Posted by Antonia Canaris on October 19, 2010
Many students struggle to learn and express themselves at school. Schools are often too busy to find out why some bright students underachieve. Specialised assessment and remediation services are hard to find. Parents try to find answers but are often overwhelmed by the different approaches that can be found on the internet. Even children with definite diagnoses get very little help at school because funding is not adequate.
Students may find it hard to concentrate or follow the teacher. High schools are particularly challenging for many students. Each student has many teachers who often are sitting in separate "departments" and find it hard to share information about students. As a special education teacher I realise that mainstream teachers do not have the time to read long psychology reports and the like. They also are not taught how to interpret them. Thus terms such as "moderate to severe delay in expressive language" would not lead to an increased sympathy for a high school student's abrupt way of replying. Students can also not write more complex sentences than they can say or understand aurally.
It is not widely understood that dyslexia is the most common disability amongst school age students. This disability is totally unfunded at school. Children with dyslexia can only catch up and achieve their potential if they receive intensive tailored tuition for a sufficiently long period. Quick fixes are not enough. These students will require further intensive boosts at later periods of their education since their learning style needs a different approach from that used in the usual classroom.
Computer technology has opened the door to learning for many students with disabilities. Hearing impaired, vision impaired, dyspraxic and dyslexic students could learn better and access the curriculum if these demonstrated technologies were in use. Unfortunately access is very patchy and inequitable. We are behind the practice in many overseas countries and such aides are considered as luxuries or charity provisions when they should be given and taught to students to integrate in their daily schooling.
All materials should be available for e-learning so that text to speech technology can be employed. This should be mandatory and include teacher notes and homework so that students are not penalised for non-completion of homework when they are unable to write it down for any reason. Such technology is available now and could be implemented without much difficulty.
Students with learning difficulties need not be isolated and should be able to be confident learners. Our society can not afford to let so many students slip down the educational slide. Their suffering is more than bad marks or poor employment prospects, it is an aching heart that feels inadequate. It is being told you are stupid and lazy when those who can read and write well grab all the school prizes and cheers from school and family. It is being taunted at school and "forgetting your glasses" at the bank.
I tell so many children and adults that they are bright but they shake their heads. They have known only failure for "the best years of their lives". For so many students school is a compulsory place of torture, the teachers torment them with impossible demands in class and they can not escape in the play ground where they are rejected by the smart set and bullied or become bullies in defence.
We cannot let this situation continue. Generations of wounded young people have become wounded adults. It is time for this to stop. We have the means, we can afford to help and we cannot afford to deny help.
Category: Special Education