Significant Barriers to Self-Direction and Readiness

If Rebello (2007), Thorndike (1901) and Lave are correct in the notion that learning was taking what was learned from one situation to another, that it was the culmination of the similarity of situations, and that it would not transfer from one culture to another (Schwartz, Bransford, & Sears, 2005), then it is important to understand the linguistics and the behavior of the LD community. By understanding, proper theory can then be created to improve learning environments for LD students. As our messages help people to understand us (Derrida, 1997), our behavior and actions define us (Bruner, 1996), and our ability to be successful in our educations are based on how our lingistics are mapped to our behavior then, language as an independent object of study – vis-à-vis the LD student –must be evaluated (Chomsky, 1988).

Hitchings, et al. (2001) asks the question, “Can students describe their disability and identify possible accommodations that might be needed in the career path?” (p. 9). They state that students with LD have unique needs that have likely gone unmet while they were in high school. Let us return to Kelly again. Kelly can see her disability; she is obviously impacted by it, but describing it appears to be extremely difficult for Kelly.  Consider Kelly in two different scenarios:

Scenario 1: While in class with her non-disabled peers, Kelly often heard others discussing how easy it was for them to participate in class, how simple the exams were, and how little time they needed to study prior to a test. After the hours she had spent, attempting to understand, she could not imagine that learning was effortless. As an adult student, Kelly eventually confessed to a friend that she had finally gone to see someone regarding her learning issues, and the friend replied, “Well, if you get help, how is that fair to everyone else? You look smart. You are getting a college degree. Why would someone like you need help?  I do not understand what you are complaining about.”  Kelly could not forget that statement. What it implied to her was that her struggle, was less important than others, that somehow because she did not physically show her disability, that because she had not publically discussed her learning issues and because she was trying to get an advanced degree, that she was undeserving of any form of assistance.

Scenario 2: During winter break, Kelly returned home doubtful that she was going to go back to college. Her grades were average; her spirits were in the dumps. Her sister Melody, a beautiful eleventh grader with an easy 4.0 grade point average, and her mother, Barbara (an Human Resource manager), huddled in the kitchen snacking on ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches and drinking tea. Taking a deep breath and Kelly decided to tackle the situation head on.

“Mom, do you mind if we sit down and talk, alone?”

“Sure honey.” Barbara said, leading Kelly out to the front porch.

Melody, unperturbed, threw sandwiches on a plate and plopped down in front of the television.

Outside, Kelly sat with her face to the sun in an attempt to warm her body. Ready, she hoped, to explain what she was dealing with. Worried, her mother took the bench next to her and waited.

With an unsteady heart, Kelly began, “Mom, I am failing. I am not ready for college.”

“Failing? You make average grades. What are you talking about?”

“Mom, I do not understand. I do not understand anything.”

“You make average grades, that is normal to feel like you do not understand. What is it that you do not understand?”

“Class, Mom. I do not understand class.”

“You are just tired. College makes us all tired. You make average grades.”

“No, Mom. I mean I do not understand. I study forever and I still do not understand. I feel like a piece of Swiss cheese. I pack in all of this information, but still there are holes.”

Interrupting, Barbara took Kelly’s hands, “Kelly, no one gets everything. But you are ‘understanding’. Who made you feel this way?”

Reluctantly, Kelly decided to calm her mother’s frustrations. No. She was not ‘understanding’. But if she could not explain to her own mother, how was she ever going to make anyone else understand?

At some point, Kelly likened her experience with learning to Swiss cheese. She did, as Derrida (1990) and DeLanda (2000) have stated, learn language through the vehicle of: (1) the alphabet, then (2) parts of a sentences, then (3) a full sentence, then (4) paragraph construction and so forth. Kelly will test on information and, based on her grades, she does show average academic performance. Unfortunately, what Kelly is left to wonder is where in the Swiss cheese did this information go and why is she unable to find it on her own, express it to others, and use it the same way other students do?

Her communication issues are not only school-based; they impact her in all social settings. When speaking to her mother, the person who provided the most knowledge about terms and concepts to Kelly during her lifespan, she is unable to bridge the communication gap and express her struggles. Her mother saw her grades as evidence that Kelly was learning, but Kelly is focused on the word ‘understanding’ as evidence that she is not learning. In Kelly’s eyes, she not only has a language problem, she has a knowledge problem (Chomsky 1988).

Like Kelly, educators are having similar complications, and these issues are documented in reseach on curriculum development (Oliva, 2006). One example is with the use of the term “curriculum”. Educators are discovering that there is no agreed understanding/definition of the term (Oliva, 2006). The instability with the use of this term keeps educational groups from developing tangible, stable programs, because one academic program views and practices the term in one way and another program uses it another way (Oliva, 2006). What this highlights is that educators are training students to learn language based on non-ontogenetic theory (language as sign and symbol), while they are utilizing or being confounded by ontogenic principles (language as a specific and unique organism that is worthy of study) (Oliva, 2006). With educators struggling to use or adequately promote one concept over the other, how do they expect students, like Kelly, to be able to communicate where and how they struggle, and become self-directed learners (Lind, 2008)?

What is language? Willard van Orman Quine (1908-2000), renowned philosopher, from Harvard University surmised that language was nothing more than a social art in which meaning is attributed to individual objects, nothing more than a series of symbols, only useful for the purpose of communication (Quine, 1960). This is a very simplistic and rather uncomplicated paraphrasing of his work, but what the philosopher candidly espouses is the ideology that language as a biological norm is a fallacy because it is merely a rigid object in motion (Quine, 1960).

Enfield (2010) argued that the non-existence of language assumption is based on insufficient investigation that relies on the ideology that accepts that the biological function of language is not realistic because it has not been proven false and that the philosophy of language as a social art is merely a generally accepted principle. What Enfield is saying is that theorists, like Quine and Derrida, are arguing that the biological function of language is not realistic. Their argument this based on two principles:

(1) that the biological function of language is philosophical or inside a persons head, and therefore cannot been proven false, and

(2) that the philosophy that language is a tool used by a group of people that allows them to communicate, it is accepted, but in a broad way and therefore cannot be defined or proven wrong.

He went on to further note that it is impractical to study the arithmetic capacity of an individual by looking at a massive statistical analysis of what happens on the inside of someone’s head (Enfield, 2010, p. 24). Barbara was looking at Kelly’s academic performance as evidence of her internal perceptions, while Kelly was looking at her ability to obtain and maintain information, thus a language problem between Barbara and Kelly.

Language is a function of the entire body and worthy of its own study. Language is a series of cognitive functions, that – when taken separately – has other functions connected to it (Enfield, 2010). Like Enfield, Chomsky (1988) believes in the ontogenesis of language and with such asks the questions, “What are the properties of any specific language?” How are those properties acquired? and Why do those languages have those properties and not others?” Students with learning-differences (LD) access some properties of language but not others. Why is that (President’s Commission on Excellence in Education, 2002)? Educators need to investigate this in order to determine if this complication is a barrier to the LD student’s ability to become self-directed.

Full Text Citation:

Richmond, R. C.L. (2013). Perceptions of Learning-Difference (LD) Students on How their Specific LD Characteristics Impact the Post-secondary Education Experience. Argosy University.

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Problems for the LD Student Continued…

Problems in secondary educational settings

Regardless of the approach, educators need to begin asking if students are mastering, connecting, sustaining, engaging, and feeling culturally connected to the material (Jensen, 2005; Levine, 2002; Pace & Schwartz, 2008). Unfortunately, since learning disabilities were discovered, the focus on fixing issues within a secondary setting has been on behavior modification either through assimilation (refusing to remove the child from the classroom or their peers) (Hogan, 2005) or through segregation techniques (Adelman, 1978), removing the child for a period of time to learn skills separately from their peers.

Studies have concentrated on specific problems that impact the LD community (Hogan, 2005). These studies include writing and self-regulation (Sadler, 2006), parent- tutoring interventions (Gortmaker, Daly III, McCurdy, Persampieri, & Hergenrader, 2007), inclusion methodologies (Hogan, 2005), self-determination interventions (Konrad, Fowler, Walker, Test, & Wood, 2007) and even career development (Hitchings, et al., 2010). Individuals with LD are defined as having some problem that interferes with their ability to process information (Thomas, Louis, & Sehnert, 1994), which forces researchers to ponder how those students approach knowledge (Onachukwu, Boon, Fore III, & Bender, 2007).

Regrettably, while studies have confirmed that interventions can work temporarily, there have been no interventions that have been proven to work long-term (Onachukwu et al., 2007; Vaughn & Bryant, 2002; Viel-Ruma et al., 2007; Willem, 1999). Willem (1999) documented the progress of students who had:

(a) significant learning difficulties in acquisition, organization and expression, (b) poor performance in reading, writing and spelling, (c) significant discrepancy between their potential to achieve and their actual achievement, and (d) learning disabilities that were not visual, auditory or motor (p. 25).

LD students appeared to make progress in the beginning but could not sustain that success after the intervention was concluded.

Vaughn and Bryant (2002) determined, after a three-year comprehension intervention to increase the skills set of English language learners with LD, that the intervention could increase the rate of reading but not the level of accuracy or comprehension. Viel-Rama et al. (2007) followed the progress of three students who participated in a study that was designed to determine if self-correction could help disabled students struggling with written expression. He, too, discovered that students were unable to continue to progress, once the intervention was finished (Viel-Ruma et al., 2007).

To understand LD individuals, researchers must look more at the population outside of the traditional student. Educators must consider the vast number of factors that could potentially impact all individuals with LD (Levine, 2002). Interventions must also be designed to meet the goals of the curriculum and flexible enough to get the LD student to participate and continue to utilize the intervention independently long after it concludes (Levine, 2002).

Research has also shown that individuals with disabilities have high periods of exclusion, both social and physical (McDonald, Balcazar, & Keys, 2005). These high periods of exclusion are theorized to be a result of the disabled person being discouraged from independent actions or thoughts based on a desire of “well meaning” family members to keep them “safe” from a perceived negative attitude of the public and other peers (McDonald et al., p. 493). As a result, according to McDonald et al., (2005), youth with disabilities have limited prospects. They lack the desire to pursue higher forms of education, they often struggle through underemployment, and they show low levels of engagement in their surroundings (McDonald et al., 2005). With so many variables (from educational theory to approaches to knowledge, and varied LD intervention) impacting the secondary education, educators cannot be precise about what each student, specifically each LD student, knows when he or she leaves the secondary environment (Sadler, 2006).

LD students in post-secondary institutions (PSIs). When learning about colors, most people learn the differences by comparing one color to another. They place a blue next to red or yellow and ascertain which is the color they need, based on the other colors that they have before them. However, when a person wants a specific type of “red”, or “blue”, they must evaluate that color to colors in the same hue. Research on LD is very similar. In an effort to identify students with LD, these students are compared to their non-LD peers (Danforth et al., 2010). This is helpful in establishing a beginning model of what the LD student looks like, but LDs need a continuum for reference by scholars and educators that is purposely centered on LDs, not to simply be compared with non-LDs (Danforth et al., 2010).

The term “essence” is a word that is important to the discussion of LD students, because these students are geographically, culturally, racially, economically, socially, educationally and developmentally separated from one another, but are struggling to learn in a post-secondary educational setting (Cortilla, 2011). This “essence,” or shared experience, is by some definitions philosophical, as in there is no solid evidence pointing to why/how this ”shared experience” occurring, nor is there any evidence that there is a “shared” cognitive/biological function that links LD students to each other (Hock, 2012). Individuals are only placed into the culture based on their difficulties, and even though this experience is definable, defendable and has with it a specific set of characteristics, the culture that is being evaluated is a culture of “what is not”. This means that what is not considered “traditional” is nontraditional or what is not “able” is disabled (LDA, 2008).

With regard to current curriculum development and educational practice, one could almost view the adult student with LD as twice marginalized. Research has shown that some LD students are able to develop coping mechanisms that keep them on par with other students in post-secondary environments, but little is understood about how these students have been able to succeed (Crokett, Parrila, & Hein, 2006). LD students begin and end their secondary educations with skill sets lacking in the type of critical thinking that is required to show and prove knowledge and learning (Cortilla, 2011; Kenner & Weinerman, 2011).

In a search of US colleges, it was discovered that most colleges promote the fact that they address all learner types in their efforts to promote their colleges (Pimlott, 1951). These schools promoted multiculturalism and equal education for individuals with disabilities, but unfortunately all were subjective to the individual schools and there were no solid standards, norms or rules (Weerts, 2011). These issues were further complicated, because many colleges failed to develop an understanding between what they wanted their students to learn and the proper atmosphere needed to promote that level of understanding in a diverse way (Brookhart, 2011).

In consideration of new legal, social justice and ethical challenges that will impact post-secondary educational environments in the coming years, a key issue that will impact PSI directly is whether or not the education that is being provided is equally accessible (US Supreme Court, 2004). “Accessible” is a term that is interchangeable with the term “open” (Honig, 2006). For colleges, this is a way of stating that their post-secondary setting has an open admissions policy, which means that it will accept a variety of students regardless of race, social economic standing, disability status, or gender (Honig, 2006). But the terms “open” and “accessible” are not synonymous with the term “equal” (Pinhel, 2008).

Banks (1998) noted that developing a proper multicultural/multifunctional education needed to be a top down process, and Brugha and Varvasovsky (2000) stated that without that type of approach, systems were not sustainable. A multicultural education is important, because it has been proven to boost the academic performance of all learner types, including learning-differences (LD) (Banks, 1993). If the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 is going to be successful as a policy, there need to be stipulations regarding how to create a multicultural environment for PSI on the national level that is explicitly designed to educate diverse learning populations (110th Congress, 2008; Chung, 2007/8; GOA, 2009; Honig M. I., 2006).

Honig and Rainey (2011) have determined that school improvement begins with understanding cultures with regard to what they do and then developing educational programs that provide those cultures with familiarity of their own culture. This is how educational systems have been developed throughout time: a set of researchers watches a culture, evaluates what they appear to do to learn, and then encorporates that system of understanding into the practice of education (Banks, 1993). LD issues have been outlined and noted. Unfortunately, legislation, regulation and policy efforts have merely outlined problems; they have yet to fix them (Brookhart, 2011).

Full Text Citation:

Richmond, R. C.L. (2013). Perceptions of Learning-Difference (LD) Students on How their Specific LD Characteristics Impact the Post-secondary Education Experience. Argosy University.

Introduction to Barriers at the Administration Level

A continuation of LD History using the fictional character Kelly

LD policy history in the United States

While the history of LD dates back to the 1800’s, in the US, students with learning issues did not receive consideration from the law until 1969 with the passage of the Children with Specific Learning Disabilities Act, which was included in the Education of the Handicapped Act of 1970, Public Law, Part G. Following, in 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), that defined the terminology “specific learning disability” and provided students with funding and services. In 1990, the law was renamed the IDEA and it was re-authorized in 1997, 2004, with final authorization for the 2004 policy implemented in October of 2006.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) was signed into law on August 14, 2008 (110th Congress, 2008; Pinhel, 2008). Approximately 1,200 pages in length the HEOA is a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) (Longanecker, 2008). The goal of the original Act, the HEA created under the Lyndon Johnson Administration, was to provide equal access to higher education, because access to education would have provided access to opportunities that not all Americans had (Longanecker, 2008). The HEOA of 2008 produced 64 different programs, which included individuals with disabilities because, prior to HOEA, some students with specified disabilities could not get certain types of Federal aid for formal transition or living-skills programs (GOA, 2009; Pinhel, 2008).

The US Department of Education (2009) noted that the objective of accredited programs are to guarantee that institutions of higher education provide an acceptable, quality education to their student populations. However, with differing standards on how individuals should be educated (Bloom, 1956; Boss, 2000; Levine, 2002), it has become increasingly difficult for students with LD to function in K-12 programs and then to transition into post-secondary institutions (PSI) (Cortilla, 2011).

These legal changes brought State assessment and standards, requiring educators to prove that students were meeting specific standards or to show why students were unable to meet those standards (Costa & Kallick, 2004). The most well known of these policies was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB and Other Elementary/ Secondary Policy Documents, 2008), now titled The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (ED.gov, 2011). This law threw the education debate into the spotlight, because the pressure to create college, vocational, and/or job ready students by the end of 12th grade was handed down by the government and further mandates were made to federal funds (NCLB and Other Elementary/Secondary Policy Documents, 2008). Unfortunately, schools are not required to incorporate the scores of some students with LD, which makes it difficult to determine if and how all students with disabilities are being served (President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education, 2002).

By the year 2010, with the Obama Administration, emerged the concept of Common Core. The Common Core is considered by the Administration as a literacy effort to ensure that all students are able to become self-directed learners who can, without “significant scaffolding”, grasp, comprehend, evaluate, convey and construct complicated multifaceted information, and that they can understand, articulate and build upon previous concepts and principles without prompting (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2012).

Returning to Kelly’s story, this history is important because it helps to highlight how difficult it is for a person like Kelly to effectively express her issues, to develop successful coping mechanisms, and to participate in general activities, such as organizing her notes, in a manner similar to her peers. Kelly was dependent on her teacher to provide her with the instruction. She lacks independent thinking and processing skills, she is not grasping written information from the syllabus or from with her notes, she is not comprehending information during study groups with her peers, and she is unable to convey these difficulties to others so she can get additional assistance.

On average, students with LD are 3.4 grade levels behind their peers in reading and 3.2 grade levels behind their peers in math (Cortilla, 2011). This is a significant barrier for these students. Kelly may have made it to college, but she is still facing an uphill battle with regard to understanding the standards that are required at her current academic level and without help it is likely that Kelly, and students like her, will drop out (Cortilla, 2011). This is such a problem that only 28% of students with an LD that enter college actually graduate (Cortilla, 2011). For this reason, looking back at how we educate student populations is important in determining how to address and create the appropriate changes (Banks, 1993), and allows more LD students to succeed (graduate).

Full text:

Richmond, R. C.L. (2013). Perceptions of Learning-Difference (LD) Students on How their Specific LD Characteristics Impact the Post-secondary Education Experience. Argosy University.

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

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