Many thanks to...
Kathy Fester, Library Coordinator
The June Shelton School
& Evaluation Center of Dallas, TX
for sharing the use of her marvelous LibGuide on Learning Differences with The Wheeler School!
"A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language. The disability may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations.
Every individual with a learning disability is unique and shows a different combination and degree of difficulties. A common characteristic among people with learning differences is uneven areas of ability, "a weakness within a sea of strengths." For instance, a child with dyslexia who struggles with reading, writing, and spelling may be very capable in math and science.
Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environental, cultural or economic disadvantages."
"A language-learning different child shall be defined as a child with average or above-average intelligence, with adequate vision and hearing, without primary emotional disturbance who has failed or is at high risk to fail when exposed to school experiences using conventional educational techniques. Language-learning differences include, but not exclusively, (1) dyslexia, (2) attention disorder with or without hyperactivity, (3) dysgraphia and (4) dysphasia or a combination of these differences."
Learning different children are frequently thought of as lazy, of not trying, of being immature, or of being dumb or "stupid." They are none of these things. They know they have difficulty understanding the world in the way those around them do--their family, their peers, and their teachers. They often have developed their own coping strategies to help functioning, such as being the class clown or trying to disappear into the woodwork. This is often a child that "everyone knows" is smart, if not brilliant. Once a parent realizes something is "not quite right" and decides to have the child fully evaluated to find reasons for below-level work or inappropriate behavior, then if learning differences are indicated the family and school can begin to take the steps necessary for the child to learn strategies for decoding the world. From LDOnline, "A learning disability can't be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong issue. With the right support and intervention, however, children with learning disabilities can succeed in school and go on to successful, often distinguished careers later in life."
Dr. Mel Levine, in A mind at a time (2002), specifically addresses educators:
A lack of attention control may masquerade as laziness, a negative attitude, or just plain bad behavior. Yet these are struggling and confused students who want very much to succeed, to please themselves and win the respect of the adults in their lives. They need our sympathy and support at the same time that they need us to hold them accountable for working on their attention controls. When they sense that we're on their side and not accusing them of being bad or lazy, they often rise to the occasion and show steady improvement. Teachers [and librarians], therefore, need to form strong alliances with these children rather than adversarial relationships. (89)
Brian Regan's comedy sketch truly reflects what many of our students experience in a typical school classroom, when they are undiagnosed or the teacher is not aware of required modifications and adjustments.