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STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

A learning disability is not a problem with intelligence, as usually the individual's IQ is within the normal range. The source of the difficulty is in the brain. Children with a learning disability have trouble processing sensory information which interferes in their daily activities at school. They see, hear and understand things differently. If left untreated, the challenges a learning disability creates can severely affect a child's school experience and self-esteem. However, treatment is available and can be successful even if the disability is identified in late childhood or adulthood. Scientists are currently studying the brain's potential for change which may hold the answer to innovative treatments for learning disabilities and may one day reduce the need for prescription medications (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/learning_disabilities.htm). A learning disability (LD) affects a childs life in many aspects. Students with learning disabilities are the largest group of students with special needs. It is stated that in 1999, 2,789,000 students were served in special education programs. However, over the years, the number of students with learning disabilities increased steadily. Since 1976, the number has more than tripled and is going to continue to increase (Reid & Lienemann, 2006, p.1). It is obvious that learning disabilities affects students life more than it can be estimated. Thus, we start with the definition of learning disabilities.

What is a Learning Disability?


"He has the ability, if he just tried harder, he could do it. He chooses not to do the work." "If she would just pay attention, she would get it." "After I give the instructions, he sits there and stares at his paper. He is not motivated."

These are common statements made about children with learning disabilities. However, children with learning disabilities cannot try harder, pay closer attention, or improve motivation on their own; they need help to learn how to do those things (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/learning_disabilities.htm). It is a controversial issue to define LD as other organizations have had their own definitions although IDEA has a current legal definition of LD. According to IDEA, the term specific learning disability means those children who have a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia. The term does not include a learning problem which is primarily a result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. (Reid & Lienemann, 2006, p.3). The reason for the fact that there is not a consensus among other associations is likely to be that students with LD has different problems, varying considerably, regarding academic, behavioral, and socio-emotional areas. For instance, some students have problems with reading but good at mathematics (Reid & Lienemann, 2006, p.2). According to Reid and Lienemann, another reason that contributes to confusion in the area of LD is that it is a comprehensive field including education, psychology, medicine and sociology. Thus, each discipline brings its own perspective on LD and, as a result, focuses on different aspects of LD, which causes different definitions of LD (p.2). Although there is not a consensus on definition of LD, there is a consensus on how to identify students with LD. Practically; LD is a category of underachievement. Students with LD are identified based on chronic and severe academic difficulties. A discrepancy formula was used to determine whether a child should be identified as learning disabled or not. This discrepancy formula assesses the difference between the ability, determined by intelligence tests and academic achievement, assessed with standardized tests. If the difference between the ability and

the actual achievement is large enough, then, the child can be identified as learning disabled (Reid & Lienemann, 2006, p.3).

Causes of Learning Disabilities


Currently, little is known about the causes of learning disabilities. According to Reid & Lienemann(p.4), hypothesized causes of learning disabilities are listed as below: CAUSES Central Nervous System Abnormality EXAMPLE Abnormal brain hemispheric symmetry, nerve cell anomalies in areas of the brain related to language. Central Nervous System Damage Prenatal: maternal drug use, smoking, fetal alcohol syndrome Perinatal: prematurity, anoxia, injury during birth. Postnatal: brain injury due to stroke, high fever, meningitis etc. Genetic Conditions caused by chromosomal abnormalities such as Turner syndrome or Fragile X syndrome Environmental Exposure to environmental toxics such as lead poisoning Biochemical Abnormalities Imbalances in neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin etc.

According to Sanders, the causes of learning disabilities can be classified into four categories, which almost coincidence with those of Reid & Lienemann: 1. Genetic: Many of the learning disabilities are transmitted from the parents through genes. Among those with dyslexia, it is indicated that at least 50% of the cases are hereditary. 2. Innate: It includes the ones who have undergone some genetic or chromosomal mutation which results in learning disabilities during gestational period. For instance, girls with Turner s syndrome and boys with Klinefelter s syndrome are likely to be more prone to learning disabilities.

3. Congenital: It includes all factors taking in all of the pregnancy and birth factors which may cause cognitive dysfunction. Those are among the factors: prematurity, X-ray, alcohol, drugs, infections etc. 4. Constitutional: All the biological factors causing cognitive dysfunction events as well as the postnatal factors like meningitis, head injury, lead paint etc. are in this category. (Sanders, 3537)

Defining characteristics of learning disabilities


In the book Understanding Dyslexia and the Reading Process by Marion Sanders, Sanders introduces 3 main characteristics: I. Underlying Neurological Basis: Inadequate functioning of cognitive operations related to learning such as memory, perception, fine motor coordination and attention are the representations of this characteristic. These operations depend on various aspects of brain development, organization and circuitry. As there is no single test for learning disabilities, the diagnosis is made clinically, through induction, based on the data derived from history, from observations of the student and from test scores. II. Uneven Profile of Cognitive Abilities: The term cognitive abilities referring to various discrete skills that make up general intelligence include modular systems like perception, attention and memory. Learning disabilities result from an imbalance among cognitive abilities especially the modular skills. III. Interference with the Acquisition of Basic Academic Skills: There may be many people who meet the two criteria above but who do not have any academic difficulties. There are many students testing poorly on some of the underlying specific skills but whose academic abilities seem to be unimpaired (Sanders, p.33-35) According to Reid & Lienemann, characteristics of students with learning disabilities can be classified into five groups: Attention: Difficulty in selective attention, the ability to identify important or meaningful information, is common among students with LD. Students with LD are often described as spacey or not with it as they fail in maintaining focus. Thus, they may attend to unimportant components of a task and ignore relevant information.

Memory: Research shows that students with LD have memory deficits. It is common among students with LD that one day the students can readily remember everything, but the next day, for no apparent reason, it s gone. Attributions: Students with LD usually attribute success to external factors like luck or the test being easy. Moreover, they attribute failure to internal factors such as lack of ability. Thus, these kinds of attributions affect student s academic motivation and performance. Learned Helplessness: Students with LD believe that no matter how hard they try, they simply will not succeed, so there is no reason to try. Research suggests that the problem of learned helplessness is common among students with LD with a percentage of 70%. Lack of Coordinated Strategies: Students with LD are unlikely to respond appropriately to the demands of an academic task by using an effective set of cognitive strategies (Reid & Leinemann, p.6-9).

Signs and signals of learning disabilities


Some signs of learning disabilities can be present in early childhood, which is beneficial because the earlier a problem is recognized, the sooner an intervention can be made. Often a developmental lag is not considered a symptom of a learning disability until the child is much older and attending school, which wastes precious treatment time. When the learning disability is not diagnosed early-on, parents are often surprised to find out that their bright and imaginative child is struggling in school. They are shocked when their child receives a low score on a standardized test or a progress report comes home indicating their child is "underachieving" or "not working up to their full potential." (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/learning_disabilities.htm) Learning disabilities typically affect five general areas: 1. Spoken language: delays, disorders, and deviations in listening and speaking. 2. Written language: difficulties with reading, writing and spelling. 3. Arithmetic: difficulty in performing arithmetic operations or in understanding basic concepts. 4. Reasoning: difficulty in organizing and integrating thoughts. 5. Memory: difficulty in remembering information and instructions.

(http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/learning_disabilities) Signs that appear in preschool * Delay in understanding or using spoken language * Difficulty in understanding simple instructions * Lengthy pause before naming objects and colors * Limited awareness or interest in books * Difficulty coloring or drawing * Problems with motor coordination * Short attention span * Difficulty discriminating size, shape, color Symptoms in school-age children * Difficulty in understanding and following instructions, tasks requiring sequencing * Trouble with remembering what someone just told them * Failing to master reading, spelling, writing, and/or math skills and therefore fails schoolwork * Difficulty in telling the difference between "right" and "left," problems identifying words or a tendency to reverse letters, numbers or words (e.g., confusing "b" with "d," 18 with 81, or "on" with "no.") * Lacking motor coordination when walking, playing sports, holding a pencil or trying to tie a shoelace * Frequently losing or misplacing homework, schoolbooks or other items * Unable to understand the concept of time, confused by the difference between "yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow." * Disorganized thinking. (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/learning_disabilities.htm)

Common learning disabilities


Dyslexia: a language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It may also be referred to as reading disability or reading disorder. You might mix up the letters in a word, for example, reading the word "now" as "won" or "left" as "felt." Words may blend together and spaces are lost. Phrases might appear like this:

(www.ncld.org) Dyscalculia: a mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts. Dysgraphia: a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space. Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders: sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision. Nonverbal Learning Disabilities: a neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions (www.ldonline.org/ldbasics/whatisld).

Effective instruction for learning disabled English learners


Research suggests that some useful practices can affect the English learning of disabled learners. Here are some effective methods for them:

Using visuals to reinforce concepts and vocabulary; Utilizing cooperative learning and peer tutoring; Use of students' native language strategically when students are floundering; Providing opportunities for students to practice speaking English in both formal and informal contexts throughout the day; and

Focusing on rich and evocative vocabulary words during lessons so students remain engaged and challenged. The words can serve as vehicles for teaching literary concepts.
(http://www.ncld.org/content/view/519/389)

Observations about the Student


smail has specifically difficulty in pronunciation and writing in English. He is a male, 6th grade student at Trkan oray Primary and Secondary school at Rumeli Hisarst neighbourhood. He comes from a poor family background. He is behind his peers in English class. His teacher told us that he is good at his other school subjects aside from English. His weaknesses are in pronunciation of English words and mistakes in writing in English. Through this explanation, we think that smail has a learning disability in English dyslexia and disgraphia. He stutters the words while giving answer in front of the class. To my observation, his teacher supports his disability via waiting for the answers, accepting his answers without correction before smails friends. He does not humiliate or scorn smail in class sessions as teacher understands him and behaves tolerantly towards ismail. No one discriminates against ismail. He is a nice character in the class. His disability is not severe degree one as far as I saw. He has just difficulties in writing and pronunciation of English.

INTERVIEW WITH THE ENGLISH TEACHER of 6th Grades BARI ERTRK


OBSERVATION SCHOOL: TRKAN ORAY PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL 1. How did you diagnose the student with the learning disability? 2. Do you have any background knowledge about the specific learning disability? 3. Did you take any expert advice or support from any person or institution? 4. Did you use any kind of activity or method to help the mentioned child? 5. What kind of prejudices did/do you have when you face (d) with this case? 6. Do you think inclusion of the child with the whole class is a helpful thing to do?

7. What is the reaction of the parents of the child? Did they help you or not cooperate with you?

TEACHER S ANSWERS
1. When I saw his repetitive mistakes in pronunciation and his bad writing, full of mistakes, I got to know that he has a learning disability. 2. No, I do not have any background knowledge about his case. 3. I talked with my colleagues about smail. But, I did not go any institution or expert. 4. I give him much time for his answers. I do not shout at him for his errors. I know his disability and understand him. 5. I was afraid and a bit panicked as this was my first situation with a learning disabled student. I still do not much about this disability. I do not know the methods to use. This makes me afraid and tense. 6. Yes, of course. smail is a very good student. He participates to the lessons. He is trying hard to improve himself. He is attentive and curious for the lessons. His friends love him. 7. I have not talked to the parents of him yet. I will talk as soon as possible as he needs help and support from his family. Teacher s Comments Here is the teacher remarks and comments about smail. I have a problem with Ismail like this for example: His pronunciation was really bad when started to teach to him at 4th grade. Although he was attentive and wanted to participate to the lessons, he was reading incorrectly, pronouncing the words wrongly maybe it was because of his mouth structure, and he was still reading the sentences incorrectly though he sometimes tried hard to correct them. Apart from that, there are specific writing mistakes in his exam papers, and

writings in his notebook. Plus, he is correcting them very little or not. I talked to his other teachers and they told he is not that bad at his other school subjects. He is not doing much of his homework. But, Ismail is the best example that I have in wrong writing and mispronunciation. He can be tutored face to face about mispronunciation. But, I do not have enough time to spare for that as I am working very hard. Yet, His parents can teach him at home and help him to do his homework. Again, we should control the home environment of him. I have not talked to his family yet.

INTERVIEW WITH THE STUDENT


As a group, we started our interview with some general questions and then move into the questions related with the specific area. Not to make the student feel something wrong with him, we talked with him like in an ordinary conversation rather than in an interview atmosphere. Firstly, we started talking about upcoming holiday and asked him whether he was excited or not. We talked about his expectations about the school report. Then, he started talking about his problems related with English course. English was the course in which he has the lowest grade among all other subjects. Then, we focused on this problematic area and started to talk about the reasons of this failure. He was so enthusiastic about English course that when we asked if he loves learning English or not, he answered of course, I love without hesitation. So, we want him to tell us the reason why he had the lowest grade in English. He mentioned about the English exams. He told that they were too long to finish in the time given to him. Because he has some problems related with writing, he need more time than his peers. However, the teacher wasnt aware of this situation or he didnt want to spend extra time for only one student. On the other hand, we understood that he didnt want to accept his disability. He saw himself like any other student in the class and he based his disability on only the time limit in the exams. Then, we talked about his family and asked him if there was anyone at home who was helping him or not. He mentioned that he had six siblings at home and he was doing his homework on his own without anybodys help. We asked what he is doing in his leisure times and he just said he likes watching television a lot. We especially asked whether he reads books in his leisure times because he has some problems related with reading but he said that he hasnt got any English books to read. Otherwise he wanted to read a lot. Actually, the thing we infer about this student

from our interview is that he is willing to learn as much as any other student in his class. He doesnt want to accept his disability. We are aware that this child can overcome this disability but he needs some support.

Bahar s Journal
I tried not to be eye-catching and distinctive among the students as I was careful about not to make them feel that I came to observe one of their friends. I just listened to the lesson as if I was not there at all, sat at the back of the class, as far as from the target student not to distract him. I did not do any eye-contact or behavior that can make my aim clear and fail the study. My intention was only known by the teacher. I tried to be a casual teacher trainee in the class as other trainees. That day, they were in English class and just practicing their grammar. Teacher tried to raise smail as much as possible for my observation. Also, he was attentive and participative to the lesson, this helped us. He was not aware of his disability. His self-esteem and self-confidence were at good levels according to my observations. His mistakes in writing English and problems with mispronunciation of the words made the teacher suggest me smail. Classroom was a typical state school classroom, crowded and very small. So, teacher can not spare enough time for each student especially for the students like smail. They have access to internet through one teachers computer in the class. On the walls, there are useful chunks, English poems and idioms are hanged. They did not notice my goal to come to that class, I was most careful about that while taking my notes. We spoke with the teacher in a great secrecy about the case of smail.

Cennet s Journal
The classroom which I participated to observe the student with learning disability was an English language classroom where there were about twenty students. I just sat at the back of the student but he wasnt aware that I was observing him. The teacher was just going over the seasons and months which they had learnt in the previous weeks. He was willing to participate in the lesson like his peers. Perhaps he was more willing than anyone else in the classroom, I can say. However, although he was willing himself to say the names of the months in English, he just gave up after three names because he mixed them and mispronounced them. So, his friends began to laugh but he seemed that he used to that situation. The teacher was also accepting his

disability and didnt force him. It was just a usual event for the people who were in the classroom except me. I put myself in the shoes of him and thought about it. There was something wrong in that classroom. The teacher was just ignoring that student. Of course, too much forcing could be very bad for him but the teacher should be very patient and maybe in some other ways such as giving more time to this student, he should feel the sense of accomplishment because this opportunity will give this student the chance to achieve something in his future.

Yeliz s Journal
I attended to smails English lessons to make observation about his disability. It was a morning class with approximately 20 students in the classroom. There was one thing that got my attention very much. He was very interested in English, he was willing to answer the questions, but when he was called on to give answer, he made mistakes and then his peers laughed at him. In the lesson I observed, he made a mistake while he was telling the months of the year, which is one of the characteristics of learning disabilities. He was not aware that he made a mistake until his peers laughed at him. Then, he asked whether he made a mistake or not and sat down. At that moment, the teacher could encourage him or gave more time to him as he knows that he has a learning disability. Also, the attitudes of his peers were not constructive, but still he has good relationships with his peers. He seems not to be offended by their attitudes. As I was there for observation, the teacher made him answer many questions. In one of them, he mispronounced Turkey as it is written. After talking with the teacher, I learned that when he first started to learn English, he was writing the sentences or words in the way he pronounced them. Yet, now he is pretty good at writing when it is compared to his first times. Also, he had difficulty in pronouncing. Moreover, he got low marks in exams although he participated in the lesson and studied for English. These were the reasons why the teacher suggested observing that student. However, I am really affected by the attitudes of the teacher and his peers. Although he is a successful student, he can be discouraged because of those attitudes towards him. The teacher should take an action to make his peers stop those kinds of behaviors and also he should encourage smail so that he can develop his English.

EDUCATIONAL PLAN According to our observations, smail has difficulties in pronunciation, reading and writing in English. Thus, we developed our IEP goals in these areas to improve his pronunciation, reading and writing. Annual goals By the end of the school year, Ismail will increase his writing in English from a primary to an elementary level using individual and small group instruction. By the end of the school year, Ismail will increase his pronunciation skills from a primary level to an elementary level using strategy, one- to- one and computer assisted instruction. By the end of the school year, Ismail will decrease stuttering behavior from 5 or more times a class period to 0 or 1 times a class period using speech therapy. By the end of the school year, Ismail will read sixth grade English materials with adequate comprehension and fluency. By the end of the school year, Ismail will correctly spell all words that he learns in sixth grade. By the end of the school year, Ismail will correct his spelling errors by using a dictionary. By the end of the school year, Ismail will write legibly and with sufficient speed. ( http://www.spedforms.com/goals/criteria.htm http://www.spiritlakeconsulting.com/IEP/ld_IEP.html Lewis & Doorlag, p.171-179) Short term objectives Given direct instruction and practice, smail will identify vowel sounds like b-d at 90% accuracy as charted by the teacher. Given direct instruction and practice, smail will spell high frequency words correctly using a dictionary. Given direct instruction and practice, smail will write a paragraph composed of at least 5 sentences with correct grammar and spelling. Given direct instruction and practice, smail will write a complete sentence in English within a minute of viewing a picture or being given an idea. Given direct instruction and practice, smail will read a paragraph in English fluently.

OBJECTIVE

ACTIVITY  Minimal pairs  Parroting

TIME REQUIRED A week s time ( 4 lessons of 40 minutes)

FIRST WEEK

Given direct instruction and practice, smail will identify vowel sounds like b-d at 90% accuracy as charted by the teacher.

SECOND WEEK

Given direct instruction and practice, smail will spell high frequency words correctly using a dictionary.

 Writing in the air using hands

A week s time ( 4 lessons of 40 minutes)

THIRD WEEK

Given direct instruction and practice, smail will write a paragraph composed of at least 5 sentences with correct grammar and spelling.

 Teaching the writing process.  From simple to complex sentences.

A week s time ( 4 lessons of 40 minutes)

FOURTH WEEK

Given direct instruction and practice, smail will write a complete sentence in English within a minute of viewing a picture or being given an idea.

 Writing daily journals

A week s time ( 4 lessons of 40 minutes)

FIFTH WEEK

Given direct instruction and practice, smail will read a paragraph in English fluently.

 Chunking strategy

A week s time ( 4 lessons of 40 minutes)

ACTIVITIES FOR OUR GOALS y To teach spelling words correctly, we will make the student write in the air with hand, finger. Make the letters as big and dramatic as desired. We can combine this method with saying and hearing the sounds to teach letter sounds. This kinesthetic activity will make the letters more permanent and memorable for the student. y To improve the reading comprehension, get the student to draw a picture of what has been read. Then, analyze the mental picture evoked by the paragraph by asking questions. This activity helps the student to form a visual image of the paragraph. She/he can understand what she/he read. y To teach the student how to write a sentence, we will go over the subject, verb and attributes of writing a sentence. We will start simple and gradually move to complex sentence writing. Get the student to master sentence-writing before expecting paragraphwriting. y Teach the writing process. There are four basic steps to writing: thinking of an idea, writing a rough draft, revising and correcting mistakes and publishing the finished piece. We will practice each step. We will spend one whole week just coming up with and talking about ideas, including any characters or plot lines for fiction, and the logical order of facts for non-fiction. Then, in the second week, we will just put ideas on paper. We will get the student to pick the topic that is of greatest interest to him/her and spend another week revising and polishing the writing piece.

To teach how to spell words and make the writing process much easier for him, we will use the strategy chunking. Chunking is a strategy that involves breaking words into smaller, more easily remembered parts. We will chunk single syllable words like great gr / ea / t - or multi-syllable words like fantastic - fan / tas / tic. This strategy will help our student remember spelling or vocabulary words. We will teach the student to focus on the subtle phonological differences by parroting what he says when he speaks incorrectly. Example: if the child says, "I want to go pray outside," repeat it back as a question "you want to go pray outside? Do you want to pray? Or do you want to play?" To teach to identify different sounds, we will collect word pairs that sound very similar to each other (e.g. hair - here, mail - nail, ache - ate, etc.).

Working one-on-one, we will say each word pair to the child and ask the child if the words are different or if they are the same. Example word pairs: hill-hail, when-hen, lame-lane, parrot-pellet, smack-snack, shell-fell, grain-drain, bill-pill, slab-slap, meal-kneel, tight-kite, guide-tied, flew-flow, owed-old, bit-pit, chin-gin, beat-beak, break-brick, free-three, maskmast. We will try to say them naturally as much as possible as in a real conversation. y We will try to teach the rules of the English language. After the child has mastered simple letter combinations, we will begin teaching combinations that sound alike but are spelled different, like 'ea' and 'ee'. Gradually we will add skills as the child masters each lesson. y To develop writing skills, we will want him to keep a daily journal. At intervals, it will be checked and evaluated to see the development. y To develop writing skills, we will write a story with the child, letting him watch because we know that modeling is very important. We will discuss with the child what should happen in the story and how to spell the words while he watches.
http://www.ehow.com/how_13157_help-student-has.html http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson115.shtml http://www.essortment.com/family/educationalacti_snyc.htm

EVALUATION TOOLS
For evaluation process, the rubrics we plan to use:

Learners Self Evaluation Checklist


Name: Address: After this unit, I am now able to: Date: Topics: Easily Need More Practice Not At All

I enjoyed I need to know more about I need more confidence in I suggest

Unit Self-Assessment Checklist


1
Please list three things that you can do After this unit, I now. can Please list three things/activities that you enjoyed most. I liked most

2
After this unit, I can I liked most

3
After this unit, I can I liked most

Please list three things that you need to I need more practice more. practice with Please list three suggestions for what you want to learn next. I suggest

I need more practice with I suggest

I need more practice with I suggest

Generalized Task Rubric


Apprentice Basic Learned
* Demonstrates detailed understanding of major concepts. -uses language, to a point, to describe process or strategy -reflects and generalizes about process and purpose

Exemplary
* Demonstrates deep understanding of major concepts. -uses language to describe process or strategy -reflects and generalizes about process and purpose

* Demonstrates partial * Demonstrates a understanding of the fundamental level of major concepts. understanding of major concepts. - is stronger at doing than at describing with -uses language at the language literal level -solves basic problems -reflects about process at the concrete level and purpose only

http://www.nald.ca/CLR/Btg/ed/evaluation/general.htm

PRED 331 SPECIAL EDUCATION


PROJECT Prepared by: YELIZ YILMAZ CENNET ALTINER BAHAR TRK Fall, 2008