Friday, December 5, 2014

Students with Learning Disabilities Learn


       There was a time when students with learning disabilities were labeled dumb or weak or unmotivated or any one of a multitude of other names from people who didn't understand anything about learning disabilities.  Over my lifetime (I'm 51 years old), that has dramatically changed.

       I'm not a Special Educator, but today every educator knows something about students with disabilities.  This is because every single teacher in our public schools receives some training in working with students who have learning disabilities.  Over the past decade, schools have made an extra special effort to improve the achievement of students with learning disabilities because (under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001) schools were partially "graded" on their ability to educate students with learning disabilities.

       Today most schools have teachers who are specially trained to work with students who have learning disabilities.  These students are given Individual Education Plans that are backed up by federal law.  We now know how to diagnose specific learning disabilities and we are constantly getting better at addressing the educational needs of these special students.

       When we say, "All students can learn.", we mean "all students".  It is still a struggle for these students and a struggle for schools to find the best way to help them; but the successes of today are tremendous compared to the extremely few successes public schools saw decades ago.

       As a mathematics supervisor, I often say that it sometimes seems that we spend 90% of our time on 10% of our students.  And that "10%" is largely made up of students with learning disabilities.  Schools and school systems are always talking about strategies to help these students.  And when smart people get together and think together and share experiences, we usually end up with ideas that benefit students.

       The U.S. Department of Education has an office dedicated to helping students with learning disabilities.  In 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed by congress.  This law told our schools that students with learning disabilities are our students and it is our responsibility to teach them and to help them as much as we can.


       What's so good about public education in America?  Students with learning disabilities learn.  Everyday.

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