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Learning Disabilities


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Title: Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities
  • an Introduction
  • Presenters
  • Kristen OHare, Nipissing Student
  • Elaine Beckett-Albert, Nipissing Graduate
  • Mark Giddens, Adaptive Technology Technician
  • Mike Walker, Learning Strategist
  • Presented to Doug Bolgers PSYC3405 Psychology
    of Education class, February 2004

Presentation Outcomes
  • What is a Learning Disability?
  • Short video intro from Transitions to Post
    Secondary Learning
  • Definition from LDAO LDs from an IP perspective
  • Diagnosis and statistics
  • Describe living learning with learning
  • Student stories meet Elaine Kristen,
    university peers
  • Social, emotional and academic aspects of LDs
  • Tales from the trenches elementary school
  • Describe how YOU can help your students succeed
  • Remediation, modification and accommodation
  • Resources for understanding and student success
  • IT for IPs - brief review of technology for
    students w/LDS
  • The Big Three
  • Other Tools

LD definition from video
  • Transitions to Post Secondary Learning
  • developed by Howard Eaton Leslie Coull to help
    high school students
  • understand their LDs
  • prepare for the transition to college or
  • self-advocate for themselves
  • note difference between a learning disability and
    an Attention Deficit Disorder or AD/HD

What is a Learning Disability?
  • A new definition from the LDAO
  • Learning Disability Association of Ontario

In brief "Learning Disabilities"
  • refers to a variety of disorders that affect the
    acquisition, retention, understanding,
    organization or use of verbal and/or non-verbal

These disorders
  • result from impairments in one or more
    psychological processes related to learning in
    combination with otherwise average abilities
    essential for thinking and reasoning.

These psychological processes could be
  • phonological processing
  • memory and attention
  • processing speed
  • language processing
  • perceptual-motor processing
  • visual-spatial processing
  • executive functions (e.g., planning, monitoring
    and metacognitive abilities)

Learning disabilities
  • range in severity and invariably interfere with
    the acquisition and use of one or more of the
    following important skills

These skills could be
  • oral language (e.g., listening, speaking,
  • reading (e.g., decoding, comprehension)
  • written language (e.g., spelling, written
  • mathematics (e.g., computation, problem solving)
  • organizational skills
  • social perception
  • social interaction

What a LD is Not!
  • low intelligence/an intellectual disability
  • mental illness/emotional disturbance
  • autism
  • visual or auditory acuity problems
  • laziness/lack of motivation
  • a way to avoid other issues
  • a physical handicap
  • the result of a poor academic background

A Learning Disability is an Information
Processing Impairment
  • It is like having too many bridges out as well as
    too many overlapping pathways along the
    information highways of the brain.
  • Dale R. Jordan
  • U. of Arkansas

So how might an LD affect a Learner?
  • A Couple of Examples . . .

Cant you read this?
  • Myle arn in gdisa bi LI tyma kesit dif Ficu
    ltform eto re Adi tslo wsm edo wnwh eniha veto re
    AdmYte xtbo Ok sbu twhe nius Eboo kso Nta peo rco
    mpu Teri zedsc ree nrea Din gsof twa Reto lis
    tent Om yte xtbo ok sith elp sal Ot.
  • Visual/Phonological LD

Cant you see this?
  • Cant you see the Dalmatian?

Cant you see this?
  • Cant you see the Dalmatian?
  • Visual LD
  • visual ground figure

Cant you write this?
  • Copy this Ill time you put your hand up when
    youre done
  • Can you copy? Its not hard. Look, Im
    finished already!
  • Now, please copy this using your
    non-dominant hand!!
  • Grapho-motor LD
  • Also demonstrates role of Working Memory

Some Stats . . .
  • learning disabilities impact the lives of
    approximately 10 of the population
  • approximately 4 of Ontarios school aged
    population is formally identified with LDs
  • of Ontarios identified exceptional population
  • approx. 48 of elementary students are LD
  • approx. 54 of secondary students are LD
  • 25 to 30 of those with LDs may have AD/HD
  • 75 to 80 of those with AD/HD may have LDs

Sources Weber and Bennett, Special Education in
Ontario Schools, Fourth Edition and LDAC
National, Spring 2000
Diagnosis the Criteria
  • diagnosis must be made by a psychologist
  • based on a discrepancy between ability (as
    measured by IQ) and academic achievement and/or
    information processing
  • this discrepancy is assessed using standardized
    psychometric measures such as
  • Weschler intelligence achievement tests
  • WJ-III
  • Woodcock-Johnson tests of cognitive abilities

For you visual learners

a visual guide to diagnosis.
Traditional Aptitude vs. Achievement Average
Traditional Aptitude vs. Achievement Student
with a LD
Aptitude, Achievement Info Processing Visual
Aptitude, Achievement, Info Processing Auditory
LDs in Elementary Secondary Education
  • Diagnosis is still important but under the
    Education Act Ministry of Education students
    may be Identified as
  • Exceptional Communication Learning
  • allows for IEP (Individual Education Plan)
  • allows for special interventions
  • remediation
  • modification
  • accommodation

Transition to Post-Secondary
  • Identification of a learning disability for the
    purposes of services is NOT a diagnosis
  • No longer Education Act but Human Rights Code
    Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) so
    diagnosis is important
  • admissions
  • services accommodation
  • funding

Issues at Post-Secondary
  • Students at the post-secondary level MUST have a
    recent assessment with a valid diagnostic
    statement in order to get academic accommodation
  • Many of the students havent had an assessment or
    havent been assessed since grade 3, etc.
  • Proper assessment can make the difference between
    success and failure at post-secondary

Impact of Incomplete Documentation on Students
  • services/accommodation may be provided on and
    interim basis
  • students may not get personal access to the
    technology they need
  • stress on family students waiting for
  • possibility of no diagnosis
  • all support will be withdrawn
  • students lose support on which they have become

Nipissings LD Program
  • Enhanced Services Program (ESP)
  • Since September
  • screened 66 students for possible inclusion in
  • had 33 students (re) assessed (5 more waiting)
  • Currently have 56 students
  • 16 returning, 30 first year (double cohort)
  • 47 undergrad, 9 education
  • 13 have additional disabilities to their LDs
  • 9 have co morbid AD/HD
  • 28 use alternate format reading materials

Living Learning with a LD
  • Meet Elaine Kristen

Social Emotional Aspects of a Learning
  • From Introducing Learning Disabilities to
    Postsecondary Educators
  • The Meighen Centre for Learning Assistance and
    Research, Mount Allison University

What does a Learning Disability feel like?
  • Ask someone who has one!

Possible Academic Problems
  • silent reading/reading aloud
  • writing/spelling
  • learning languages/math
  • expressing what is known and understood
  • having to re-do school work at home
  • having no time off since everything takes longer
  • dropping out

Possible Social/Emotional Problems
  • feeling dumb, stupid, embarrassed, frustrated,
    anxious, lonely, isolated
  • being called stupid, lazy being put down by
    teachers, friends, and even parents
  • feeling nobody understands
  • feeling need of help
  • fearing rejection failure
  • always having to cover up, act a role

Possible Career/Vocational Problems
  • lack of basic skills
  • lack of social skills
  • Its never cured, It never goes away
  • having to cover up
  • never feeling adequate
  • low expectations
  • jobs dont last

Tough Facts from LDAC
  • 35 of students identified with learning
    disabilities drop out of high school.
  • 50 of adolescent suicides had previously been
    diagnosed as having learning problems.
  • Volumes of research have shown that 30 to 70 of
    young offenders have experienced learning

Statistics on Learning Disabilities. LDAC,
October 2001. Source Online http//www.ldac-taac
Our Context as Teachers
  • Our Desire - we want all of our students to be
    able to master the Three Rs and to develop
    normally physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • The Reality approximately 9.4 of our
    elementary and secondary students are
    exceptional (MET, 1997).
  • The Result - many of our students will not read,
    write or perform other academic tasks
    efficiently, despite our best effort and intense

  • In order for many of these exceptional students
    to be successful their
  • skills must be remediated and/or
  • learning either modified or accommodated
  • Remediation may be needed for the student to
  • overcome performance deficits (reading, writing,
    speech, motor)
  • consolidate skills for future learning
  • Modification may be needed for the student to
  • experience academic success
  • maintain motivation to learn
  • Accommodation may be needed for the student to
  • maintain grade level standards
  • broaden future learning opportunities

  • Modifications are not an option at the
    post-secondary level.
  • Nor are modifications eligible for high school
  • Therefore, accommodation for severe disabilities
    may become more challenging and solutions, by
    necessity, more sophisticated.
  • Technology has provided many new tools which may
    be used to accommodate students with LDs.

Our Reality
  • Tales from the trenches

Adam (grade 4) reading disability (pre. board)
  • reading at grade 1 level, highly frustrated
    resistant to learning
  • resistant to resource, so accommodated in the
  • up two levels, completed grade level work,
    independent research project, class leader
  • end of the year comment to John
  • now in Grade 5 back in resource, same phonics
    workbooks, etc. shut down
  • teachers, perhaps afraid of technology, but have
    also bought into the myth that if students learn
    differently, they wont make it in the real

Eve (grade 4) gifted with a LD
  • worked very hard but no significant
    ability/achievement discrepancy so parents paid
    for assessment
  • performing just below grade level
  • works harder than all of her classmates
  • remediation every night thru Oxford LC
  • principal wont allow identification IEP
  • recently caught cheating in spelling in French
  • I wanted to get them right just once.
  • should she be allowed to experience success?
  • strategy Report Card accommodating her
    learning disability according to the
    psychological assessment

Ruth (grade 4) not yet diagnosed
  • problems with math
  • probably non-verbal LD problems with drawing,
    visual/spatial awareness, awkward, late reader
  • goes to Kumon Math every night
  • nightly math sheet (10 20 min) may take 2 hours
    with parents help
  • teacher warned not to rock the boat (not to ID)
  • so teacher removed classroom accommodation
    resulting failure allowed teacher to contact
    parents parents influential in community and
    parent council
  • letters flew testing has begun shook up
    resource team 5 kids will now benefit from 1st
    math program

What you can do . . .
  • How can a classroom/ resource teacher support a
    student with a learning disability?

Be a GREAT teacher
  • Use multi-modal teaching techniques, offer valid
    performance and evaluation alternatives, and
  • remember . . .

We Learn... William Glasser
  • 10 of what we read
  • 20 of what we hear
  • 30 of what we see
  • 50 of what we both see and hear
  • 70 of what is discussed with others
  • 80 of what we experience personally
  • 95 of what we teach someone else

Or Simply
  • Tell me and I will forget
  • Show me and I may remember
  • Involve me and I will understand
  • Ancient Chinese proverb

Teach Academic/Learning Skills Topics from
  • How We Learn
  • Learning Styles
  • Time Management
  • Active Listening Notetaking
  • Active Reading
  • Writing Strategies
  • Critical Creative Thinking
  • Test Taking Evaluation
  • Attitude Motivation
  • Self-Determination Self-Advocacy
  • Teamwork Rapport
  • Energy Stress
  • Health Wellness

Test/Exam Accommodation
  • Common
  • extra time
  • spell checker
  • use of a computer
  • distraction-free environment
  • leniency towards spelling grammar
  • Less Common
  • reader
  • scribe
  • e-reader
  • voice dictation

Classroom/Lecture Accommodation
  • Common
  • tape recorder
  • note-sharer/taker
  • use of overheads/ visual organizer
  • Alpha-Smart/lap-top computer/Pocket PC
  • Less Common
  • FM system
  • wait time when called upon
  • lecture notes on reserve/on web
  • lecture outline in advance

Personal Study Accommodation
  • master notebook
  • organizer
  • talking spell checker
  • texts on tape
  • tape/digital recorder
  • computer
  • scanner
  • e-reader/e-texts
  • voice dictation
  • reduced course load
  • study buddy
  • study carrels
  • mentor
  • academic skills
  • peer tutor
  • professional tutor
  • technology training
  • learning strategy training based on LD assessment

What you can do . . .
  • Learn as much as you can about learning

More about accommodating individual student
  • PBS documentary, Misunderstood Minds
  • http//www.pbs.org/wgbh/misunderstoodminds/intro.h
  • Check out the work of Dr. Mel Levine
  • His organizations website
  • www.allkindsofminds.org
  • A Mind at a Time, Chapter 1
  • http//www.allkindsofminds.org/bookExcerpts/aMinda

More resources
  • more PBS videos
  • How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City
    Workshop by Richard Lavoie (2 copies in library)
  • understanding learning disabilities
  • shows us LDs from the perspective of learning
    disabled children
  • Last one Picked first one Picked on by Richard
  • learning disabilities and social skills
  • Look What Youve Done! by Dr. Robert Brooks
  • learning disabilities and self-esteem

More Info. . .
  • On learning disabilities
  • www.schwablearning.org
  • www.ldonline.org
  • www.ldpride.net
  • www.ldao.on.ca
  • www.ldrc.ca
  • http//specialed.about.com/cs/learningdisabled
  • Activities to help understand processing deficits
  • http//www.pbs.org/wgbh/misunderstoodminds/
  • Mikes Learning Resources site
  • www.nipissingu.ca/faculty/mikew/resource

  • . . . lets look at some technology for students
    with LDs.

Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities
  • Tools to help accommodate for information
    processing deficits

Universal Design for Learning (CAST description)
  • UDL shifts old assumptions about teaching and
    learning in four fundamental ways
  • Source online Center for Applied Special
    Technology (CAST) www.cast.org/udl/

UDL basic concepts (CAST)
  • Students with disabilities fall along a continuum
    of learner differences rather than constituting a
    separate category
  • Teacher adjustments for learner differences
    should occur for all students, not just those
    with disabilities

UDL basic concepts (CAST)
  • Curriculum materials should be varied and diverse
    including digital and online resources, rather
    than centering on a single textbook
  • Instead of remediating students so that they can
    learn from a set curriculum, curriculum should be
    made flexible to accommodate learner differences

For more about UDL see
  • CASTs Universal Design for Learning site
  • http//www.cast.org/udl/
  • Online textbook
  • Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age
    Universal Design for Learning. David H. Rose
    Anne Meyer ASCD, 2002
  • www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/

What Can Students with LDs Expect?
  • Typical accommodations available to students with
    learning disabilities at the post-secondary level

A brief overview . . .
  • What is a Learning Disability?
  • Ministry of Education definition

A learning disorder
  • evident in both academic and social situations
    that involves one or more of the processes
    necessary for the proper use of spoken language
    or the symbols of communication, and that is
    characterized by a condition that

  • a) is not primarily the result of
  • impairment of vision
  • impairment of hearing
  • physical disability
  • developmental disability
  • primary emotional disturbance
  • cultural difference and

  • b) results in a significant discrepancy between
    academic achievement and assessed intellectual
    ability, with deficits in one or more of the
  • receptive language (listening, reading)
  • language processing (thinking, conceptualizing,
  • expressive language (talking, spelling, writing)
  • mathematical computations

  • c) may be associated with one or more conditions
    diagnosed as
  • a perceptual handicap
  • a brain injury
  • minimal brain dysfunction
  • dyslexia
  • developmental aphasia.

BSWD Bursary for Students With Disabilities
  • This year up to 10, 000
  • Tied to OSAP eligibility
  • For disability-related educational expenses
    assessments, computers assistive software,
    adaptive devices, tutoring, therapy, ergonomic
    devices, etc.
  • NOT for tuition, books, residence, etc.

Kristens Profile
  • Visual LD (dyslexia)

Mikes Profile
  • Auditory LD (CAPD)

Taras Profile
  • Non-Verbal LD

Non-verbal LD WAIS Profile
Verbal Scores WAIS III Profile
Non-Verbal Scores WAIS III Profile
Non-verbal LD Verbal IQ Profile area of strength
Non-verbal LD Performance IQ Profile area of
Kyles Profile
  • AD/HD LD

AD/HD LD WAIS-III Profile (Weschler Adult
Intelligence Scale)
Verbal Profile good Thinking Skills, poor
Memory Attention
Non-Verbal good Social, poor Attention
Visual/Motor Coordination
Difficulty with Attention/Memory/Decoding
A Simple Model of Information Processing
  • Attention
  • Sensory Input
  • Processing
  • Decoding
  • Memory - may include Storage and/or Retrieval
  • Encoding
  • Physical Output
  • Expression

Where can IP break down? Dr. Allyson G.
Harrison, Queens University
  • 1. Frontal lobe functioning deficits
  • - abstract and conceptual thinking
  • 2. Memory impairment
  • - Short term memory
  • - Working memory-mental blackboard dynamic
  • - Long term memory
  • - Storage vs retrieval issues
  • 3. Sequencing deficits (visual or auditory)

Breakdown continues Dr. Allyson G. Harrison,
Queens University
  • 4. Speed of information processing
  • 5. Attention
  • - Selective (cannot choose/focus)
  • - Sustained (cannot maintain)
  • - Divided (cannot shift/hyperfocus)
  • 6. Narrow processing style - cant
    simultaneously attend to process multiple
    aspects of a stimulus field

Still breaking down Dr. Allyson G. Harrison,
Queens University
  • 7. Poor scanning resolution-miss relevant data
  • 8. Right hemisphere dysfunction good at details
    but not global picture. Gets lost in details,
    easily overloaded. Cant make sense of
    holistically presented information. Poor ability
    to interpret visual cues.
  • 9. Faulty output mechanism - interferes with
    demonstration of adequate information processing.
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