“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.
Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
A learning disability (LD) is a group of disorders that negatively impact the ability to learn. Learning disabilities make it more challenging to learn how to read, write, do math, listen, and speak. Those with learning disabilities very often show a large discrepancy between their intelligence and their school performance. In fact, a learning disability is only diagnosed in those with at least an IQ of 85!
Intelligence is rarely an issue in those with a learning disability.
Learning disabilities are lifelong conditions that can be very successfully managed, but never go away. Once you have a learning disorder, you have it for life.
Learning disabilities are successfully managed with proper identification and supportive intervention. In fact, there are many people you’re familiar with that have learning disabilities, and many famous historical figures are believed to have had learning disabilities as well.
● Tom Cruise
● Steven Spielberg
● Richard Branson
● Benjamin Franklin
● Thomas Jefferson
● Albert Einstein
● George Patton
That’s a pretty successful group of people! You can see that there’s plenty of hope for any child to have a successful life, whether they suffer from a learning disability or not.
Learning disabilities are more common than you might think.
● Nearly 1 out of 5 people in the US has a learning disability.
● Nearly 3 million children between the ages of 6 and 21 have some form of learning disability and receive special education services.
No one is certain what causes learning disabilities. However, there is no doubt that genetics and the brain play a big role. A child is up to 10 times more likely to have a learning disability if a parent or sibling has a learning disability. Several genes that play a role in learning disabilities have been identified. Studies have shown that the structure and activity of the brains of those with learning disabilities are often different from those of people without learning disabilities. There are laws in the United States that include provisions for those with learning challenges. It’s important to understand the child’s rights if you’re going to be the best possible advocate for them.
Consider these laws:
- IDEA for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This law was passed in 1990 and guarantees that special needs students receive free public education that is appropriate and as unrestrictive as possible for their individual needs. This extends to children as young as 3.
- IEP or Individualized Education Programs. This is part of IDEA. It requires teachers of those with special needs to develop IEPs that specifically address your child’s specific needs. IEPs must:
● Be in writing
● Include the parents’ involvement in their development
● Include measurable goals
● Provide parents the right to dispute any issues with the school district through a third party
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This forbids the discrimination of students with disabilities within any educational setting. This law applies to elementary schools, secondary schools, and even colleges and universities. Its applicability to early childhood settings has been tested in the courts with no clear nationwide precedent. It is best to presume it applies to your program.
There are other applicable laws and statutes, but these are the most useful to know and understand if you want to be in the best position to help your class.
A learning disability can be a significant challenge to overcome, but with your help the children in your class can find success and happiness.
Consider these topics to learn more about learning disabilities and the role you play:
- Chapter 1: Types of Learning Disabilities. There’s more than one type of learning disability. You’ll learn about the five types and the general characteristics of each.
- Chapter 2: How to Recognize a Learning Disability in a Child. While a proper diagnosis is best left to the professionals, every teacher should know the common signs of a learning disability.
- Chapter 3: Testing. There are many potential tests a child could receive if a learning disability is suspected. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to request testing from the child’s elementary school and ensure that it gets done.
- Chapter 4: What Teachers Can Do in Class to Help Children with Learning Disabilities. You might not be an expert on learning disabilities, but there’s still a lot that you can do to help any child. Understand the role you can play in a child’s life to ease the challenge of a learning disability.
- Chapter 5: Self-Esteem. Self-esteem can be challenging for all of us, but it can be even more challenging when you have a learning disability. You’ll learn how to help children feel better about themselves and their future.
- Chapter 6: How to Help a Child on a Hard Day. Understand how to make the most of those heartbreaking days when a child comes into your class in tears or enraged.
- Chapter 7: How to Interact with the Child’s Parents & Elementary School. This is a tricky subject, but you’ll be better prepared and more capable of getting the child the help they need.
“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.
That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent
than college professors.”