Jean E. Lokerson and Amelia C. Joynes
* This post is the summary after reading the article, Students with learning disabilities.
-Defining Learning Disabilities As many as half of the students receiving special education services have learning disabilities. Although more boys are identified, learning disabilities occur in girls, too. A learning disability is often called an invisible disability because, unlike cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, learning disabilities are not immediately obvious.
- Blackbourn, Patton, and Fad (2004) compiled a sample list of terms, many of which are negative, that have been used to describe these students over the years. In alphabetical order, they are: “Attention Deficit Disorder, Atypical Child, Brain Damaged, Brain Injured, Choreiform Child, Developmental Aphasia, Developmentally Imbalanced, Driven Child, Dyslexia, Dyssynchronous Child, Educationally Handicapped, Educationally Maladjusted, Hyperactive Behavior Disorder, Hyperkinetic Child, Interjacent Child, Invisibly Crippled Child, Language Disordered, Learning Disabled, Learning Disordered, Learning Impaired, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Minimal Cerebral Dysfunction, Organic Brain Syndrome, Performance Deviation, Performance Disabled, Performance Handicapped, Problem Learner, Problem Reader, Psycholinguistic Disability, Psychoneurological Learning Disability, Reading Disability, Remedial Education Case, Special Learning Disability, Specific Learning Disability, Strauss Syndrome, and Underachiever.” (p. 53) Most of the terms reflect the professional jargon of the past fifty years and offers little guidance to teachers. Yet, they do provide some insight into the complexity and diversity of learning disabilities and the difficulty in defining learning disabilities.
- It is, after all, difficult to find a definition that must fit such a diverse group of students with many different learning needs. Also of interest is the fact that of all the terms, learning disability and specific learning disability, which were coined in the ‘60s and ‘70s respectively, are now the generally accepted terms used.
-Federal Definition and Related Terms In the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004, specific learning disabilities is defined by federal law as ... a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
- (34 CFR §300) The IDEA 04 definition is intended to guide thinking about learning disabilities, as well as to guide states and administrators in identifying and serving students. This definition: (1) specifies the psychological processes and academic skills in which problems would occur; (2) indicates some neurological conditions that are included; and (3) lists other disabilities that may occur with learning disabilities, but cannot be the primary cause of the problems observed. To help describe the complex individual differences in each student with learning disabilities, additional terms from the federal definition and other terms are frequently used.
-Limited English Proficiency (LEP) which refers to a student whose native language is not English or who is an English Language Learner (ELL) and therefore, has problems listening, reading, speaking, or writing Standard English. If students can listen, read, speak, and write in their native language but not in English, they are unlikely to have language-based learning disabilities. If however, they show difficulties in both English and a native language, learning disabilities are a possibility. ° Learning difference, learning difficulties, and learning problems are sometimes used as alternatives to learning disabilities.
- The identification of students with learning disabilities and the provision of services vary from state to state. Within the broad framework of the federal requirements in IDEA, each state and district has considerable latitude. Thus, the procedures for identifying students with LD and determining services vary depending upon such factors as the philosophy, financial and staff resources, and size of the district or state.
Regular Education Classroom
- Sometimes called the “general education” classroom, appropriate grade-level or subject matter is provided by a teacher who uses large group instruction as well as small group activities intended to develop skills in all students.
Reflecting the need for more inclusive classrooms, students with a variety of disabilities may spend their entire school day in regular classrooms.
In elementary schools, the regular education teacher is often responsible for both academic and non-academic areas, but a teacher with specialized training often provides collaboration or consultation. A collaborative teacher teams with the regular teacher to provide guidance, assistance, instruction, and/or supervision of students, as needed. A consultant teacher, on the other hand, works directly with the regular teacher to generate ideas, suggest solutions, and otherwise support the regular teacher's efforts.
In some private schools, students with mild learning disabilities are included in regular classes, but in public schools virtually every regular classroom includes some students with mild, moderate, or even severe learning disabilities for various lengths of time every day.
- A single teacher with specialized learning disabilities training provides intensive instruction in a self-contained classroom.
- Intensive instruction is provided by teachers with specialized training in learning disabilities in a full school day program of LD-focused academic subjects plus related service areas. Services are primarily in private settings or in some public school systems.
Meeting the Requirements of IDEA
- Partnering between the regular education teacher and the art teacher can make a major contribution to the education of students with learning disabilities, and can include the following.
Accommodations, Modifications and Other Supports
- Classroom supports are designed to help students with disabilities participate successfully in learning activities without being placed at a disadvantage because of their specific learning disability. The art teacher may adjust the learning environment, lesson presentation, instructional activities, curricular content and/or assessment techniques. Accommodations change the way in which instruction or assessment is carried out. Modifications change the curriculum content that is presented. Other supports can include assistive technology or assistance from related services such as a counselor or speech-language pathologist.
-- Accommodations at any level of art experiences may include: e Allowing extra time for project completion for students who have problems organizing their time.
* Providing a visual reference chart of project steps for students who cannot remember a sequence of steps. e Assigning a peer partner when needed for activities for students who need support and a role model.
* Selecting a peer “scribe” to take notes for students who cannot simultaneously process oral information and translate it into writing.
* Audiotaping or oral peer reading of text for students with reading difficulties.
* Using assistive technology with word processing, spell check, and a thesaurus for written reports for students who make grammatical and spelling errors in written work.
* Preparing an oral, multimedia, or Powerpoint™ presentation in lieu of a written report for students who have difficulty organizing and developing written materials.
* Creating a studio art work using a computer drawing program that allows instant “undo” icon of an image for students who are frustrated by minor mistakes that remain evident.
-Difficulties may be evident in students who fail to read facial and gestural cues accurately or overreact with feelings of withdrawal, frustration, anxiety, or anger. Some students may relate more easily to adults than peers, yet have difficulty accepting supervision, authority, or the unexpected.
Changing the Environment:
Take cues from the student about “good” and “bad” days, and respond accordingly. Plan both individual and group activities and experiences.
Use posters/charts to provide clear and consistent expectations.
Changing the Materials:
On stressful days, provide opportunities for free choice art activities.
Changing the Response:
Encourage, but do not force specific kinds of response modes from the student: oral, written, pictorial, sculptural, etc.
Allow the student to choose from a variety of response modes.
* It is important to remember that, although students with learning disabilities are identified as a group, each student is an individual with a unique set of characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.
Teaching students with learning disabilities in the art room requires the art teacher to be alert to the students’ multiple learning styles, strengths and weaknesses.
- Students with learning disabilities often find the art room is a place to demonstrate their strengths and to excel.
Art provides the opportunity for a different way to learn and take educational risks. Once students are comfortable with the focus on their art skills, they may feel safer in taking risks such as sharing opinions.
- When possible, seat students with learning disabilities away from distractions so they can concentrate on the project at hand. Almost anyone can distract a younger student, so the front or the end of the row helps improve attention.
Drawing is an activity that involves many different processes. From picking up the pencil to creating the drawing, many things happen so quickly that the artist may be unaware of potential problems along the drawing path.
The following activity slows down the drawing process and replicates some of the difficulties faced by students with learning disabilities. It focuses attention on visual input, the signals sent by the eyes to the brain, and what happens when the brain does not accurately interpret or coordinate those signals so the brain's motor signals correctly guide the hand.
Myungja Anna Koh