To Label or Not to Label? Pros and Cons to Getting Educational Diagnoses

To Label:

1. Diagnostic testing may reveal learning gaps

2. Getting a diagnosis / label may qualify an individual for help in school and tutoring services at some colleges.

3. Having a label may make it easier to explain atypical behavior or achievement.

Not to Label:

1. While diagnostic testing may lead to learning gaps / (i.e. person can’t add two digits to two digits, this person does not understand cause and effect in reading), it often limits expectations to what a person with that label typically can do.

2. Before getting a label one should find out what kind of services will be offered and how it will impact the learning of the individual. In school settings, the emphasis is usually to accommodate so the individual can fit in with the mainstream.

3. Often having a diagnosis provides little in the way of resolving the issues. Recommendations are often very limited.

While a diagnosis that affects learning often has a health component as a part of the underlying cause, we should be sure that in treating that health issue, we search its underlying cause or causes. As an example, one should remember that ADHD is not a deficiency of a drug such as Ritalin. Those types of drugs do not get to the underlying cause of the typical behaviors of ADHD. They may control symptoms, but do not resolve the underlying causes.

Before making a decision, explore alternatives that are capable of providing resolution to the underlying causes to the difficulties rather than merely provide accommodations. Since the 1930s there has been an alternative to the mainstream, the neurodevelopmental approach. This approach uses a developmental profile, looking for missing pieces in development. These gaps indicate to the neurodevelopmentalist that specific brain stimulation is required to encourage development. When that occurs, the reason why a label may have been assigned disappears.

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (Dr. Temple Faye, Glenn Doman, Dr. Robert Doman and Carl Delacato, PhD), are considered the founders of this approach. There are a number of organizations that have developed from the ideas and experience of the Institutes. Generally parents are instructed in how to do short, frequent activities to stimulate the needed areas in the brain. Occasionally, you will find organizations with programs that will provide these services to the parents. Other organizations may offer a combination in center and at home activities. Families should determine which of these options best fit their needs and circumstances.

All of these programs fully embrace the concept of neuroplasticity that has been accepted in more recent years in the mainstream. Neuroplasticity recognizes that the brain is much more flexible in its learning capacity throughout life than previously thought. Key to success of these programs is determining the underlying cause and stimulating the brain in a specific way consistently over time.

Learning Disabilities – 18 Critical Factors For Successful Post-Secondary Transition

Since students with learning disabilities are at greater risk in college, they need to allow adequate time to set themselves up for post-secondary success now. Keeping the eighteen factors below in mind increases the likelihood that transition from high school to college will be as seamless as possible.

1. To start your college search, make a list of desirable qualities in a school (i.e., commuter/residential, size, location, etc.) Start your search on the internet then begin college visitations. Allow your parents to narrow down your list to their acceptable choices. Then, once you see where you are accepted, you know those schools are all “parent-approved”.

2. Perseverance is the single most important factor in college success. Tied for second are the ability to delay gratification (i.e., saying “no” when your friends are going out, but you really should study) and an organizational system that works for you. The sooner you work on these three things, the easier college will be.

3. In college, you are a legal adult and need to articulate your disability on your own. Self-advocacy goes hand-in-hand with this; it is critical in getting your needs met in college.

4. If you are serious about a school, ask to meet a successful student from Disability Services. Before making your final choice, ask about spending an overnight with that student. You will get a better sense of whether or not you would feel comfortable at that college.

5. FERPA – The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a Federal law that protects the privacy of students’ educational records. However, keep this in mind: your parents’ support has helped get you to where you are today. Considering they are footing the bill, it is not unreasonable for parents to want to be kept in the loop. “LD-friendly” colleges allow you to sign a FERPA waiver.

6. The director of Disability Services sets the tone for the entire department. If you find this person off-putting, think twice about whether you would feel comfortable at the college.

7. If your documentation is older than 3 years, it should be updated. Make sure the list of recommendations at the end of the documentation includes critical items for your success. (Of course, they must be supported by the testing.)

8. Start exploring technologies you have never used but might help level the playing field for you. You can get an idea of different technologies when you visit the Disability Services offices at different colleges.

PROCEDURE FOR GETTING ACCOMMODATIONS

9. You and your parents should meet with the director of Disability Services as soon as you are admitted. Bring your documentation with you. IEPS are not of value in college.

10. The director will review your documentation and subsequently meet with you to discuss accommodations to be included in letters to your teachers. An accommodation you should strongly consider requesting is a reduced course load – at least for the first semester. Students can be considered full-time with as few as 6 credits, depending on the amount of work they can handle. Ask the director to write a letter for your parents’ insurance company explaining your full-time status with a reduced load, but do not submit the letter until it is requested.

11. Check back with the Disability Office at the start of school to pick up your accommodation letters. You need to deliver a letter to each instructor to whom you are disclosing. Find a private moment before or after class to do this, or make an office-hour appointment with your instructor, so you can maintain your privacy. This meeting is a good opportunity to introduce yourself and explain your needs to your professors.

12. The process of requesting, picking up, and delivering letters must be repeated each semester. If you need a change in accommodations, discuss this with the director of Disability Services.

CHOOSING CLASSES

13. Initial class selection is based on the result of college placement exams which all freshmen take. Remember that most colleges ban the use of calculators for the math exam. You should go in prepared to do all calculations the old-fashioned way. That means extensive practice until this comes naturally again.

14. Your schedule should be balanced between challenging courses and easier ones. Take the challenging classes three times a week, not two.

15. Classes should be hand-selected by someone in the Disability Services office who knows your learning style and the instructors who suit you best.

16. Keep your ears open to friend’s recommendations of engaging professors – but make sure they suit your learning style before enrolling.

TUTORING

17. For most incoming freshmen, tutoring three times a week is recommended to get off to a good strong start. Consider tutoring empowering; the more help you have initially, the sooner you’ll feel confident in your abilities.

18. As you become stronger and meta-cognitive (the state of learning how to learn), your Learning Specialist may suggest you gradually reduce tutoring. Some students may eventually be able to access tutoring on an as-needed basis, rather than by standing appointment.

©2007 Joan Azarva

Could the Boder Test of Reading Spelling Patterns Help Determine If My Child Has Dyslexia?

Do you have a child who is in first grade who receives special education services but is already struggling with reading? Have you been told by special education personnel that you are worrying too soon, and that your child does not have dyslexia? Many school districts have a very narrow view of dyslexia which is harming many children all over the USA! This article will discuss definition of Dyslexia as well as a tool called the Boder Test of Reading Spelling Patterns; that may be used as part of an evaluation, to determine if your child has dyslexia.

The International Dyslezia Association defines dyslexia as: A specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent work recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities, and the provision of effective classroom instruction.

Many school districts do not define dyslexia this way, and many children go undiagnosed, which harms children. Why is this harmful? Because children are not able to get the special education services they need for their dyslexia, if they are not diagnosed properly.

A tool developed in the 1980’s called the Boder Test of Reading Spelling Patterns was designed to specifically aid in the diagnosis of dyslexia. The test is recommended to be included as part of a comprehensive (psychological) educational evaluation.

The test was developed to differentiate between the four subtypes of reading problems; one unspecific reading disability and to classify the three types of dyslexia. The three types of dyslexia are called: dysphonetic dyslexia, dyseidetic dyslexia and mixed dypsonetic/dyseidetic. Dysphonetic dyslexia means auditory dyslexia and Dyseidetic means visual dyslexia, and mixed dypsonetic/dyseidetic means both. Another article stated that this test is also used to provide guidelines for the remediation of all subtypes of dyslexia. This would be extremely helpful to parents and special education personnel.

As part of a comprehensive psychological evaluation the Boder test is helpful in determining if a child has dyslexia. A standardized achievement test like the Weschler Individual Achievement Test including the reading comprehension subtest, requires that the child engage in higher level comprehension, which could also show difficulties in reading. Also testing in the areas of: Speech/Language (receptive and expressive), visual and auditory perception, sensory integration, visual spatial, visual motor integration, occupational therapy, phonological awareness, phonological memory, rapid naming, work finding ability, nonsense word ability, reading comprehension, spelling and written expression will be needed.

All of this information can be used by the IEP team to help determine if your child has dyslexia, and determine type of remediation given. Research has shown that children with dyslexia need a multisensory reading and spelling program that uses a synthetic code emphasis approach. A few names of these types of programs are: Orton-Gillingham, Wilson, and Lindamood Bell, though you may find more by using a search engine such as Google.

Recommend this test to your school district as well as testing in the areas recommended above. You will well be on your way to helping your child learn to read and enriching the rest of their life. Good Luck!

What Are the Three Main Components of an Individualized Education Program?

An individualized education plan is commonly referred to as an IEP. This is a legal document for students with special needs. IEPs are often twenty to forty pages or even longer. There is a lot of important information included in an IEP. Knowing what to look for ahead of time will help you better determine the accuracy and potential effectiveness of the document. There are three main sections to an IEP; the assessments and student’s needs, the goals and objectives to meet those needs, and the service delivery and support services to meet the goals and objectives.

Formal and/or informal assessments are completed and the data is compiled for every IEP meeting. This data is used to help the team assess where your child is in comparison to other children his/her age and grade level. This information is used to create a list of educational needs for your child. Your child may have needs in only one area such as speech or in many areas depending on their educational profile and their disability.

After the needs have been determined by the team annual goals with specific, measurable objectives are created that outline what your child will be taught with the expected level of mastery by the ending date of the IEP. IEP goals are based on core content standards that apply to all children in public schools. IEP objectives should state specific skills within the goal that will be met, how progress will be measured and the level of progress that is expected and/or considered acceptable for your child.

The final section of the IEP lays out who will provide what services to your child and how often this will occur. This will include whether the service delivery will take place within the general education setting, a special education setting or a therapists office. This is also, where you will find information concerning a behavior plan or communication plan if either of those documents is necessary. This section includes all of the accommodations and modifications your child needs in order to gain educational benefit both in and out of the general education setting. Additionally there will be information about district, state and federal testing.

As you can see, the IEP is a complex legal document that is a binding agreement between you and the school district. IEPs are formatted based on state and federal laws. It is important for you to understand what should be included in an IEP so that your child receives the assistance he/she needs in order to gain as much educational benefit as possible.

Three Reasons to Shift to Online Tutoring

The Internet changed education. Although traditional teaching methods are still the most effective for schooling, the Internet has paved the way for us to learn through different means. The online world is rich with academic content, instructional videos, written tutorials, and webinars. But despite all these options, there is one format for learning that sits on top of the list as far as convenience and cost are concerned: online tutoring.

Nothing beats a one-on-one tutoring activity. The sessions between the instructor and the student are fruitful. They are focused. And both parties spend time focused on one thing: student development.

Today, many people still question whether online tutoring is worth the money. How does it differ from traditional, physical tutoring and is it effective? In this article, we will explore its benefits and let you decide.

You Have More Flexibility

Since the whole world is your marketplace, you can select online tutoring services that fit your most convenient time. Logistics should be the least of your concerns.

Whether you are a student or a parent, schedule should never be an issue anymore. A lot of tutors are available 24/7 and all you have to do is to find a suitable and convenient time for you or your children. This flexibility allows you to perform all of your duties in the office or at home with no detriment to your children’s education.

You Have More Tutor Options

You have a whole world of instructors at your fingertips. With traditional tutoring, you are limited to what your city can offer. If you live far enough, you also get lesser options. You are tied up with the quality of instructors available in your area, let alone choose high quality services in different academic domains. In addition, many tutors will not travel that far going to your home due to the costs of transportation. This leaves you with a smaller pool of tutors to choose from if home service is what you need.

Online, you can choose tutors who live on the other side of the world. You have feedback mechanisms to review and validate the effectiveness of the instructor. You can select tutors on the basis of their specialization. You can choose based on their language, too.

You Have Access to a Ton of Learning Materials

In the brick and mortar world, you are limited to the books available within your academic environment. Though it is true that you can browse online after your tutoring session, the materials you find are not designed for your specific needs. You will waste your time sifting through all these information before you find the right one for the subject you are studying for.

With online tutoring, your instructors have already prepared course work and instructional materials specific for you. These materials are tailor-fit for each subject at each grade level. This also means that these materials are proprietary and you can only access this if you are a registered member.

If you need a refresher course, just tell your instructor to give you one; if you need quiz materials to test out your new skills, tell your instructor and he can do the same. Some services even offer a library of materials online, accessible 24/7 for paying members.

All in all, online tutoring has a lot more to offer than traditional ones. And we did not mention that space is never an issue since you can conduct the sessions anywhere. All you need to have is your laptop or tablet and a strong Internet connection. Traditional tutoring does not have the versatility of online tutoring. In fact, most tutors are now shifting to online tutoring because of the mutual benefit it offers to both the instructor and the student.