Here are a few things you can try:

(1)    For whatever reason, your child is struggling to learn, accept it. It is ok to feel what you feel.  But get those emotions to work for you.  Let them fuel you when you are tired at the end of the day and want to rest, or when you would rather flip on the TV instead of read a book with your child.  Find that anger and use it to your child’s benefit.

(2)    Sit down with your child and talk about what it means to be a good student. I’m not saying your child is a bad student. I’m saying to help your child to realize that their job is to go to school and give it their best. I’m not asking you to talk about grades. I’m asking you to teach your child how to ask questions, to seek more information, and how to participate. If your child is participating, giving it their best, and still hitting brick walls, remind them that this is not their fault and let them know you are going to help them as best as you can.

(3)    Get a notebook and start documenting.  What happens when your child sits down to read? Observe what happens when they write – get samples and save them.  Take time to look at what they are producing. What happens when your child does math or social studies? Gather as much information as you can, so you can become an expert on what your child does when your child is learning.  The fact is this, your child’s teacher may have 20 or 30 or even 40 children in the classroom – they may see a picture forming – but they are seeing only part of it – fill in the blanks for them so that they have a solid idea of who your child is or is not doing. Doing this might help you to figure out that one thing that will connect your child to what they learn in school.

(4)    Find out what your child is supposed to know for class and reinforce it.

  1. Help them to write about it, read about it, and find fun facts about it.  You can make up trivia and play games with it, with your children.
  2. Get exemplars (examples) of what the teacher needs to see your child do in order for your child to show they have the skill. Use those to guide your child to where they need to be.
  3. Have them make books with their own understanding of he information.
  4. Set reasonable expectations about what you can do and then do it.

My goal this weekend will be to have my sons create their own trivial pursuit game based on what they are learning in 7th and 9th grade. I promise to take a few snap shots and tell you how it’s going. 

(5)    Develop a relationship with your child’s school. Let them see your face and know your voice. You may not be able to participate in PTO, but that does not mean you can’t participate in other ways. If you only have time to drop in and provide an encouraging word to the teachers and staff – that is a much needed contribution that will go a long way to helping you have a solid relationship with the people who spend 8 hours a day with your child.  Your communication with the school will help you to find out about other resources that might help your child.

(6)    Celebrate the small things. Every time your child makes progress – GET LOUD! Show them some love.  Learning is hard work when you have to hurdle over barriers. Show your child you appreciate what they have achieved. Be careful not to bribe them – that could be disastrous.  Cheer like you are watching the big game or like you just saw a miracle right before your eyes. Just them see that it mattered to you.

(7)    Write your stories down. Our government needs to see what you see. They need to know what it is like for your children. They need you to share. They see numbers on lines and graphs and charts. Those numbers do not tell them anything about what you deal with every single day nor do they tell them what your child faces.  When you document your child learning, make copies and send it to the people who make the policy changes that impact your child and the people who support them.

(8)    Get to know your community of educators. Your school is not the only group you need to have a working relationship with. Learn about your local department of education, most have additional resources online or listed in the office. Make a phone call, ask questions, learn about events and attend them.

(9)    Network with other parents. Learn from one another.  You will be surprised the amazing things you can learn from people who are in your shoes.

I realize that this is not easy, but since we can’t change the system over night, it’s up to us to figure out how to help our children regardless.  If you have resources that you would like to share, please forward them and links to the pages if possible.

Until Next Time,

Dr. Richmond

H.Res. 456: “Calling on schools and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications”

This weekend I took the time to begin discussing disability advocacy.  What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we address it?

It was my pleasure to discover that Congressman Bill Cassidy and Congresswoman Julia Brownley have written a resolution calling for the House to acknowledge that impact of dyslexia on students. Decoding Dyslexia- Co said that Congressman Cassidy said that

“the resolution is designed to urge schools and educational institutions to address the impact of (dyslexia) on students”  

In another quote posted by Decoding Dyslexia – CO, Congressman Cassidy says:

“Dyslexia affects millions of Americans, including many students. We know that many with dyslexia are among our brightest and most successful. If dyslexia is identified in elementary school and the appropriate resources are given to these children, America can produce more teachers, more scientists and more entrepreneurs. This resolution pushes schools and educational agencies to address this challenge and provide evidence-based solutions for dyslexic students.”

This bill currently only has a 2% chance of passing, but this is low because people do not know about it.  It is up to us as citizens and especially those of us who deal with the impact of dyslexia to encourage our Congressmen and Congresswomen to join the Bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucasus.

Why is this important?

According to Dyslexia World:

A person suffering from dyslexia disorder experiences difficulty reading, writing, with letters, words, and numbers, as well as reversing letters and words. It is estimated that 10 to 15% of the children suffer from Dyslexia.”

But from personal experience, I understand that dyslexia is a life-long condition. It has taken me years to learn to learn and to teach my children to learn.  My hope, my call to my elected officials and to the rest of the United States is that you do not allow another student to struggle as hard as I did – as my children have/are.

If I could sit down with these men and women today – I would walk them through what it felt like to copy a text book cover to cover, to read – reread and reread information hoping to make it stick, to feel what it is like to confuse what is written and what is said – to have the thoughts get stuck, to feel stupid when you know your not and to wonder where on earth the information went that you spent so much time trying to remember.

If I could share a lunch with them, I would ask, if they understood that I have no desire to take something from another student in my quest to give students the same opportunity to learn.

I ask you now to reach out and write letters and ask your Congressmen and Congresswomen to stand up for these children and adults.

I will be posting this letter on all of my social media outlets and I ask you to consider posting it too.  Better yet, write your own and share it.  My voice is not the only voice that needs to be heard.

Special Thanks to:

Decoding Dyslexia – CO (https://www.facebook.com/DecodingDyslexiaCo)

Congressman Bill Cassidy (https://www.facebook.com/billcassidy)

Congresswoman Julia Brownley (https://www.facebook.com/RepJuliaBrownley)

May we continue the effort to build awareness!

Until Next Time,

Dr. Richmond

Learning-Disabilities and/or Learning-Differences (LD), what is this really all about?

For as long as I have understood my disabilities, I have struggled with the terms “disability” and “difference”. There are some people who believe that using the term “disability” brings harm to the LD Community.  They believe this harm is the result of negative stigma perpetuated in our general society. Others, however, feel that the term “difference” helps the public to understand that a person with an LD processes information in a different way (they use phrases like difference not disabled).

While this choice is personal to the individual, it is important to understand is that the term “disability” has legal standing. The term “difference” does not.

I looked at two definitions when I started to write this article.

According to Dictionary.com a disability is:

dis·a·bil·i·ty

[dis-uh-bil-i-tee] Show IPA

noun, plural dis·a·bil·i·ties for 2.

1. lack of adequate power, strength, or physical or mental ability; incapacity.

2. a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job.

3. anything that disables or puts one at a disadvantage: His mere six-foot height will be a disability in professional basketball.

4. the state or condition of being disabled.

5. legal incapacity; legal disqualification.

According to Wikipedia.com a disability is:

Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these.

I looked at Wikipedia out of curiosity. After reading the term on Dictionary.com I felt negative. I saw things like “lack of adequate power”, “preventing a person from living a normal life”. Yuck! So, I went to Wikipedia.com to see what others might say. I found that the later definition was uplifting. It may be true that the disability community often lacks the power and the resources to help itself, but is that who we are – or is that a condition or consequence of our place in society?

I now believe that this is a condition of my situation and not a definition of who we are as a people.

However, before I jump into preaching one theology over another. I have to admit that I have used these same types of negative definitions. When I was young, I presumed that I was enlightened about the term “disability”.  I believed that I understood those dealing with conditions that impacted their living and lifestyle. I did not turn away friends who were disabled. I helped people in wheelchairs (yes I did just say this). I spent time with people that had disabilities. I defended people when others were mean. I told my children to be proud of their disabilities. I really did believe that I had a positive perspective.

But – when I began to struggle with learning, I did not consider myself to be disabled. For that reason, I did not seek help and I spent a great deal of time feeling ashamed of my struggles. If I was backed into a corner, I identified myself as having some trouble with spelling. Or I would say that I was “possibly dyslexic”…but no, never did I really admit that I had a disability.

As an adult, I had to face this situation head on. I had called someone to discuss testing. The difficulty I was having in school was becoming too hard for me to cope with alone. Every time I reached out to a psychologist or therapist, I was asked if I have other disabilities. The terms “Asperger” and “Sensory Deficit” were tossed about. The whole thought process made me angry. How dare those people call me disabled! In my head, I only had problems with my learning and that was all it was. Nothing more! I had researched this and I was not like – I hate to admit I felt like this – but thought I was not like “those people”. That was when I realized that I had the same prejudices, had perpetuated those same stigmas and had felt those same negative emotions that were now interfering with my own ability to get the help I needed.

Stigma is an enigma that cripples.

I finally bit the bullet and got my diagnosis. This event was both exciting (because so much of what I had experienced made sense) and painful (because I had lived for so long without really knowing myself).

I have shuffled between the terms “disability” and “difference” as I have worked to come to terms with my diagnosis. I believe that the only way to change the stigma associated with the term “disability” is for those of us who are disabled to proudly announce that we are and face that often negative public persona head on. I believe we must also face ourselves and examine our own fears and beliefs about these terms.

Whichever term you choose, make sure you are well informed about both. I hope to one day be secure in with my disabilities. Until then, I am at least determined to honestly face it one day at a time.

In the beginning, there was the letter “A”

Many moons ago I did what most parents do. I made the choice to start teaching my daughter how to write. I was very excited. I had found this little table and chair set at a yard sale and I had purchased these fancy little pencils with pink and red hearts on them.  I had even lined the paper so it had bold lines for my daughter’s first letters.  I wanted her to feel like I had put some effort into it (too much Mommy pride). See example:

________ 

– – – – – – – – –

________

(Just imagine this with a fantastic letter “A” in the center!)

It was a Saturday afternoon. I never remember what the weather was like. I know the sun was coming through the windows when we started. My daughter had on this red corduroy overall suit with tiny little flowers and a yellow shirt. Her hair was in these rather cute ponytails with balls on the ends.

I grabbed a piece of paper and I wrote a large letter “A” in the center of one of my homemade lines. Kneeling next to my daughter I placed the paper in front of her and said, “We are going to write your name. This is how you write the letter A.” I then showed her how to make the letter using her own hand.

To my utter shock and eventual horror, my daughter began to cry. She pushed the pencil away and tried to get out of her seat. Tears immediately streamed down her little puffy cheeks, her breaths were heaving in and out, and her anger was spiraling out of control.  It was just the letter “A”! I was not making her eat some exotic, creepy looking vegetable. I was not even threatening to take her favorite toy away. It was just the letter “A”.

But, when my daughter reached out and nearly hit me in the face, I had to take a deep breath and give us both a break. I honestly admit that I was heart broken and felt ill-used. I cried. I pouted and I asked myself how I messed up this supposedly fun experience for the both of us. Being a parent is not easy, but failing at the letter “A” is devastating. In that state of mind, it was clear that I was not going to be able to solve our problem that day. I gave in, but I told my kiddo that we were going to start again the next day.

It would take another 2 and a ½ weeks, lots of frustration and a great deal of back and forth before my daughter would write her name for the first time. For the effort she put in, the results were almost circular on the page, as she could not write in a straight line.  In those two weeks I lost more often then I won.

I share this experience, not because every child with a learning disability has these types of struggles. I say it to express how these types of issues can manifest in behavior. My daughter is a sweet, wonderful, talented, and bright young lady. As a child she was polite, calm, and good-nature. She was the kind of kid that was continually laughing…until I placed a pencil in her hand and watched her become a difficult, angry, and aggressive terrorist.

While I like to believe that I do not have to negotiate with terrorists, I had to make a choice. I was either going to negotiate with this terrorist (who happened to be my daughter) or I was going to break her in an effort to teach her this basic and vital skill.

Fortunately for us something happened after that time. We found a compromise. I can’t tell you how that compromise came about. And the honest truth is that a compromise with one kid with an LD may not work for another kid with an LD. I do recall that it was the result of quick thinking. This compromise helped me to see that my daughter was not the terrorist I thought she was and it showed my daughter that I was not the mean person I seemed to be those first two weeks.

The compromise also helped me to see that I was a good teacher for my daughter. This is not always the case. Many parents are unable to teach their own children (I had this struggle with my son – I will share more about that experience at a later date). The things that make a parent and a child alike are often the very things that make them incompatible as learning partners. My daughter and I, while very similar, had the capability to become partners in her learning and our first step towards building a solid partnership came during that compromise.

If you are a parent facing this issue, my first suggestion is to take a deep breath. Remind yourself that writing is a skill and you are not bad for wanting your child to write. Ask yourself if you are the right person to teach your child. This is vital. Your child can learn to love learning or they can learn to hate it, but it begins with a teacher who is stern when they need to be, supportive because they have to be, and easy when it is the right thing to do. If you fear that your frustrations are going to be too difficult for you to control, then you are not the right teacher for your child. Coping with an LD and teaching another to cope with an LD is not simple, easy, or light work. It requires dedication, the ability to work through the tears and a resilience of mind. If I was willing to give up or give in every time my daughter fought me on a lesson, then I was not going to be the right teacher for her.

Once you figure out if you are in fact the right teacher for your child, then I suggest the following:

  1. Take it slow: nothing happens over night. Your child will forget more often then they remember, so give it time.
  2. Use appropriate expectations: Appropriate does not mean low. Set high and quality standards. Work towards those standards in a time period that works with your child’s disabilities. If your child’s attention span is only 15 minutes then do not expect them to be able to accomplish an hours worth of work. As you work within that 15-minute time frame, look for creative ways to stretch that to 20 minutes, then 30 minutes and so forth.
  3. Get Creative: Most children do not learn the same – even though most adults need the same skills to be successful. Search for ways to teach those skills using as many creative methods as you can find.
  4. Great effort requires great rewards: Celebrate the simple. Make a big deal of those milestones. Your child is working overtime to learn – show you appreciate it.
  5. Thank Yourself – Take parenting breaks. Give yourself space and time. The more refreshed you are, the better teacher you will be. But treat yourself as you treat your child – you deserve it.

Until next time.

An Introduction to Learning-Disabilities (LD)

Understanding learning disabilities (LD) can be very difficult for people in the general public to understand. I have written about the topic many times over the years and I am still amazed by the number of differences that can impact people with disabilities. I also find myself amazed by the way my own disabilities have changed over the course of my life. These changes at times work for my benefit and at other times they work against me.

In 2009, I wrote a paper that explains some of this. An excerpt of the paper (with a minor update) follows:

“On July 26, 1990, then President George Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB was reauthorized by the Obama Administration as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). According to the U.S. Department of Education (2013) this reformation did the following:

(1) Improving teacher and principal effectiveness;

(2) Providing information to families to help them evaluate and improve their children’s schools;

(3) Implementing college- and career-ready standards; and

(4) Improving student learning and achievement in America’s lowest-performing schools by providing intensive support and effective interventions.

Nationally, a learning disability/ difference (LD) is described as a condition that either prevents or considerably hinders an individual’s ability to take in, organize, and/or act on information their brains receive through the senses, even though the individual may be at average to above average intelligence (Mercer, Jordan, Allsopp, & Mercer, 1996).  A learning disability can be the result of a physical impairment, mental impairment or both a physical and mental impairment.  It is important to note that a learning disability does not have to be the result of a physical or mental impairment.

Subsequent to IDEA, Bartlett v. New York State Board of Law Examiners, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 22361, the Supreme Court of New York City affirmed a lower court decision concerning how an individual with an LD can prove they have a disability in order to receive accommodations (Rothstein, 1998).  Based on the ruling, an individual can show that they have a disability by providing evidence that impairment exists or by proving a history concurrent with having a disability.  An individual suffering from an LD must show that the impairment meets two specific definitions, 1) they must have a major activity hindered by the disability and 2) they must be substantially limited in their ability to complete that activity.”

The difficulty that I faced as an individual with an LD was that I had very little understanding of what other people experienced. This meant that I did not have the ability to explain to my teachers how I was hindered or limited. This is not uncommon. Many students suffer in silence, marginalized by their very inability to communicate what is necessary to help them get the assistance they need.  This is the biggest reason it is so important for us to act as a community. Parents, legislators, school administrators, educators, theorists, researchers and advocates in the LD community need to work together to better understand differences and to develop tools that individuals can use to help them to better help themselves.

I welcome your comments, feedback and experiences. References are supplied to provide you with an opportunity to research these things on your own. If you have information you would like to see posted or discussed, feel free to reach out.

References

Bloom, B., & Cohen, R. A. (2007). Summary health statistics for U.S. children: National health interview survey. Hattysville: National Health Interview Statistics.

Bigge, M. L., & Shermis, S. S. (1999). Learning Theories for Teachers. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Curry College. (2004). Benefits of PAL. Retrieved June 10, 2008, from Curry College: http://www.curry.edu/curry/Templates/Lower_Level_Template.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRORIGINALURL=%2fAcademics%2fLD%2bProgram%2b%2528PAL%2529%2fAll%2bAbout%2bPAL%2fBenefits%2bof%2bPAL%2ehtm&NRNODEGUID=%7b17DFD707-8538-403A-B823-8A33712469B4%7d&NRCACHEHINT=NoM

d’Almeida, A. C. (2007). Review on performance-pay for teachers literature. Denver: Educator Sub-Committer of Governor Ritter’s P-20 COuncil in Colorado.

Education, C. D. (Updated: 2007). K-12 Academic Standards. Retrieved February 22, 2008, from Colorado Department of Education: http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeassess/documents/olr/k12_standards.html

Flanagan, D. P., Ortiz, S. O., Alfonzo, V. C., & Dynda, A. M. (2006). Integration of response toIntervention and norm-referenced tests in learning disability identification: Learning from the tower of Babel. Psychology in the Schools , v43 n7 p807-825.Gagne, R. M., Wager, W. W., Golaas, K. C., & Keller, J. M. (2005). Principles of instruction, 5th edition. Belmont: Wadsworth/ Thompson Learning.

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McDonald, K. E., Balcazar, F. E., & Keys, C. B. (2007). Disability, race/ethnicity and gender: Themes of cultural oppression, acts of individual resistance. American Journal of Community Psychology , 39, 145 – 161.

McDonald, K. E., Blacazar, F. E., & Keys, C. B. (2005). Youth with disabilities. In.D.DuBois&Karcher (Eds.) hanbbook of youth mentoring. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Mercer, C. D., Jordan, L., Allsopp, D. H., & Mercer, A. A. (1996). Learning disabilities definitions and criteria used by state education departments. Learning Disabilities Quarterly , Vol. 19, No.4, pp. 217-232.

Putnum/Northern WEstchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services. (n.d.). The gifted-handicapped mentor program. Yorktown Heights: Author.

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Rothstein, L. F. (1998, September 17). ADA requires bar examiners to provide accommodations or applicant with learning disability. Retrieved May 19, 2008, from Health Law and Policy Institute: http://www.law.uh.edu/healthlaw/perspectives/Disabilities/980917ADABar.html

Solomon, L. C., & Podgursky, M. (2000). The pros and cons of performance-based compensation. Missouri: Milkin Family Foundation.

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