Answered by Diane Wagner, BA, Grad. Dip. Child Study, LD@school LD Expert
The short answer is that your students with LDs can learn, if they are taught in ways that fit with their profile of strengths and areas of weakness, or ‘needs’. It is as important to know your students’ strengths as it is to know where they are struggling.
Academic strengths and needs can be gleaned from several sources. You will already be gathering information from your process of continuous classroom assessment. You can check the Strengths and Needs of your student’s IEP. These should be based on the results of psychoeducational assessment. There will be information on cognitive strengths in the psychoeducational assessment report, and you can build on those strengths.
The assessment report will contain information on academic functioning that is based on individual academic testing, and may be different from the test results you see in the classroom setting. It is important to understand how your student functions in different settings and you may get a more detailed look at where specifically in an academic domain your student is struggling.
Underlying the academic difficulties are weaknesses in processing information. This information will be in your student’s assessment report and may be called psychological processes or cognitive processes. Terms you may see include phonological processing, language comprehension, visual-spatial processing, working memory or executive functioning. A good resource to use when reading about your student’s processing is Understanding Learning Disabilities: How Processing Affects Learning, developed by the York Region District School board which outlines processes and strategies to use with students who have difficulties in each area. Please click here to access the Understanding Learning Disabilities: How Processing Affects Learning on the LD@school website.
Finally, it is important to know how your student’s self-esteem and confidence are affected by their difficulties. Some students can appear to be unmotivated when they are discouraged or when their hard work is not producing expected results. Finding ways to encourage and motivate them is a key ingredient to their success.
Diane Wagner is the Public Policy and Education Consultant with the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario and acts as the Learning Disabilities Consultant to the LD@school Team. Diane has been with LDAO since 1987, providing information and support to parents, individuals with LDs, professionals, educators, employers and students around the province. Diane prepares public policy responses on numerous issues which affect children, youth and adults with LDs, consults to LDAO chapters and supports LDA representatives on school board Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs). Diane is a graduate of Queen’s University and the Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, where she received a graduate diploma in Assessment and Counselling.