LEARNING DISABILITIES

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ABSTRACT

This report has been carried out to learn about the various disabilities of the people in Masqat. The purpose of this phenomenological study is to know how the resource room can support learning disabilities students, especially who has writing and reading difficulties, to achieve those academic skills into the general education setting in First Cycle in Education in Muscat. The study has a qualitative approach towards the methodology. Through the qualitative method, it will be easier to understand the perspectives of such individuals. The process of research involved many questionnaires, surveys, etc which would record the opinions of the individuals. The purpose of the study emphasized on the ways in which the resource room can tackle the people with learning abilities and helps them achieve academic excellence. The interview that was conducted was carried out in batches and took several hours. After the records were collected, it was found that with the help of IEP, teaching evaluation, feedbacks, tools and teaching aids, educational strategies helped in improving their disabilities. It helped them learn better and remember accurately at the same time. The use of focus groups in the article was worthwhile as it contributed in addressing sensitive issues relating to social class, race, and age. Thus, the survey too showed the same progress and improvement in teaching facilities to help the individuals with learning disabilities successfully achieve excellent academic skills.

Table of Contents

ABSTRACT. 1

Chapter. 1       INTRODUCTION.. 4

Introduction and Background. 4

Problem Statement. 5

Purpose of the Study. 7

Objectives. 7

Chapter. 2       LITERATURE REVIEW: 8

Defining Learning Disabilities. 8

Educational Environment for individuals with learning disabilities. 8

Effects of Learning Disabilities on Individuals and Families. 9

Factors affecting students with learning disabilities. 10

Interventions for students with learning disabilities. 12

Resource Room.. 12

Visual Strategies. 12

Task Organizers. 15

Instructional Support. 16

Computer Class. 16

Art Class. 17

Music Class. 18

Chapter. 3       RESEARCH METHOD: 20

3.1       Purpose / objective: 21

3.2       Research design: 21

3.3       Procedure: 22

3.4      Survey: 24

Chapter. 4       Results and discussion. 28

Chapter. 5       Conclusion: 36

References: 37

Chapter. 1       INTRODUCTION

Introduction and Background

Learning disabilities refers to difficulty in learning or gaining a particular knowledge in a particular way due to some unknown factors. In other words, it is the difficulty in learning in an academic area. This concept always spoken with reference to learning disorders which is a clinical diagnosis. Learning disabilities involve a collection of disorders identifiable by the lack of academic skills. Typical examples include dyslexia (reading disability), dyscalculia (mathematical disability) and dysgraphia (writing disability). Such disabilities are usually caused by an unknown factor affecting the ability of brain in receiving and processing useful signals.

As a result, a person ends up with a disorder where he or she cannot comprehend whatever is being learnt. People with such disabilities cannot perform particular tasks or skills if made to learn things on their own. Learning disabilities are non curable but learning skills can be improved with conventional methods? The cognitive or academic skills can be improved in such individuals with the help of technological assistance. Such individuals face a lot of problem in their life but new strategies should be implemented to help them gain a successful career in the future. Technologies should be such that they act as tools and aids for enhance their learning.

In other words, learning disabilities are neurological problems affecting the information system of the person. These are diagnosed as outcomes of comprehending psychological assessments.

It occurs in the following form-

  1. Receive information in to the brain. (input) ii. Make sense of the information (organization) iii.      Store as well as retrieve information (memory) iv.      Get information back out (output)

The impairments involved are more or less related to the psychological processes such as –

  1. Language processing – to understand and express information with the use of words.
  2. Visual spatial processing – perceive and organize information visually. iii. Visual motor processing – carry hand eye activities. iv.      Phonological processing – identify and manipulate speech sounds.
  3. Processing speed – speed of information retrieving, receiving and sending. vi. Work memory – hold information in mind during retrieval of information. vii.      Executive functions – plan and organize information

Problem Statement

The learning disabilities are common in Pakistan and about five percent to ten percent are affected from it. However, each disability of learning is different from one to another. It is caused mainly because of the genetic or congenital defects during birth. Such acquiring of disabilities is also caused because of the various neuro biological factors. Thus, it is mainly a hereditary effect that is passed on from one generation to another. However, they do not occur as a result of differences in culture or languages between individuals.

But, the affects of learning disabilities increases due to inadequate instruction as well as lack of motivation. Learning disabilities usually coincide with conditions like attention behavior and also, emotional attacks. Also, the impact of such disabilities increases if a person is suffering from depression or other medical conditions. Non verbal learning disability (NLD) was discovered during the years of 1980s by a Neuroscientist named Dr. Byron Rourke of Ontario. NLD was first found in small children and the first NLD found in them was known as the social perception disability. People suffering from social perception disorder are intelligent and quick witted but still suffer from impairments in non verbal aspects of day to day life.

This may involve the understanding of perceptions of others, their feelings and social cues. Such individuals space out or tend to detach themselves from because they are overloaded with situations where they try hard to cope with such situations demanding full involvement. The language skills may not be developed as compared to the others in the surrounding and hence, may cause an emotional set back in them. Such disabilities in individuals may also end up having communication skills and may seek personal space often. On the other hand, it may be difficult for the other person to even comprehend what is being said to them by the person suffering from a learning disability. The listener may even ignore what is being said to them.

Learning disabilities can be cured or at least improved to reduce its impact on the individual suffering from it. They should be involved in activities or educational programs which can help them in learning and managing challenges relating to society and academics. There are many ways to tackle with the issues of learning disabilities which may include the following:

  1. Understand and identify the learning disabilities a person is suffering from.
  2. Learn ways to set realistic goals pertaining to life and career, solve problems and find solutions.
  • Be friendly and free enough to ask doubts and seek help from others. Trying hard to achieve the set goal.
  1. Having faith in one’s own work and abilities.
  2. Respecting the feelings of such individuals coping with learning disabilities.      Motivating such individuals through encouraging and positive words. viii.      Helping them cope up when they commit mistakes or errors.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to know how the resource room can support learning disabilities students, especially who has writing and reading difficulties, to achieve those academic skills into the general education setting in First Cycle in Education in Muscat.

Objectives

The objectives of the study were;

  1. To explore the difficulties of students with learning disabilities.
  2. To explore interventions for students with learning disabilities
  3. To explore the scope of resource room for supporting students with learning disabilities
  4. To identify factors that contribute to improving students with learning disabilities.
  5. To identify the teaching capabilities required to support students with learning disabilities

Research Questions

  1. What difficulties students with learning disabilities face in Masqat
  2. What interventions have been introduced in Masqat Schools for students with learning disabilities?
  3. Is the use of resource room helping students with learning disabilities?
  4. What is the role of teacher in teaching students with learning disabilities?
  5. What factor contributes to improve reading and writing among students with learning disabilities?
  6. Does social environment impacts students with learning disabilities?

Chapter. 2       LITERATURE REVIEW:

Defining Learning Disabilities

What defines a disability? Presently, there is no single view on the nature of a disability

(Thomas, 2004) .However; there are two distinct understandings of the term disability (Thomas, 2004). The first understanding of the term disability is known a disability study, while the other is called medical sociology (Thomas, 2004).

Educational Environment for individuals with learning disabilities

Prevention of failure among the LD population requires an educational environment that is favorable to academic success that utilizes instructional strategies proven to be effective, adjusting the school climate to adopt academic success and empower students (Cummins, 1989). As a result, educators would become responsible for helping students learn (Ortiz, 1997). Such environments reflect a philosophy that all students can learn and that educators are responsible for helping them learn. Collaboration among administration and teachers is also essential when creating a positive school environment

Special education laws indicate that students receiving special education must be educated in the least restrictive environment, meaning that a student should be taught with his or her peers without a disability until he or she can no longer be serviced appropriately in that setting (Turnball, 2003).

Within an inclusive classroom, students with disabilities have access to insightful and demanding curriculum as those of the general education population. The instruction was to be designed to assist them in achieving full potential (Algozzine & Ysseldyke, 2006). Highlighting the learning standards encourages greater responsibility on teachers and administrators to warrant high levels of achievement to each of these students. IDEA of 1997 (National Center of Learning

Disabilities, n.d.) ensured that students with LDs have a right to academic instruction within the general education classroom, and it required teacher responsibility to ensure that these students progress within the setting. Thus, the high level of expectations and monitoring of progress is necessary for improving outcomes for students with learning disabilities (Turnball, 2003).

Klinger and Vaughn (1999) conducted 20 studies that examined the perception of learning of over 4659 students in kindergarten through the twelfth grade. Of those students, 760 had disabilities; and those students preferred and aspired to be like their peers – carrying the same books, learning the same material¸ completing homework, and using the same grading criteria. The study also revealed that students, with and without disabilities, were aware that all students learn differently and appreciated when teachers slowed the pace of instruction when needed.

Effects of Learning Disabilities on Individuals and Families

Upon examination, students with learning disabilities (diagnosed or not) demonstrate difficulties that interfere with everyday life, such as sports, family life, and socializing with peers (Silver, 1998). Students with learning disabilities typically demonstrate social problems. After reviewing 152 studies, Kavae and Forness (1996) concluded that about 75% of students with learning disabilities display deficits in social skills. Further, poor social skills often lead to rejection, low social status, fewer positive interactions with teachers, difficulty making friends, and loneliness (Lane, Pierson, & Givner, 2004).

These social difficulties may be exhibited by many students regardless of their placement. Some students with learning disabilities have difficulty staying on task or display high levels of hyperactivity. Students with learning disabilities typically have other difficulties such as motor coordination, time management, attention, organizational skill, processing speed, social skills, emotional maturation, verbal expression, and/or memory (Lerner, 2005). In fact, adults with learning disabilities have difficulty performing tasks such as shopping, budgeting, filling out a job application, or reading a recipe.

Factors affecting students with learning disabilities

Proponents of disability studies feel that disabilities are structured by social inequality, social exclusion, and social oppression (Thomas, 2004) . Using these approaches, Oliver (1996) argued that Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society. Disabled people are therefore an oppressed group in society. To understand this it is necessary to grasp the distinction between the physical impairment and the social situation, called “disability”, of people with such impairment. Thus we define impairment as lacking all or part of a limb, or having a defective limb, organism or mechanism of the body and disability as the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organization which takes little or no account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities, (p. 22)

Consequently, disabilities are viewed as issues dealing with society, rather than individual concerns (Finkelstein, 1980). According to Hurst (1995), disabilities are byproducts of social factors, not medical or individual factors such as discrimination and prejudice. These medical and individual factors are also known as barriers used against disabled people by society (Hurst, 1995).

 

According to Goodland and Lovitt (1993), students with impairments or disabilities do better academically when they are able to socialize and be included with their nondisabled peers during instructional time. The interaction between students with and without disabilities enhances academic achievement for students with disabilities (Goor & Schwenn, 1993). There are several ways to increase student learning, however few can do so while improving self-esteem and social relationships (Slavin, 1987).

A large percent of the population is affected by learning disabilities, which has a significant impact on individuals and families. The term learning disability refers to a neurological disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding spoken or written language. A learning disability may manifest itself in a variety of ways; it may impact the ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason, organize information, or do mathematical calculations (Lerner, 2005). Students may display unpredictable test performance, perceptual impairments, motor disorders, impulsivity, frustration, and difficulty coping with everyday social interactions and unpredicted situations. Language and cultural differences are also factors that contribute to learning difficulties; these difficulties will become greater over time if academic instruction is not modified to address the specific needs of these students. Without the appropriate intervention, the LD population will continue to struggle; the gap between their achievement and that of their peers will expand wider and wider. In fact, studies have indicated that as many as 33% of students with learning disabilities are gifted (Fletcher, 2004) which emphasizes the importance of meeting the needs of this population.

Interventions for students with learning disabilities

Resource Room

Adamowycz (2008) noted that teachers found that students in an inclusive environment have more time and opportunity to work with their peers. In the classroom, they receive more positive role modeling from teachers and fellow students which they miss out on when they are in the resource room. Special education students have fewer stigmas from feeling different or not as smart as the rest of their classmates. They have better attitudes toward teachers and students when they are in an IC.

Visual Strategies

Many students who struggle with educational success may benefit from visual strategies to enhance understanding of what is happening. Visual supports are a great benefit for use with these students. Visual supports are things that are seen. Body movements, environmental cues, pictures, objects, and written language can all be used to enhance educational success. Examples of visual supports in day-to-day communication include logos and road signs.

Visual tools assist students in processing language, organizing thoughts, remembering information, and many others skills required to participate successfully (Hodgdon, 2008). Through observation it was noted that many students demonstrate strength in understanding visual information compared to auditory information. Over a 72-hour period, those who were presented information orally remembered only 10% compared to 65% who remembered information presented visually (Hodgdon, 2008). Visual strategies would complement this strength and improve success in the classroom.

Visual supports in the classroom help students understand directions, schedules, rules, and instructional materials. The visual supports can be presented with words or phrases, but the increase of printed words or phrases with visual supports as photographs, hand-drawn pictures, graphics, or computer generated icons actually benefit all students (Tissot & Evans, 2003), particularly those who have difficulty reading. Pictures are universally understood and, therefore, can be generalized to almost all functional settings. Visual supports can play a number of communicative roles in the classroom and in other environments in which the students must engage. Visual cues can be utilized to teach organization, academic and life skills, communication, social interaction, and behavioral management (Quill, 1995).

According to Wileman (1993), visual aspects of classrooms, lessons, and presentations within the learning environment play an important role in learning. Well regarded and concentrated visuals help any audience understand and retain information. Kavale and Forness (1990) completed a meta-analysis that indicated there is considerable evidence that tailoring instruction to the learning style of the students is ineffective. However, this interpretation should be viewed with caution, as the content being reviewed is nearly impossible to prove to be negative. It is known that the use of visual technology enhances the learning environment by developing an understanding of the topic at hand and motivating the students at the same time. Visualization techniques are credited for breaking down the presentation of difficult tasks as well as aiding cognition. Information presented visually assists learners’ ability to gain information (Idowu et al., 2006). Content visualization can facilitate learners’ acquisition of information. It is related to the individual’s level of perceptual and associative learning in the content area.

Lindsey-Glenn and Gentry (2008) examined the use of visual supports to aid in vocabulary acquisition skills. Students who attend public schools who display learning disabilities demonstrated great difficulty remembering vocabulary words and using them in context

(Donaldson & Nash, 2005)

Most experts agree that no single method of instruction works for all children; however, many suggest strategies with visual supports. Effective visual support systems allow visual images to sustain students attention, enable students to focus on the message and reduce anxiety often associated with academic learning situations, and make abstract concepts more concrete allowing students to express their thoughts coherently (Bround, 2004; Glaeser et al., 2003; Li, 2004; Rao & Gagie, 2006).

Hodgdon (1995) stated that visual supports are used to aid children with autism to maintain attention and understanding of spoken language, sequence and organize language, and sequence and organize their environment. She further described visual supports as tools used to compensate for difficulties in attention, auditory processing, sequencing, and organization. Quill (1995) described the use of visual supports, including pictographic symbols and written explanations, as effective tools to enhance organization, facilitate communication and social development, and manage challenging behaviors.

There are many types of visual supports that may be beneficial for learning disabilities (not to exclude those without learning disabilities). Strategies include schedules, calendars, task organizers, behavior charts, response cards, and many more. It is necessary that teachers and educators directly involved with students who demonstrate great difficulty learning and or maintaining good behavior implement visual strategies to aid in educational success. Not all students are visual learners, which is why adding a visual strategy to the instruction already being presented is increasing the chance of success. Visual strategies are beneficial for students and help to improve their vocational skills.

Task Organizers

Allowing the student choice in the sequence of academic tasks can increase rates of compliance and active academic engagement. The power of allowing the student to select the sequence of academic tasks appears to be in the exercise of choice, which for ‘biologic reasons’ may serve as a fundamental source of reinforcement (Kern & Clemens, 2007, p. 72).

Instructional Support

The important instructional support is that of teacher. The need for effective instructional support highlights the role of the general education teacher and successful collaboration between the special education teacher and the regular education teacher (McGregor & Vogelsberg, 1998). This particular collaboration requires new responsibilities for the inclusion teacher and the special education teacher in the inclusion classroom. According to Lawton (1999), when two or more educators deliver instructions to a group of students with learning disabilities, and both are responsible for the evaluation of the student’s progress, you have co-teaching. Students participating in inclusion will have the opportunity to learn from both teachers

Research conducted by Zigmond et al. (1995) scrutinized the impact that inclusion had on students with learning disabilities for an entire year. The study compared the students with learning disabilities to general education students by comparing their progress in reading. Thirtyfour percent to 54% of the 145 students (Grade 2-6) with learning disabilities made significant progress, while 46% to 63% of the students failed to make meaningful progress. Based on the findings, the researchers believe that the students who did not make significant progress should be taught in a special education classroom.

Computer Class

A study by Pererson -Karlan, Hourcade, Parette, and Dikter (2008) concerning writing presents a positive way to include students who have physical and educational related disabilities. Technology can enable the student with special needs the ability to express himself or herself through pictures, voice output, and by having assistive technology through a computer program. The use of computers for writing gives support to language development. “Children first begin to establish one-to-one correspondences between real and concrete objects/events, and their symbolic representations. Later on the child develops symbolic representations for more abstract concepts” (Pereson-Karlan et al, p.17).

Art Class

Bhroin (2007) reported that the earliest drawing of a child went back to 1224 in Russia. These drawing were done on birch bark by a 6-year-old child. Children’s drawings have been studies as early have 1887 by Ricci. These drawing showed a natural tendency of children to play, which was recognized by Rousseau in 1762. The concept that drawings could show aspects of a child’s life comes from a variety of fields including psychology, philosophy, education, and aesthetics. Each of these domains place values and importance on drawings done by children. Children can and do express themselves through art and play. This action allows the child to show expressions of their lives and their experiences. Goodnow (1977) maintained that, “children’s graphic art may be described not only as a visible thinking by even as a slice of life” (p. 154).

Bhroin (2007) went on to review the six strands of materials. These strands included: paint and color, printing, construction clay modeling, and work with fabric and fiber (Primary School Curriculum, Visual Arts, 1999). What was interesting in the drawing of the children was that the art provided a means for the child to express his or her self in a nonlinguistic self-expression and could show symbolic communication. It is from the six strands of materials that Bhroin defines art. His definition of art is anything that is visual, which the child creates using these modalities. The idea of children expressing themselves though the arts was also supported by Lowenfeld and Britten (1982). They stated that drawing, painting and the construction is complicated. The creative process gives way to the artistic activity. Matthews (1999) has stated that the “marks and configuration that appear to be minimal and insignificant have been found to contain tremendously important ideas” (p. 37). It is through the drawings that the child is able to express ideas that have meaning to the child. Children are often asked to tell about their drawings. Based on these findings and reports, it is no wonder that art classes for students with special needs could hold valuable experiences and learning opportunities.

As stated by MacLean (2008) art classes allow students with special needs the opportunity to explore experiment and interact. However, to have this occur, teachers need to understand their content domain and how important this modality is and the impact it can have on the student’s ability to express himself in a nonlinguistic manner and interact within the class. It is necessary to understand the impact that the disability has on the development of creative thinking and expression.

Music Class

Bell (2008) reported on how his work with young people with special needs and the impact that music can have. His case study involved a student with Down syndrome who attended his class for two 40-minute sessions for a period of three months. This study was limited to students with special needs who merely listened to and enjoyed music. Bell related his own experiences as he mentioned how he learned to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on a recorder. The students in Bell’s study did not play instruments or composed music. His study involved aptitude, student’s needs and their ability to comprehend musical concepts, and how they could execute musical exercises. The range of ability of the students was not considered in the study. No age range was given for the students. The students were not given the opportunity to demonstrate their musical ability that they might have had. Bell’s study was based on Bruscia (1981), Grant and LeCroy (1986), and McLeish and Higgs (1982). Other studies had shown that students with hearing impairments, autism, and Williams Syndrome can excel and enjoy music (Jahns, 2001; Shore, 2002;

Stambaugh, 1996; VanWeelden, & Whipple, 2007; Waugh & Riddoch, 2007).

Pond stated that it is by music, that students with special needs are able to express themselves– their feelings and ideas. Pond stated that it was not the lack of ability by the students, but that of the accommodations they needed. Pond found that one way to overcome the issue and to accommodate the students was the use of computers. The idea of using computers to make music was also supported by others who stated, “computer technology is a significant factor in enabling any one make music” (Folkstead, Hargreaves & Lindstrom, 1998, p. 95). The authors went on to state that the process is the same for both students with disabilities and those without disabilities. Every student needs time to explore, time to become familiar with the medium as well as find their own strategies and gestures and time to practice. The use of computers takes the right and wrong out of the process. Pond’s study was based on the work of Folkstead et al. who believed that anyone can compose and there is no wrong way to do so. This approach allowed Pond to conduct the case study on the student with Down syndrome. Music had also been used for improving behaviors, time on task, and attitudes. Music was used by Waugh and Riddoch (2007) over a six-week period of time. The students in this study had severe intellectual disabilities.

Chapter. 3       RESEARCH METHOD:

In this study, I will use qualitative method as it is the most appropriate method in order to achieve the purpose of the study. It characterizes the aim of the research and relates to the understanding of the aspects of social life. This method generates qualitative data for analytic purposes rather than statistical data in the form of numbers. These methods are used for understanding perspectives, experiences and opinion of the people. The researched methods for qualitative analysis involve surveys, questionnaires, feedbacks, etc. Hence, qualitative research method is one that involves the enquiring of attributes under various academic areas mainly in the area of social sciences. It investigates the why and how of making decisions and focuses on samples acquired from the focus groups that is group under study representing an entire community of individuals.  In Such a research method helps in the seeking of empirical support for the hypothesis. The data collected in a qualitative approach of research is through various ways namely

  1. Contextual data: This includes various data sources like oral data and reports as well as project and research papers. ii. Surveys: As suggested by Maxwell (2008 ) qualitative research is useful for researchers by helping them to:
  • Understand the meaning participants give to situation or experience;
  • Understand the particular context in .............

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