DISABILITY ACCESS: Empowering Tribal Members with Disabilities & Their Families
Provided by Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.
DEFINING THE PROBLEMTen years after having been diagnosed with a learning disability, one college student had this to say.
"Maybe it sounds weird, but it was such a relief. I still remember it. I was in the fourth grade. My teachers kept saying I was lazy. I would read the same page over and over and it would take me like two hours. My parents came to school so many times, they were so embarrassed. The teachers always said I wasn't trying. It was a big relief. I had a name for it and my parents at least believed me that I was trying. The learning disabilities teacher taught me a lot of strategies for studying. Still, even now that I'm in college I feel sometimes like I am dumb, like I'm not as smart as other people, and I am sure those years when I couldn't read and just didn't understand why have a lot to do with how I feel."
Students with learning disabilities often experience years of being told they are just not trying hard enough - when they know they are trying. They are, by definition, of average intelligence, which means they are plenty smart enough to see that other students are learning to read when they cannot, other students can write papers that the teachers accept, while they cannot. They start to feel dumb, even though they are not. After a while, they may quit trying or start behaving poorly in school because they have seen that they are going to fail whether they try hard or not.
The first step is to have an assessment - tests and other information collected on the student by qualified professionals. Most children with learning disabilities are referred for assessment by teachers. A parent can request testing for special education if he or she is worried about the child's progress. If a student is identified as having a learning disability, the next step is an individual education plan.
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