Learning Disabilities: Early Identification and Consistency

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In this day in age, some organizations definitely ‘push’ for early identification of children who have Learning Disabilities (LD). This is often in contrast to school systems who prefer to wait until children are 8 years old before diagnoses are made. However, early identification of LD’s is warranted, because research does in fact demonstrate that early intervention equals higher levels of success for children as they grow and evolve in the world. The reality is that after early identification, supports can be difficult to find, inconsistent, and watered-down so to speak due to a lack of knowledge and education about children with LD’s. There seems to be some common myths surrounding children who are identified early as well. For educators and parents who may be unfamiliar with ASD and its signs and symptoms, it is easy to confuse them with common traits in young children who basically have neurotypical functioning. These include, but not limited to:

  • Emotional maturity (very common for many children when it comes to early identification)
  • cognitive readiness to learn academic tasks
  • Developmental readiness
  • Emotional Readiness
With this in mind, we need to distinguish the differences between traits associated with LD’s and learners who are experiencing any range of cognitive, developmental, and emotional readiness for new tasks. It is quite common for all professionals who work with children to minimize the effects of LD’s at times and normalize the symptoms in comparison with other children who are experiencing other forms of cognitive, developmental, and emotional readiness issues. But what we need is advocacy for effective educational programming, increased knowledge and education about LD’s for all of our support systems our society has in place for children.
The following are suggestions are what everyone who works with children should know about LD:

1.  Explicit Instruction Strategies: Rather than merely implementing sensory breaks and exercises prescribed by an OT, explicit instruction needs to be implemented, and is beneficial for many types of learners.

2. Visual Schedules: There is a science behind the use of visual schedules, and explicit training is warranted for all of our early childhood workers and educators. It involves much planning and preparation on behalf of the the teacher and special education team. This should not be overlooked or minimized. Visual schedules often work well with many different learners as well, not just those with LD’s.

3. Social Skills classes and Peer Play Groups: Social skills are a cornerstone area of need for individual learners who may be experiencing imbalances between cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual domains. Research shows that some individuals with LD’s can have difficulty holding down jobs, and making transitions within the school system, and from home to school. Those are just a ‘small’ part of the picture as to why specific classes and skills groupings are important for students with LD.

4. Hands-on Learning: Minimize the abstract, and strive to make learning concrete.

5. Mandatory LD training for ALL Workers and Educators of children! All educators should become knowledgeable about the needs associated with all learners.

6. Strategies to help students understand emotions: This includes, and certainly not limited to using 3-point, and 5-point scales, Zones of Regulation, etc.,

7. Social Stories: This should be something readily available to help students navigate transitions and social situations. They also help fill in the gaps that may exist due to lack of experience with certain situations

8. 1:1 Support: There are times and places when students with an LD will need to learn one on one, even if they are high-functioning or gifted. There should be programming provisions for this.

9. Strategies actually help ALL students: The wonderful thing is, that implementing any  of the above strategies globally in a classroom will be beneficial for all students!

Because we are still in the relatively early stages of implementing appropriate strategies to support learners with LD, many educators and childhood workers have yet to receive the training, knowledge, or expertise to support students on the spectrum. If training has been undertaken, then we should not be waiting for opportunities to put the training to practice, the practice should be happening already with anyone working with our children and students, regardless of early identification.

Let’s start creating a balance of the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ between the organizations and individuals who want to promote early-identification of LD’s.

 

Deborah McCallum

 

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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