Learning Disabilities: Early Identification and Consistency
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
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.
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