Understanding Needs of Students
Hi everyone! Welcome to this video on special education and learning disabilities. After viewing this video, you should have an understanding of the most common learning disabilities, the various levels of severity, as well as some strategies to help these students be successful.
To start, let’s define what a learning disability is. A learning disability is a neurological disorder. It means that a child has difficulty in one or more areas of learning, even when their overall intelligence or motivation is not affected. Students that have learning disabilities can be successful, and thrive when given the correct supports and interventions. However, they might have some difficulties with one or more specific academic subjects, such as reading, writing, spelling, organizing information, or math, especially if these subjects are taught conventionally.
There are many different types of learning disabilities, and they fall into determined categories of eligibility. The first category is called specific learning disability, commonly referred to as SLD, which addresses a given set of learning challenges. These conditions can affect a student’s ability to read, write, listen, speak, reason, or do math. Some examples include dyslexia, dyscalculia, and written expression disorder.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects language-based processing skills in reading. Those with dyslexia have difficulty decoding words and reading at a fast pace, and may also have trouble comprehending, spelling, and writing. Students with dyslexia tend to read slowly and make errors that hamper their ability to understand the text. However, since dyslexia is related to decoding, students who are read to are fully able to comprehend the content.
Dyscalculia is a learning disability in mathematics. Students with dyscalculia commonly struggle with key concepts and may have difficulty performing basic math calculations as well as more abstract ones. This can affect everyday tasks such as cooking, getting to appointments on time, and managing finances.
Written expression disorder is characterized by difficulties expressing one’s ideas in writing. In spite of the fact that students with a written expression disorder may have wonderful ideas, their writing is often disorganized and full of errors, making it hard to read. Dysgraphia, another closely related disability, refers to students having difficulty with their handwriting. There are other disabilities associated with SLD, but these are the most common.
Now let’s address the next category, other health impairments. Under other health impairments, students may have conditions that affect their strength, energy, or alertness. Among the most well-known examples is ADHD, a condition that affects both attention and executive function. Students with ADHD tend to have trouble staying focused for long periods of time, may act impulsively, and may have difficulty controlling their emotions.
The next category is autism spectrum disorder. Autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD, is a neurological developmental disability. It can affect a range of skills, including a student’s social-emotional and communication skills. It can also impact their behavior and can lead to difficulty with skills such as inferring.
Emotional disturbance disorders encompass a variety of mental health issues. Some of the issues that fall within this include anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. Though these are not academically based, they may make it difficult for students to remain focused in class, causing them to miss material.
The next category is speech or language impairment. This covers disabilities that affect pronouncing words, or difficulties such as stuttering. It can also cover language problems that may make it difficult for a child to be understood or for them to express themselves. Some additional categories cover students with visual impairments, deafness, and other hearing loss. These categories include students that have significant difficulties that cannot be fixed with glasses or hearing aids. There is also a category of orthopedic impairment when a student lacks function or ability in their body. An example of this would be cerebral palsy.
Another category is called intellectual disability, where students who qualify have below-average intellectual ability. They may also have difficulty with communication and self-care, as well as poor social skills. An example of a condition that involves an intellectual disability is Down syndrome. Traumatic brain injuries can cause intellectual disabilities. This type of brain injury is caused by an accident or some kind of physical force and can impact a student’s experience in the classroom in a variety of ways.
Finally, there is the category of multiple disabilities. This category includes students with more than one condition considered a disability. Having multiple diagnoses creates educational needs that often can’t be met in a program designed for any single disability. Learning disabilities can range in their level of severity. The three levels are mild, moderate, and severe. A student with a severe disability will likely need much more extensive support and perhaps a different program than a student who has a mild disability.
So now that you know about a variety of disabilities, what are the best ways to support the students affected by them? Helping students who have disabilities can be challenging but extremely beneficial. As you work to support your student, it’s important to keep in mind both the effects of the disability on the student’s daily life, as well as the specific challenges the student may face academically.
In providing support to a student with a disability, the primary focus is often on closing academic gaps within that particular subject area. For example, supporting a student with dyslexia requires a structured literacy approach with a specific focus on phonological awareness. This may be with a pre-designed program broken down into levels. Supporting a student with dysgraphia, as another example, might include work to increase their fine motor skills.
A second component of supporting students with disabilities is how to instruct them with other aspects of schooling. Here, the student might struggle because of their disability, even though what is being asked of them isn’t directly related. There are two main strategies to utilize. First, make sure that you present information to your students in a variety of ways, appealing to different types of learning in your classroom. Instead of just sharing information visually, be sure to repeatedly present it auditorily, kinesthetically (through movement), and in written form. This allows multiple opportunities for students to understand the information you are presenting.
Secondly, when you create lesson plans and content, really consider your objectives. Thinking through your objectives helps you to assess which parts of the lesson are negotiable. For example, if your goal in an English class is to identify what the main character is trying to achieve, that task is not connected to decoding. Permitting your student to listen to an audiobook or have the chapter read out loud will help them focus on your main objective without their learning disability interfering.
That’s all for this review! Thanks for watching and happy studying.