Learning Disabilities and Their Identification

Cory’s parents had divorced, and the boy lived with his mother in an inner city area. His mother did not allow the father to visit his son and prevented him from any visits. Nevertheless, when Cory was in the first grade, his father picked him up after school. Cory was found by maternal grandparents eighteen months later; they claimed that the boy was taken abroad and abused (Bennett, Dworet, & Weber, 2013). The boy has spent six months with foster parents, but then his mother was awarded custody. However, later she remarried and moved to South America. Cory’s father tried to apply for permanent custody but did not succeed. The maternal grandparents applied for it too.

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Cory’s skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and articulation are inconsistent. He also has a mild hearing loss. While Cory’s former teacher is certain the boy has a learning disability and needs help, the School Team has a different opinion and suggests that the boy needs love and stability to restore his skills.

Does Cory Have a Learning Disability?

According to ‘Policy/program memorandum no. 8’ (2014), learning disability is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts the student’s ability to perceive and process verbal and non-verbal information, academic performance, development of skills, cognitive processes, and social interaction (p. 2). However, this deterioration of skills should not be the result of “lack of proficiency in the language of instruction” or “gaps in school attendance” (Policy/program memorandum no. 8, 2014, p. 2). Children can also show signs of a learning disability before they enter the school, although often this disability only becomes apparent when the child begins to study. In Cory’s case, his academic performance, as well as other skills (writing, articulation, reading), may have suffered from emotional disturbance caused by divorce and kidnapping. Moreover, Cory has a mild hearing loss that can also affect his ability to speak and understand other people. Cory’s way of speaking is also linked to the mixing of languages (English and Spanish) in his childhood (Bennett et al., 2013).

Learning disabilities can range in severity, but early screenings can help children and their parents understand whether the child has a learning disability or not. To identify a learning disability, various assessments need to be made, e.g. observations from previous/current teachers, information from parents, medical and educational history, psychological assessments (Policy/program memorandum no. 8, 2014). These assessments will be later taken into consideration when the student’s Individual Education Plan (the IEP) will be developed. According to the case study, Cory did not attend any screenings or assessments before he was brought back by his grandparents; it is impossible to determine whether he has shown any signs of a learning disability before or not.

Nevertheless, his former teacher argues that Cory needs help, and it will allow him to improve his academic performance (Bennett et al., 2013). Although it was not stated that Cory’s difficulties might be connected to his slight hearing loss, this condition also needs to be considered as it can complicate the identification of the learning disabilities (Policy/program memorandum no. 8, 2014). According to Cory’s mentors and teachers, at least part of his difficulties in learning is a result of his timidity. It was also mentioned that the school Cory is going to is his eleventh school. Thus, frequent change of schools can also cause stress and anxiety during the study. Most of Cory’s problems seem to be linked to emotional disturbance and the missed year of schooling.

Should Cory Be Identified With a Learning Disability?

To get the help during his study, Cory does not have to be identified with any learning disabilities. As stated in the ‘Policy/program memorandum no. 8’ (2013), planning and implementation of a special education program is not determined by the presence of a learning disability, but rather the child’s need for a special education program that will allow taking into consideration the student’s needs and strengths. Special education programs do not specifically target gifted students or students with learning disabilities only; instead, they can be helpful to other students too.

The main advantage of the IEP is that it pays close attention to student’s learning profile. The information included in the IEP can address health information of the student, specific expectations for the student, required accommodations, various strategies, results and recommendations for the student, as well as a transition plan (Ministry of Education, 2001). It is also necessary to understand that the school team members will take part in the implementation of the program too – so the principal, as well as other professionals, should accept the fact that Cory might need a special education program. The principal, the classroom teacher, the special education teacher, the educational assistant, and support services personnel need to perform certain activities for successful implementation of the program (Ministry of Education, 2001).

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Another part of the IEP is a transition plan. It is an obligatory part of the IEP of any student. Its main goals are to establish a collaborative process between the educational staff and the student, promote student’s independence, and acknowledge child’s right to be educated (Transition planning for the individual education plan, 2014). The transition plan will identify goals and define teachers’ actions, as well as describe the responsibilities of the student, family, and school staff (Transition planning for the individual education plan, 2014). At last, transition plan also identifies the timeline, i.e. the periods of time during which the program is to be implemented. Transition plan can cover various aspects of the study, e.g. entry to school, a transition from class to class, non-instructional times, etc. (Transition planning for the individual education plan, 2014). The transition planning should be very detailed and cover every specific aspect of the studying process. The plan will help Cory become more independent in his actions; it will also help the teachers make observations about Cory’s ability to overcome transition in a new school/class/grade, etc.

As Cory is going to transit from one school to another, it is advisable to arrange school and class visits so that Cory is able to be acquainted with the new settings. Representatives of outside agencies, as well as the child’s mentors and the school staff, are also to be contacted to discuss issues linked to transition (Transition team planning options, n.d.). In Cory’s case, it is a macro transition that is going to happen, i.e. a transition that will significantly change the student’s routine (Transition team planning options, n.d.). The school can relieve Cory’s stress by preparing a welcoming package for new students. If Cory is not the only new student in the class, it will help him feel welcomed and connect with other new students, as well as teachers and classmates (Planning entry to school: A resource guide, 2005). Thus, although Cory apparently does not have a learning disability, the IEP will address all his needs and goals during the study.

References

Bennett, S., Weber, K. J., & Dworet, D. (2013). Special education in Ontario schools. Ontario, Canada: Highland Press.

Ministry of Education. (2011). Special education: A guide for educators. Web.

Planning entry to school: A resource guide. (2005). Web.

Policy/program memorandum no. 8. (2014). Web.

Transition planning for the individual education plan. (2014). Web.

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Transition team planning options. (n.d.). Web.

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