Understanding as well as appreciating the key features of learning disabilities, communication disorders as well as giftedness is paramount to the establishment of a conducive learning environment for those children having any of these conditions so as to maximize their achievement.
In this text, I look at the definition, characteristics, as well as causes of learning disabilities, communication disorders and giftedness. I also include the definition of dual diagnosis, the prevalence among learning disabilities, communication disorders and giftedness. Lastly, I discuss the curriculum necessary for the students with these conditions.
There is no generally accepted definition of learning liability or what is commonly referred to as LD. However, the most widely used definition of LD is fronted by the Individuals with Disability in Education Act (IDEA). It defines LD as a disorder which causes difficulties or inability in listening, writing, spelling, thinking, reading and difficulties in solving simple math problems. While this disorder manifests itself as described above, it mainly affects the psychological processes concerned with understanding or using the spoken or written language (Mercier 2005).
LD can also be defined as a wide range or group of disorders which bring about an imperfect ability to listen, solve mathematical problems, write, reason properly speak as well as read. The disorders included in IDEA are perpetual disabilities, injuries with regard to the brain, suboptimal functioning of the brain, developmental aphasia as well as dyslexia. These disorders typically appear throughout an individual’s lifespan and are triggered by a dysfunction of the central nervous system.
Other problems that manifest themselves alongside LD but are usually not considered as learning disabilities include social perception and interaction as well as problems with regard to self regulatory behaviors.
LD characteristics are in most cases marked in line with the deficit in specific affected area. An individual having a learning disability however has particular and unique sex of problems that align themselves to common problems or difficulties such as disability with regard to memory and language, a defect in the processing of language brought out by poor auditory perception etc (Mercier 2005).
Markovna et al. (2004) define communication disorders as a difficulty in or inability to receive, send, comprehend as well as process particular verbal and non verbal aspects including symbol systems of a graphic nature. It is noted that children with communication difficulties end up having a more hectic time in their respective schools. These students are exposed to the risk of lacking adequate social development, educational materials, as well as ability to process information. Markovna et al. (2004) note that communication skills are a vital component of the social and academic atmosphere within the school setting.
Characteristics associated with speech disorders include three impairment disorders. This are voice, fluency as well as articulation disorders. It is also important to note that the way a child receptively or expressively does language processing will in a big way have an impact in his or her language as well as speech development. Such things as cerebral palsy and brain damage have also been cited to cause quite a number of language and speech disorders. However it is good to note that other language and speech disorders have no attributable cause and are in most cases regarded as functional disorders (Markovna et al. 2004)
Giftedness is the ability of some children to perform very well or attain superior achievement in specific areas including academics, leadership, creative or artistic fields and whose ability to fully develop their capabilities in these fields needs additional activities and services not generally offered by the school (Winebrenner 2009). According to Winebrenner (2009), gifted children are able to learn and retain information in large quantities in a wide range of domain and usually have the unique ability to use reasoning in making complex decisions. Giftedness is also characterized by the rare ability of a child to comprehend and come up with creative solutions to complex problems usually by reframing the question.
According toWinebrenner (2009), giftedness is brought about by the manifestation of a much more flexible and complex conceptual understanding in the child much more than the expected average. He goes on and gives an example of giftedness in the ability of a child to come up with a seemingly believable story, a story so well crafted and refined that it would be hard for an independent assessor to link it to the writer.
A gifted child will therefore have the ability to come up with an elaborated plot using well developed structures and inclusion of emotion, empathy and motivational ability to bring out the various characters. Winebrenner (2009) caps it all by saying that a six year old would tell a story that is more in tandem with that of a 10 year old.
Stohler et al. (2005) define dual diagnosis as a situation whereby more than one condition manifests itself at the very same time. For example a child with learning disability may have behavioral problems usually caused by the emotional health of a student after constantly struggling in class or other issues like Attention Deficit Disorder or what is commonly referred as ADD.
The Curriculum Necessary for Students with Learning Disabilities, Communication Disorders and Giftedness
To guarantee the success of those students with learning disabilities, communication disorders as well as giftedness, (Mercier 2005) notes that the curriculum should be modified appropriately.
With regard to learning disabilities, he notes that modifications should be made in specific areas like in mathematics, reading as well as written language. This is because almost all learning disabilities are characterized by problems with regard to reading. He notes that of specific focus to instructors should be comprehension as well as fluency. As for those students having language deficits, it has been noted that frequent repetitions seem to work (Mercier 2005).
With regard to communication disorders, the instructor should ensure that he or she speaks to the affected child as he or she would to the other children. The rest of the classroom should be made to understand, appreciate and accept the student experiencing communication problems as this will create a conducive social and academic environment in which the student can make progress. It is also important to note that for those students with communication disorders who may need a different mode of communication, an interpreter should be availed. An environment of understanding should also be fostered whereby the teacher can allow the student more time to complete their activities (Markovna et al. 2004)
With regard to giftedness, Winebrenner (2009) gives several strategies that have been developed to ensure that their unique capabilities are utilized to the maximum. These strategies fall under lesson modification, assignment modification as well as scheduling modifications. With regard to lesson modification, teachers should lean more towards generating open ended questions so as to stimulate thinking skills of a higher order. Assignment modifications include implementing what is called curriculum compacting. Basically, this is giving gifted students time to peruse alternative assignments that enhance his or her strengths by allowing them to skip standardized tests. Scheduling includes including gifted students in a cooperative homogeneous study groups especially when solving analytical problems.
It is important to note that instructors and special educators should arm themselves with practical information as well as knowledge with regard to the plight of students with giftedness, communication disorders as well as learning disabilities. This will help them to understand and appreciate the vital features of these conditions so that they can modify their approach to teaching these students so that their achievement can be maximized.
Mercier, C.D. (2005). Students with learning disabilities, 6th Edition. Merrill/Prentice Hall
Markovna, Z., & Tupper, D. (2004). Communication disorders and personality. Springer
Stohler, R., & Rossler, W. (2005). Dual diagnosis: the evolving conceptual framework. Karger Publishers
Winebrenner, S. (2009). Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Meet the Academic Needs of the Gifted and Talented. Free Spirit Publishing