1 WHAT IS A LEARNING DISABILITY? Learning disabilities (LD) is a generic term that refers to a group of disorders which are manifested by significant difficulties in at least one of the following areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or problem solving. People who have learning disabilities may also have some difficulty with sustained attention, time management, or social skills. Students with LD have average or above-average intelligence, but are hampered in their demonstration of their capabilities such that there is often a marked discrepancy between achievement and potential in individuals with LD. The effects of learning disabilities on students' academic life are different for different people, even if they have the same type of learning disability. Each individual's experience will be unique, and the severity of his or her learning disability will vary. As a result, students may not realize that they have a learning disability until they are placed in a situation where their coping strategies are no longer effective. Awareness of some of the characteristics of individuals with LD, therefore, serves two functions for instructors. First, your knowledge about learning disabilities may help you to better understand the needs of your students and make you more sensitive to areas in which they may have difficulty. For instance, although many students with LD are highly articulate, some have severe difficulty in speaking, responding, or reading in front of groups. Thus, it would be beneficial to students if you are aware of this issue and are able to assess their ability to participate in classroom activities. Your knowledge will make you more prepared to accommodate your students with LD and to discuss privately with them any academic difficulties that they may face.
2 Secondly, your knowledge of the attributes of individuals with LD will provide a basis for referral of undiagnosed students taking your classes who demonstrate these characteristics for testing. It is important to keep in mind, however, that while many students may experience difficulties in some of these following categories at one time or another, students with LD will often have difficult ies in several of these areas with varying degrees of severity. In fact, students who have a learning disability are characterized by a pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Thus, individuals may be strong in some areas and significantly weak in others. Reading--slow reader, have to re-read several times, experience headaches or falling asleep when reading Writing--difficulty organizing thoughts, procrastination Spelling--very poor speller Listening--difficulty following what someone is saying, difficulty translating speech into written language Coordination/Orientation--problems with left/right, hyperactivity Memory--forget names, day of the week, etc., lose things often Concentration--easily distracted, tire easily when studying Tests--often does not finish in the allotted time, often misinterprets questions or directions on tests Mathematics-- reversing numbers, difficulty understanding word problems Foreign Languages--difficulty with vocabulary and oral performance Psychological Barriers--feeling lazy, stupid, ashamed Speech--difficulty getting a point across, stuttering Despite their difficulties, students with learning disabilities can and do succeed in the classroom. They can and do meet the same course requirements and performance standards as all other students when allowed to use learning strategies that compensate for their specific deficits. Students with learning disabilities should be expected to perform at a level commensurate with their peers; instructors should not expect less from them. For students with learning disabilities, comprehension and retention of class material are more likely when there is clarity, repetition, variety, and flexibility in teaching style. Thus, in order for students with LD to have the same opportunities to learn as their peers, several teaching strategies should be taken into consideration. The following guidelines may, therefore, be helpful to faculty in working with students with various types of learning disabilities in the classroom and in the laboratory.
3 For Auditory Learning Disabilities Some students may experience difficulty integrating information presented orally, possibly resulting in an inability to easily follow the logic and organization of a lecture. During class, provide periodic summaries of the important points. At the end of the lecture, briefly recap the key points to stress their importance one more time. Write new terms and important information on the chalkboard or on an overhead transparency, and use them in context to further convey meaning. When dealing with abstract concepts, paraphrase them in specific terms--illustrate them with concrete examples, personal anecdotes, hands-on models, or visual tools, such as charts and graphs. Instructors should speak distinctly and at a relaxed pace, pausing occasionally to allow students to ask questions or to catch up in their note-taking. Try to recognize and respond to non-verbal signals of confusion or frustration. Gauge students' understanding by periodically asking them to volunteer an example, a summary, or a response to a question. Keep in mind that students with LD sometimes have difficulty with oral expression. Thus, be sure to only call on volunteers to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. For Visual Learning Disabilities Students with LD often read at a slow and deliberate pace, and their comprehension may be impaired. This is particularly true when dealing with large quantities of material. For these students, comprehension and speed are expedited dramatically with the addition of auditory input. Make lists of required readings well before the first day of class to allow students to begin their reading early or to arrange to obtain texts on tape. Arrange for handouts to be tape-recorded before they are given out in class. Read aloud material that is written on the chalkboard or overhead transparencies. Provide students with chapter outlines or study guides that cue them to key points in their readings. For Problems with Memory Processing Memory or sequencing difficulties may impede students' execution of complicated directions. Keep oral instructions concise. Repeat or re-word complicated directions. To avoid confusion, give assignments both orally and in written form.
4 Help all students reach their full academic potential, Delta College offers equal educational opportunities and reasonable accommodations for the needs of qualified students with disabilities in accordance with the law. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, recently reinforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, maintains that no qualified individual with disabilities shall, solely on the basis of their disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity in higher education. This is a good statement to include in your course syllabus. In keeping with its commitment to students with disabilities, Delta College provides support services necessary to enable them to develop their maximum academic potential. Services for these students are provided by various offices of the College and coordinated by Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS) located in Cunningham 120. (Soon to be located in the Gateway Building, FALL 20009) Delta College neither imposes accommodations on students nor pre-empts their responsibility to disclose and define one's disability and one's need for accommodation. Self-identifying a disability, and asking for accommodation, are personal decisions. It it is up to the student to take the initiative and remain actively involved in the accommodation process. In addition to the existing support services provided by the college, faculty and staff also play an integral role in the success of students with disabilities. Student Responsibilities The decision to self-identify a disability and ask for accommodations is a personal one for students. If accommodations are requested at Delta, students must first complete the registration process with Disability Support Programs and Services. This process involves providing documentation and updated learning Disability Assessment the Coordinator of Learning Disabilities then will meet with her or him to discuss appropriate accommodations. Accommodations are not provided until a careful review of all the provided documentation is made. The college, however, is not required to provide accommodations to students who have not provided appropriate documentation as outlined by DSPS PROCEDURES AND POLICIES.. Although ours services assist students with disabilities in many tasks, it is up to individuals to take the initiative and remain actively involved in the accommodation process. Students are responsible for requesting accommodations from DSPS in person at least two weeks before they are needed. In addition, the adequacy of any accommodations should be confirmed as soon as possible and problems should be brought to the attention of the DSPS COUNSELOR. Students are also responsible for meeting with their instructors at the beginning of each semester to discuss all accommodations.
5 General Procedures Support from faculty is integral to students' academic success. Instructors are key players in ensuring that students with disabilities receive the necessary accommodations in order to reach their potential. It is important to remember that accommodations are not advantages, but rather, they are a means of providing each student with full access to Delta Colleges educational programs. After all, fair evaluations of students should reflect their course achievement and not their disabilities. An essential point to keep in mind when teaching students with disabilities is that you should treat them as you would all your students. The similarities among students far outweigh any of their differences. After all, students with disabilities came to college with the same range of backgrounds, experiences, intelligence, and skills as other students and harbor the same high aspirations. The only difference is that these students require accommodations in order to achieve their true potential, which is often masked by their disability. The following are some guidelines for accommodating students with disabilities who may be taking your class. These are general suggestions and accommodations that are provided should be appropriate for each student's situation. General Accommodations Standards for academic credit should not be modified for students with disabilities. All students must meet the required level of understanding and performance competencies for a given course. There may need to be modifications in the evaluation or testing method, but the content should not be changed. It is unnecessary to rewrite an entire course to accommodate students with disabilities; simply modify the presentation of materials to make it accessible to them. If a specific task is impossible for these students to carry out, consider an alternative assignment unless the task is deemed an essential element of the course Treat students with disabilities as individuals. Be careful of making assumptions based on stereotypes. If one student with a particular type of disability has difficulty with a specific task, do not assume that the next student with the same type of disability will experience similar problems. When ordering textbooks or videos for a class: check with the publisher and get books that available in accessible formats, i.e. computer disk, large print, Braille
6 ask the publisher for an extra desk copy of a text to be made available for services for the hard of hearing/deaf ask the publisher to donate a copy of the text to Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic buy versions of videos with closed captioning Early in the Semester: Announce on the first day of class the desire to speak individually with students with disabilities as soon as possible. Ask these students how their disability affects them and how their learning may be facilitated by you. *Please see syllabus statement to consider including in your course syllabus. Provide students with a course syllabus in advance, if possible, or at the very beginning of the semester. Placing the syllabus on-line, or handing it out in an enlarged format, will enhance its accessibility. Detail all course requirements, including the material to be covered, grading methods, and due dates. Announce on the first day of class your policies regarding attendance and make-up work. Reinforce this information by clearly stating it in the syllabus. These measures will allow students with disabilities who may anticipate being absent from class to make informed decisions about which courses to take. A syllabus statement, addressing students with disabilities, will let them know that while you are approachable and willing to work with them, it is their responsibility to communicate their needs to you in advance. The syllabus statement might read, Delta College " is committed to full inclusion of all students. Students who, by nature of a documented disability, require academic accommodations should contact the professor during office hours. Students may also speak with Disability Support Programs and Services at or the Learning Disability office at to discuss the process for requesting testing and accommodations." Announce reading assignments well in advance since it can take several weeks to get a book tape-recorded. Also consider using a textbook that has a companion study guide which students have the option of using.
7 Common Classroom Accommodations Change of classroom to an accessible location. Preferential seating in the classroom. Use of various modes and formats to present classroom material, including the chalkboard, overhead projectors, videos, or demonstrations. Provide visual and hands-on learning opportunities when possible. Faculty member facing the class when speaking and/or wearing an assisted listening device. Use of interpreters. Permission to tape record lectures. Use of volunteer note-takers. Provision of copies of overhead transparencies and lecture notes. largamente of exam questions, notes, class handouts, and required readings. Tape-recording required readings. Alternative access to material covered in an inaccessible field trip or required community event. Extended time for written assignments. Laboratory accommodations providing individual orientations to laboratory and equipment clearly labeling all tools and materials use of specialized adaptive equipment pairing the student with a non-disabled student, the instructor, or a TA
8 Exam accommodations extended time blank page for brain dumping. a separate room that is quiet and free of distractions breaks when necessary Rare Accommodations These accommodations are uncommon and are only provided in extraordinary situations to students with severe and well-documented disabilities. Use of a scribe for in-class written exercises. Tape recording of test and exam questions by faculty member or student assistant. Tape recording of answers to tests and exams by the student. Use of computers in class or access to computers for tests, exams, and other required written work. Alternative test designs, e.g. oral exams, taped exams, take-home exams, proctored exams separate from the rest of the class, and individual demonstrations or presentations. Alternative or supplementary assignments to evaluate a student's mastery of the course material. Examples include taped interviews, slide presentations, photographic essays, or hand-made models, which may lead to more accurate evaluations. The general guidelines listed above may apply to any student with a disability, and more suggestions can be found in the sections dealing with specific disabilities. In the effort to provide accommodations, faculty are also encouraged to communicate regularly with students about their individual requirements. Students may know from past experience which types of accommodations work for them and which do not.
9 Some additional suggestions restated: Course Work Organization Reviews and Previews: It is extremely helpful if the instructor briefly reviews the major points of the previous lecture or class and highlights main points to be covered that day. Try to present reviews and previews both visually and orally Study Aids: Use study aids such as study questions for exams or pretests with immediate feedback before the final exam. Classroom Communications Multi-sensory Teaching: Students with learning disabilities learn more readily if material is presented in as many modalities as possible (seeing, speaking, touching). Visualization: Help the student visualize the material. Visual aids can include overhead projectors, films, carousel slide projectors, chalkboards, flip charts, computer graphics, and illustrations of written text. Color: Use color. For instance, in teaching respiration technology, everything related to the body's
10 respiratory system might be highlighted in green and the digestive system in orange. In complex mathematical sequences, use color to follow transformations and to highlight relationships. Hands on Learning: Provide opportunities for touching and handling materials that relate to ideas. Cutting and pasting parts of compositions to achieve logical plotting of thoughts is one possibility. Announcements: Whenever possible, announcements should be in oral and written form. This is especially true of changes in assignments or exams. Distinct Speech: An instructor, who speaks at an even speed, emphasizing important points with pauses, gestures, and other body language, helps students follow classroom presentations. Try not to lecture while facing the chalkboard. Eye Contact: This is important in maintaining attention and encouraging participation.
11 Demonstration and Role Play: These activities can make ideas come alive and are particularly helpful to the student who has to move around in order to learn. Learning Styles Other Tips Emphasize new or technical vocabulary. Allow time for students to work in small groups to practice, to solve problems, and to review work. Break down teaching into small units. Short daily reading assignments will help the student with learning disabilities learn how to budget and organize study time. Build up to longer units. Teach students memory tricks and acronyms as study aids. Use examples from current course work, and encourage students to create their own tricks. Encourage students with learning disabilities to sit in front of the classroom. Give feedback. Errors need to be corrected as quickly as possible. Assist the student in teaming up with a classmate to obtain copies of notes. Remember to read aloud material on the board or on transparencies. Remind students often of your availability during office hours for individual clarification of lectures, reading, and assignments. Periodically offer tips and encourage class discussion of ways for improving studying - organizational ideas, outlining techniques, summarizing strategies, etc. Permit use of a calculator when mathematical disability is severe. In exam questions, avoid unnecessarily intricate sentence structure, double negative and questions embedded within questions. Permit the use of a dictionary for essay exams. Give less weight to spelling when that disability is severe. Provide additional scratch paper to help students with overly large or poor handwriting. Encourage students to use a word processor with a "spelling check" capability.
12 Encourage students to dictate best ideas into a tape recorder before writing a report. Use yellow chalk (as opposed to white or other colored chalks) on chalkboards, to help students with visual impairments.