The problem of teaching students with learning disabilities (LD students) is actively discussed in US society. The reason is that theory and practice of working with these students constantly change to provide educators with the most effective methods to teach individuals with special learning needs. Therefore, while focusing on the question of learning disabilities, it is necessary to refer to the concept of exclusion. Although the idea of exclusion is traditionally used to determine a student’s disorder that is not related to physical or mental impairments, it should also be discussed from the perspective of a social phenomenon because LD students can be excluded or ignored by teachers, peers, and even parents.
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Exclusion is directly associated with the problem of educating LD students. According to Swanson, Harris, and Graham (2013), the method of exclusion is used when professionals try to determine what actual disorder is observed concerning a concrete student. Thus, they exclude features and qualities that can be typical of physical and mental disorders to conclude that a student has some learning disabilities. Hallahan, Lloyd, Kauffman, Weiss, and Martinez (2005) also referred to this concept while explaining how this disorder was defined in the 1960s. As a result, two specific questions have been developed: whether LD students have real problems if they are excluded from all other categories and whether they require assistance.
In her article, Sleeter (2010) also focused on the problem of excluding LD students, but she discussed it not only from the perspective of developing the term but also from the point of social exclusion. Thus, the problem is in the fact that those students who are diagnosed as having learning disabilities or psychological problems often belong to different social classes and racial groups (Sleeter, 2010). Losen and Orfield (2002) have also paid attention to the fact that racial and social inequality and possible exclusion in a class can lead to negative outcomes for LD students. From this point, the exclusion is typical of LD students at all stages: their disorder is determined with the help of exclusion, and they are excluded in classes because of some social and racial factors. Furthermore, exclusion can be viewed as a personal factor that influences LD students’ interaction with people. In their book, Rodis, Garrod, and Boscardin (2001) provide a range of stories about social pressure and the absence of any assistance because of misunderstanding LD students’ problems. Moreover, LD students often become victims of exclusion in a class when teachers have no knowledge and experience to address their needs (ACT-RGV, 2016).
While studying the materials, I have found out that LD students can face different dimensions of exclusion. The real problem is in the fact that students can have the most painful experience when attending lessons of teachers who do not know how to work with individuals whose learning pace and skills differ from other children (Rodis et al., 2001). The pressure that can be experienced by these students at lessons is significant (ACT-RGV, 2016). It is also the first step to experiencing stress while communicating with peers who know about problems at lessons and other adults. I have observed lessons where even gifted students could not read or react quickly because the educator wanted to impress the committee by the pace and used activities. Thus, it is important to make sure that LD students are not excluded at lessons because of their special needs.
The term ‘exclusion’ can be found in almost all sources written on the problem of learning disabilities. Furthermore, this word is used in different contexts to accentuate possible racial, social, and class exclusion of LD students. The task of a teacher in this situation is to guarantee that LD students receive enough attention, and their needs are not ignored because of problems with defining a disorder and determining what people can be diagnosed as having a learning disability.
ACT-RGV. (2016, October 22). How difficult can this be? The F.A.T. city workshop. Web.
Hallahan, D. P., Lloyd, J. W., Kauffman, J. M., Weiss, M. P., & Martinez, E. A. (2005). Learning disabilities: Foundations, characteristics, and effective teaching (3th ed.). Boston, MA: Person Education.
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Losen, D. J., & Orfield, G. (Eds.). (2002). Racial inequity in special education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Publishing.
Rodis, P., Garrod, A., & Boscardin, M. L. (Eds.). (2001). Learning disabilities and life stories. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Sleeter, C. (2010). Why is there learning disabilities? A critical analysis of the birth of the field in its social context. Disability Studies Quarterly, 30(2), 1-26.
Swanson, H. L., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of learning disabilities (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.