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LD Basics

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Welcome to this installment of the Student Success Collaborative Podcast Series on Learning Disabilities. This podcast and the Student Success Collaborative are generously funded by the Cisco Systems Foundation. The Students Success Collaborative consists in partners City Year, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Teachers Without Borders, One Global Economy, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. My Name is Karen Golembeski, and I'm the Assistant Director of Education Programs at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. And with me today is my colleague, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz. He is the Director of LD Resources and Essential Information at NCLD. Karen: Welcome Dr. Horowitz! Dr. Horowitz: Thank you very much. Today we have some questions that have been sent to us through the Silicon Valley Education Foundation Network of Educators in Silicon Valley, California; as well as the U.S. based teachers that are connected to Teachers Without Borders. So we are going to start today with some questions on the basics of learning disabilities and we're hoping that you can shred some light on what learning disabilities are and help us to get a better understanding for how to appreciate why people have a learning disability. Dr. Horowitz: It will be my pleasure! Let me begin by saying something about learning disabilities in general, and share a little bit of information about how they are different from other kinds of disabilities. So, What is learning disabilities or the phrase LD? Is the name that we give, not to a specific disorder, but rather to a group of disorders. And this umbrella term meeting a group of different disorders points to specific disabilities, specific weaknesses in the ability to do reading, and writing and math, and spelling and other kind of skills that are needed to succeed in school. Whatever the areas of weakness, a person with a learning disability is of at least average intelligence. And the reason for their difficulties are unexpected. LD is not the result of poor teaching, Is not the result of laziness, Is not the result of poor motivation. Each person with learning disabilities process the information in their own special kind of way. And the more they know about what they need to succeed, and the better we know as teachers and parents about what they need to succed, the better they'll be to work around or even at some cases to overcome the challenges of LD. Another important thing, distinction, that needs to be made is that learning disabilities sometimes occur or co-occur with other disorders like ADD or ADHD. Now let me say that these are two different disorders, LD and ADHD are two different disorders that, however, share some characteristics. So, for example, a student with LD and another students with ADHD who doesn't have LD can both have a hard time absorbing information spoken aloud by a teacher in a classroom or might struggle extracting information from written passages on a text book. In terms of how it is that you understand a learning disability or what some of the features of a learning disability are, I would urge everyone to visit the website and download, and view and share and spend some time looking at NCLD's LD checklists. It is the best in the business overview of some of the risks and some of the characteristics of LD. Expanding from the very early years right to adulthood; and as an assign, I would say please visit the website frequently and look for a soon to be released checklist that's personalized for Spanish speaking families as well. So, that's coming soon. Karen: Great! Thank you. We also get a lot of questions into the National Center for Learning Disabilities about, How students with Learning Disabilities or LD are identified? Can you share a little bit more light on that? There has been some controversy and we'd like to hear from you. Dr. Horowitz: That's a great question. Let me begin by saying that unlike many other disorders there is no x ray, there is no blood test there is no quick and easy survey or questionnarie that can be use to confirm or brought out the presence of a learning disability. The process of how learning disabilities are identified is currently undergoing some really interesting changes, and significant changes, and these changes make it all the more important for them to be close communication between parents and schools. So, let's talk about what each of the models for identifying learning disabilities looks like. The old model is where a student is having trouble at school, be referred for evaluation, usually by a teacher who speaks to a parent, the parent signs consent and the process of evaluation begins. Social history is taken where some one in the school, sometimes a social worker, sometimes a psychologist, sometimes a special educator, collects relevant information, educational information, about past experiences in school, when the struggle began, even family information about whether there are any medical issues that need to be considered, are there members in the family who have learning disabilities? some educational testing is done that looks like reading, and spelling and math, and other kinds of important skills, and IQ testing, that provides us an overall intellectual snapshot or cognitive snapshot of the child and then some interpretation of scores in that series of test, the IQ kind of test, that shreds light on how the child processes information, how they listen, how they remember, how they retrieve information; how they organize information that has been presented in different ways. Looking at a profile of scores based on that kind of evaluation. that was thought to be, and is in some places think of to be proof that a learning disability is at play. A new model for thinking about learning disabilities is now being implemented in lots of schools, a little bit of a hybrid model, but it's based on a bunch of different assumptions; it clearly doesn't discount the importance of looking at specific skills but it looks at this process of determining whether a learning disability is present from a very different perspective. the ruling assumption is that there is nothing wrong with the child, and that the first place to look for a reason for the child's struggle, is in the general curriculum, and in the teaching methods and strategies that we use. Not just as a point of referral, but starting way, way back, much earlier in the child school career. This approach demands that before any testing takes place, teachers try a number of different approaches to help a child learn. They collect data, that's also referred to as progress monitoring, and an a very careful way they offer increasingly targeted and intensive instruction, which is sometimes a .... differentiated instruction across two or three tiers or levels of intervention; during this process, general educators, special educators, other people who work in the school tap each others knowledge and creativity and they work as a team to see how they might accelerate the child's learning. If a child still not making progress, Is at that point that a formal referral for special education testing is made. But that evaluation process, of formally testing the child, is unmeasurable enhanced by all the data that was collected about the students performance over time. That process that I just described which could involve a referral for special education testing is known as multi-tiered system of interventions or more commonly, RTI or Response To Intervention. The best place to look for more information about this model and how kids get evaluated in this new model is online, at the RTI action network, and the URL is Karen: Thank You We receive several questions from the field asking about Executive Functioning, Executive Processing, so I was wondering if for our final question for this part of the series, if you can tell us a little bit more about what does Executive Functioning and Processing mean and how do these terms relate to students with learning disabilities Dr. Horowitz: Sure! Executive Functioning is a funny word to use when you're talking about kids doing things in school, but Executive Functioning is a term that is used to describe things that we all do. And we do them all the time. They are the kinds of skills and the kinds of behaviors that we tap, that we used to get organized, to stay organized, to get things done! Is what we do when we think about the day that is ahead of us, and we plan the steps that we need to take to get things accomplished. Executive Functioning, for example, is very much depending upon our ability to understand what is expected of us; or to remember the things that we need to tap or to use to succeed. Even to change directions in midstream, to readjust what we are doing and think of all on a different direction. So, if you think about those kinds of behaviors and you think about kids with learning disabilities it's clear and very easy to see how LD and Executive Functioning are intertwined. We just published a brand new set of articles on the website about this topic. And let me run through just a couple of the things that it covers. But absolutely be sure to visit the site again it is, to read more about this really interesting area in detail. When we think about Executive Function one of the things we talk about is the ability to stop and think before acting. Some people refer to it as Impulse control. Kids with learning disabilities, some, many children with Attention Deficit Disorder, they do a lot of that kind of talking before they think or doing before they really understand. They get started on homework before they read the instructions. they plow on things without really looking at details, so impulse control, the ability to stop and think before act, is one of those things that falls under the umbrella of Executive Function. Emotional Control, the ability to manage how you feel and think about something as you're doing it is another aspect, another piece of the Executive Function world. Lots of kids with LD would get frustrated and give up or won't be able to tolerate being corrected. Once they try really hard and deliver a product, Sometimes they find it hard to sort of calm down and focus on what is that they need to do because the task itself, because it's hard for them, either reading, or writing or spelling or any other academically related skill. Is just so hard for them, and the'll often postpone and procrastinate before they get started. Thats's another aspect of the Executive Function domain. Another interesting aspect of this Executive Function domain is flexibility and I mentioned before, the ability to change directions and strategies Even falling into routines every time you study for a test if you do it one way and the teacher is asking you to do it in another way that is sort of trotting straight to a way out wax for kids who don't have that flexibility built in and who have Executive Functioning difficulties. Something that we call working memory, the ability to hold information in your mind and use it to complete a task, many students with LD have difficulties in this working memory area; most obvious difficulties manifest itself as just troubles following directions. You know, teacher gives three directions and the child remember the last one of them, but not the first or the second. Trouble listening and then taking notes and then going back and catching up to where the teacher is in terms of talking and explaining something in front of the room. Even moving from one class to another remembering that you need to bring these books out of your locker in the morning, and these books in the afternoon, those are the kinds of things that impact, that are impacted by Executive Function in the working memory area. Self monitoring, very, very important and also something that is difficult for lots and lots of kids with learning disabilities. They just plow ahead, they don't seem to monitor how well they're doing, they don't look back and they can't easily check their work, they don't proofread well, they might loose sight of how long a project is taking, even though they are doing it correctly. They might do more than it's expected, they might skip a question without noticing it and not be able to monitor if that's in fact happened. So, self monitoring is an important area within this Executive Function domain. And sometimes just task initiation, getting started. Knowing how to set something up, even after instructions are given. You know, paper has to be in a certain place, do it in pencil, not in pen. I need to make sure that I've allowed enough time to read something through before I get started. If there are multiple steps, whether you skip one step or you start on step two, or you started on step one but don't have enough time to finish, very often just initiating, getting started in doing so with a purpose and a sense of organization is really hard for kids with learning disabilities. So again, this is at website there are series of articles talking about this particular area. And I think anyone who works with students with learning disabilities will see these kids in some of those, in some of that narrative. Karen: Dr. Horowitz, Thanks so much for participating with us today. And we look forward to hearing from you in the other two installments of this Podcast Series focusing on how to disclosure learning disabilities in school?, how to talk about your different learning needs with your parents or with your teachers? as well as talking about... Do learning disabilities go away on their own? Can you outgrow learning disabilities?, etc. So, thank you for joining us in this podcast series please visit to connect with the other installments of this podcast series and also learn more about the partners who are participating in the Students Success Collaborative.

Video Details

Duration: 15 minutes and 43 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: SSC
Director: SSC
Views: 103
Posted by: deya_castilleja on Apr 18, 2011

Basic Information about Learning Disabilities.

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