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What you've always wanted to know about LD

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Welcome to this podcast series on the basics of learning disabilities. This podcast series is brought to you by the Student Success Collaborative. The Student Success Collaborative is made up of City Year, One Global Economy, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Teachers Without Borders, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The Student Success Collaborative and this podcast series are generously funded by the Cisco Systems Foundation. My name is Karen Golembeski, and I'm the Assistant Director of Education Programs at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. This podcast is part of a three part series on the basics of learning disabilities. Questions for this podcast and others have been submitted by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation and Teachers Without Borders networks of educators across the country. Our guest today is my colleague, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz. Dr. Horowitz is the Director of Learning Disabilities Resources and Essential Information at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. He is our in house learning disabilities expert. Today's podcast is on the topic of The things I've always wanted to know about learning disabilities. So, let's begin. Welcome Dr. Horowitz! Dr. Horowitz: Thank you very much! Today's podcast will be broken up into three questions that we received from the field. So we're starting from a question a parent asked, and it is: How can I get my child's learning disability to go away? Is it something that people outgrow? Are there medicines or some other treatment that can be used? An example being diet or exercise, special glasses, or bio feedback? Dr. Horowitz: Thank you very much for this question. Let me begin by saying that learning disabilities are lifelong. They do not go away. And there are not something that you outgrow. There is no brain scan, there are no blood tests, there are no other medical procedures that can rule in or rule out the presence of a learning disability. It's also important to know that learning disabilities very often run into families, so it's not unusual to see a sibling, a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, or even a parent, who also has a learning disability. And there is no medicine that can effectively treat learning disabilities. LD is not that kind of a disorder. That said, learning disabilities and disorders of attention, like ADD or ADHD, often co-occur. And these disorders can be treated effectively with medication. The process of discovering what signs and symptoms are related to the LD and which are characteristics of the ADD or ADHD, is rarely easy. And the best outcomes are achieved when parents and educators, and physicians work closely to understand the child's needs, as a plan or course of treatment. Educational Intervention, behavioral therapies, and yes medicine, are all important pieces of that LD, ADD, ADHD puzzle. As far as diet, exercise, special glasses, bio feedback therapies and such, I only have one recommendation: Consumer: Beware! Just because something seems to make sense, doesn't mean that it's rooted in sound theory or can be backed by sound scientific practice. Sure, some of these approaches might seem to work for some children. But, we just don't know why. We don't know for which children, and whether the benefits will last over time. Many of these approaches are expensive and are not covered by medical insurance, or are not provided at no cost for schools and many of these therapies raise false hopes and expectations, resulting in even lower self-esteem, and a deep distrust when things don't go well and things don't get better. I wish I knew enough about the neurobiology of different types or dimensions of LD to propose a sound theory of plausible cause and then prescribe a particular treatments. We are just not there yet, and the best we have is carefully designed, instructional strategies and a system for trying things out and making adjustments over time, based on good performance data, in other words carefully targeted, well delivered, high quality, research based, individualized and differentiated instruction. Karen: Thank You. Our next question comes from one of our teachers: What should I do when children's parents or other teachers are in denial that anything is wrong? How can I get people to talk, share and plan together? Dr. Horowitz: This is such an important question! If you remember I mentioned the retro survey that was done in 2010 in an earlier podcast What that survey revealed was that parents are prone not all parents, but some parents are prone to waiting as long as an entire year, even when they suspect that their child is struggling at school, before initiating a request for help. And some educators, and parents too even physicians, are prone to say things like: “Well, let's just wait and see how he or she develops over the next few months“. Suggesting that the problem of paying attention, learning the foundational skills in reading and math, and even fitting in socially with peers might be something that the child will outgrow. My best advice is: Do Not Wait. And take a look at NCLD's LD checklists which is free to view and download from the LD.org website. Become familiar with the signs that might place a child at risk for LD beginning at the earliest, the preschool years and extending right up to adolescence and adulthood. And if one of the players, either a parent or an educator or the child him or herself, is pushing back and denies there is any reason for concern my advice is not to allow everyone to step back; but rather to invite discussion, meet informally, to share information, to find some expectations that each person might have. Collect some information, both screening, diagnostic information, even informal work samples, and come up with a plan for how to ensure that the child continues to make progress. Karen: Thank You Our final question is an interesting one to me. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this topic. A teacher asked about the biology of learning disabilities Please help us all get a better understanding of the brain structure and function as it relates to learning disabilities. Dr. Horowitz: The brain is an incredibly complex and very vulnerable organ, and there is no question that any medical insult to the brain, any changes in the brain, can cause problems that result in compromised learning. Many decades ago, scientists discovered that in some instances, the brain had an almost remarkable capacity to recover from what was thought to be irreversible and even traumatic injuries So, for example, a young child who had a brain tumor, and for having a fast growing tumor in her brain, had to have the left side of her brain removed this child was still able to develop language. Not perfect, but certainly well developed enough to allow her to enjoy learning at school and social interactions with her peers. The brain's ability to redistribute functions once thought to be controlled only by one part, one hemisphere. And then has it be assumed by other parts of the brain convinced researchers of the brain is not a hard wired controlled center for learning and emotion; but rather a sort of living machine that was changeable, that was flexible, that was malleable. Meaning that it could change and adapt, to meet the demands of the day. The term that we use for this is plasticity or recovery of function. We also know that there are certain points in the course of development when learning seems to be easier for the brain. So, for example, during very early infancy it seems that the brain is much more likely to take in the fine distinctions needed to learn speech sounds of a particular language. And we also know, that windows of opportunity for brain development open and close repeatedily through out the course of development. Sometimes as a result of just normal physical growth and maturity; sometimes because of some illness that results in change of the brain chemistry, sometimes due to disease, and sometimes just for reasons that are unexplained. Parents and educators need the best information they can get about different types of brain based disorders, that children might have acquired for any number of causes, and the kinds of teaching approaches that have been proven effective to help them grow into successful independent learners. The bottom line, the presumption should be that these children, in fact, all children can learn. This has specially been true for children with complicated medical histories who have co-occuring learning disabilities. Karen: Dr. Horowitz, Thank you so much for giving us your time today. If you'd like to learn more about learning disabilities please access the other two podcasts in this series with the focus on learning disabilities basics and Sorting facts from fiction. We appreciate you joined us today. Thank You!

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 14 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: SSC
Director: SSC
Views: 95
Posted by: deya_castilleja on Apr 19, 2011

Student Success Collaborative Podcast Series

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