Learning Disabilities (page 2)
Individuals with LD generally have average or above average intelligence, yet they often do not achieve at the same academic level as their peers. Weaker academic achievement, particularly in reading, written language, and math, is perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of LD. Significant deficits often exist in memory, metacognition, and social skills as well.
Individuals who have LD in reading have difficulties decoding or recognizing words (e.g., letter/sound omissions, insertions, substitutions, reversals) or comprehending them (e.g., recalling or discerning basic facts, main ideas, sequences, or themes). They also may lose their places while reading or reading in a choppy manner.
Another term used for reading disabilities is dyslexia. Dyslexia is best understood as a type of reading disability. During early childhood, children with dyslexia have difficulties learning spoken language. Later they have trouble decoding and spelling words and, consequently, are likely to experience comprehension problems also. A reading disability affects every aspect of an individual's life, from the early years of school when children learn to read, to later years when students are expected to read in order to learn specific content, and into the community, home, and workplace where every person needs to acquire and understand written information.
For students with LD, problems in written language can occur in handwriting, spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary usage, volume of information produced, and organization of written ideas. Many students with LD in reading also have difficulty writing, since both areas are language-based.
Poor math achievement may appear in difficulties differentiating numbers and copying shapes, recalling math facts, writing numbers legibly or in small spaces, and relating math terms to meaning. Other weak areas may include abstract reasoning and metacognition, including identifying, using, and monitoring the use of algorithms to solve math problems.
Some people with LD have weaknesses in working memory. They have difficulty processing information so that it can be stored in long-term memory. Difficulties in working memory can lead to difficulties in long-term memory when a person needs to search for and retrieve knowledge.
Individuals with LD may have deficits in metacognition, the awareness of how one thinks and the monitoring of one's thinking. Many individuals with LD do not know many effective cognitive strategies for acquiring, processing, storing, and demonstrating understanding of information.
Social and Behavioral Characteristics
Students with LD may demonstrate social or behavioral challenges. Some exhibit fewer socially acceptable behaviors than peers, are unable to predict consequences for behaviors, misinterpret social cues, or are less likely to adapt their behavior to different social situations. Coupled with academic weaknesses, this experience can lead to lowered self-perceptions of competence or worth. Others who have LD have difficulty sitting at a desk for long periods to attend to tasks and may develop social or behavioral problems in response to their frustration with learning tasks.
More than 50 percent of the students receiving special education services in the United States have LD. The number of students identified as having LD and receiving special education services has more than doubled since the original passage of IDEA in 1975. Some educators estimate that between 5 and 10 percent of children between ages 6 and 17 have LD.
Most students with LD receive the majority of their education in the general education classroom. However, a continuum of school services should be available to meet each individual student's needs. Support in the general education classroom can exist in the form of a special educator co-teaching with or serving as a consultant to the general educator. Students may also receive services in a resource room or a special classroom. In addition, special schools are available for students whose needs cannot be met in the regular school. The Individualized Education Program team determines where a student with learning disabilities will receive special education services.
Reprinted with the permission of the Council for Exceptional Children. © 2006-2007 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). All rights reserved.
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