Read this article to learn about Learning Disability. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Meaning of Learning Disabilities 2. Characteristics of a Child with Learning Disabilities 3. Remedy.
- Meaning of Learning Disabilities
- Characteristics of a Child with Learning Disabilities
- Remedy for Learning Disablement
Meaning of Learning Disabilities:
Learning disabilities may have different forms; they may be related to listening, comprehending, expressing—oral (or through any other form of motor activity) or writing, calculating numerical problems and so on. It is through the behaviour of the child that a learning disability is manifested.
Learning disability is not because of physical, mental or affectional disability of any sort but it is in spite of the child’s being physically, mentally and affectionally quite able for a learning function.
Now, we shall see how “Learning Disabilities” have been defined; but one thing is always common in all the definitions, and, it is “difficulty in learning”.
The definition of learning disabilities was first notified at the federal level in the USA; with variations, it was adopted by all the 50 states (it was done in the sixties):
“Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculation.”
Now, all sort of learning disabilities are included in the terms; the term may indicate perceptual handicap, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia.
But it does not include such children who have learning problems because of visual, hearing or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, or of emotional disturbance; nor, does it include handicap caused by environmental disadvantage—environment may be physical or social or both.
When a child fails to achieve learning to the level commensurate with his age and ability in one or more of the following fields even when appropriate learning experience are provided to him, it would be a case of learning disability:
Basic reading skill;
As mentioned above, the discrepancy between ability level and achievement level must not be the result of any sort of visual, learning or motor handicap; nor, of mental retardation, emotional disturbance or environmental disadvantage.
Characteristics of a Child with Learning Disabilities:
Actual learning level of such a child would be much below the level of his learning potential.
This hyperactivity is identified because of attention deficit. Because of hyperactivity a child fails to concentrate on any work for a minimum needful period of time. Such a child cannot work or play quietly. He cannot even wait for his turn. He cannot follow through the instructions or have patience to abide by the rules. His span of attention would be much shorter than what should be expected of a child of his age.
Over-talking, without much substance, is also a characteristic of hyperactivity. He may be impatiently intruding into the conversations of others. He appears not to be serious regarding anything. Losing papers, a book or anything may not be uncommon with him. Though childhood is the period of life when none happens to be careful about an important work, but his degree of carelessness may cause concern.
And, such a child when attains adolescence, lacks in self-esteem. Shaywitz (1987) writes that the child would be characterised by “oppositional behaviour”, and may at times feel “depressed”. The author is of the view that from 33% to 80% of the students having learning disabilities, suffer from hyperactivity disorder.
Lack of co-ordination:
Such a child is found to be below-average looking to his age so far co-ordination of different organs are required for a particular function. When a child is playing a ball, he needs co-ordination of hand, vision and mobility.
When a teacher is teaching something with the help of a blackboard, the student needs to attend to it, coordinating the senses of seeing and hearing; if the proper co-ordination is not there, such a student would not be able to learn, and would be lagging behind.
For clean, correct and beautiful writing, again, co-ordination is must—mind, hand and eyes have to work simultaneously in co-ordination with one another. Generally, awkward or clumsy movements in a play [the hesitant mood of the child may also be indicated therein], may also be the consequence of lack of co-ordination.
If one is lacking in coordination, he would find difficulty in assessing the relative positions (distances) of things in space, and in estimating weights of things.
The difference between attention span and attention fixation should be clear, as the first is related to the time for which one can concentrate attention upon a subject; attention fixation is the term to show the ability to shift attention from one subject to another as per need.
Some children become so absorbed in one particular subject that it becomes difficult to divert their attention to another subject which now deserves to be the centre of consciousness or the focal point of attention. This is a problem of “involuntary over-attention”. This problem leads one to be hyperactive in one particular respect at the cost of other subject.
Below-average perceptual ability may lead to educational retardation. A child who, in spite of having normal sensory acuity, is unable to perceive experiences in a normal way, there is a case of perceptual disorder.
A child who confused between “b” and “d” in his calligraphy exercise, or later who feels difficulty in learning spellings; and who cannot distinguish between the sounds of “dz” and “z”—in words like “jet” and “measure”; between that of “sh” and “s” as in words like “ship” and “slip”; may be said to be a case of perceptual disorder.
We must be knowing persons who can easily distinguish the sounds of scooters belonging to different people; the persons who can distinguish one colour from the other very much similar to the first; contrary to this there are others who confuse the one with the other; the latter category illustrates “perceptual disorders”.
Perceptual abilities develop through normal developmental devices as used in the process of learning. But if the same do not yield the desired results, there may be an occasion for concern; and some expert ought to be consulted to know if it is a case of perceptual disability.
Because of poor—imperfect, indistinct or ambiguous perception, the items perceived would not be retained in memory for long. Such a person may not recall even what has been perceived only recently through the sense of hearing, or the sense of seeing.
He may not locate a place he has been many times to. Even things put somewhere, a little ago by him, may miss his memory as to where the same was put. A child with such memory disorders is, naturally, to face difficulty in learning.
The factors that have been mentioned here—hyperactivity, lack of co-ordination and attention fixation; and perceptual disorders have their share of responsibility in the development of memory disorder as such.
The expert diagnosing a child with learning disabilities, is likely to confuse the same with mental retardation or handicaps of other types caused by impairment, or because of environmental deprivation, or diverse cultural impact—the behaviour of the child being alike in both (learning disabilities and mental retardation or physical handicap) the cases.
Remedy for Learning Disablement:
In the regular classroom, while teaching the same topic to the whole class, it is needed to pay individual attention to children with learning disabilities. The teacher should ask them individually, to be assured that they have followed. And, if they have not, time will have to be given to them for individual instruction.
The methods and devices, and the teaching aids, will all have to be chosen or oriented as per individual need of each of such children. As different students may be having learning disabilities of different types, no single approach can do; a number of methods may have to be tried for different such students.
Such a student may have developed a “failure syndrome”, so quite a new method should be adopted to attract attention, and motivate afresh for refurbished efforts to learn the topics of studies.
Positive reconditioning needs to be made. Fernald and Gillingham did pioneering work in this field, and, they recognised the value of this principle. Unfortunately, the majority of our teachers go on harping repeatedly— “you are a failure”; “you are a dullard; an idiot”, with the result that a negative conditioning is caused.
Hence, what is very much needed is the positive reconditioning. For it, the students’ self-esteem will have to be developed through rewarding them with positive remarks for their achievement, howsoever small it may be, or it may have come after long persistent efforts.
High motivation is related to the affective domain; the more vigorously the child is motivated to achieve something in the field of school learning, or in other fields of learning, the higher would be the attention of the child directing his efforts with an eye only on the target.
On the contrary, if the child is not motivated for learning a thing, all the efforts of the teacher, would not be better than that of a blacksmith striking a cold iron repeatedly with his hammer.
There are so many techniques for motivating a student the teacher may adopt the one which may best suit the learning background, instructions and learning abilities of the child. Some living model, some picture example, poem, some problem, something attracting the attention of the child and retaining the same, may serve for the motivation of the same.
Great is the importance of the use of teaching materials; especially, in a case where a senior student has been suffering from the problem of retarded reading skill, the exposure of which he has been circumventing since long, and, to pin-point the nature or cause of the problem has not been possible. Such teaching materials should be used which commensurate with the age and interests of the student.
The materials should be such which may make the student keenly interested in learning the point that the teacher means to teach; and make the study more easy, meaningful and pleasant.
Meaningful practice alone can provide a permanent remedy to the problem. If a student has problem in outlining the material read by him, he should be taught to outline the very material which is of the concerned content areas. If for the sake of practice only, any material, irrelevant to the syllabus of the child, is made use of it can neither retain the student’s interest for long, nor can motivate him for learning.
A student with learning disabilities may be helped for better learning if the teacher besides knowing what the student is to learn also knows how he learns; the teacher should adopt the student’s strategies of learning, for enabling him for better learning, for more learning.
Every student, howsoever skilled, or backward he may be, adopts some strategy of his own to learn each item of studies, the teacher can improve or accelerate the student’s learning by guiding him how to use that particular strategy of his to make it more effective rather than by imposing a strategy from his side.
This is the skill of organising the learning material; the teacher should be able to assist the students suffering from learning disabilities, to organise their material in such a way that better learning may be there.
Multisensory approach may be more effective. If more senses are involved, even in case of normal students also, the learning becomes more effective; and it is more so in case of a student with learning disabilities.
If the disability is more because of visual sense only, or because of the auditory sense only, an approach which involves the senses of vision, hearing, touch (tactile) besides the channel of kinetic activity, learning would definitely prove more effective.
A nursery student would learn alphabet earlier and with better retention if he is not only asked to read the letter from the book but is also asked to select the particular letter from the scrambled lot of cardboard letters, and is made to colour each letter.
Other mnemonic devices, and drawing letters or words, completing the incomplete letters or words through writing, or rewriting the scrambled letters in a way that some meaningful word may be made, and so on, are also good devices.
Many techniques have been suggested for cognitive training. Without going into all of them I would like to sum up this article after mentioning the six steps suggested by Wong and Jones as under:
1. Ask. Why am I reading this?
2. Locate main ideas and highlight them with a marker.
3. Write down a question about each main idea.
4. Think about an answer for each question.
5. Read the passage or chapter.
6. Re-examine the questions and compare your mental answers with the answers in the passage just read.
Divide lengthy passages into sections so that this strategy may be used effectively.