Sunday, December 13, 2009

How Children Learn and LD Online: Reading and Dyslexia…

I suppose I hadn’t given the actual process of reading or learning to read much thought, until now. I never think about how I learned to read, and I don’t recall struggling much while I was figuring it out. But looking at it now, dissected, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed when I think of a child trying to learn how do it with the added frustration of having a learning disability like dyslexia or language or auditory processing problems.
I think the explanation of phonics and whole language were helpful reminders about all the different parts that go into reading, and how important it is to maintain a balance of both. It will be good for me to keep in mind the early warning signs for children with reading disabilities. The earlier detected, the better.

I was totally fascinated with the video “Biomapping the Brain.” I was surprised to learn that reading disabilities can stem from a child having difficulty processing sound. If they can’t understand the sound, then of course they won’t be able to associate sound with written letters or blend sounds of letters together to read. It’s incredible to watch Dr. Kraus “map the brain” to see how it responds to sound and being able to detect that a child is unable to process sound fast enough, resulting in the child not being able to distinguish between (letter) sounds.

I was also intrigued by the idea that patterns of brain activity can be altered when neurons in the brain are structurally changed. With intense and carefully controlled instruction, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that brain profile activity can change and correct itself and be rewired away from reading disabilities like dyslexia. WOW!

Online Module in lieu of class on December 9

Understanding Children’s Hearts and Minds….

1.) The social and mental implications for children with learning disabilities are that these students tend to have higher levels of emotional concerns (depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem) than do their peers without disabilities. Students with disabilities have poor self and academic concepts related to their school functioning, and feel less integrated and even victimized at times. These students also experience higher levels of anxiety and emotional adjustment disorders.

2.) Looking back at my early grade school experience I am remembering how scary it was to be called on to read out loud from a text book or assignment - and I was a good and confident reader! So to think of a student with a learning disability related to speech and language or a disability such as dyslexia, I can only imagine how much more stressful and terrifying a simple academic task like reading aloud would be.

3.) I will certainly try to be as informed and aware of the different forms of learning disabilities (and their emotional counterparts) as I possibly can, and in doing that, I hope to be better able to identify disabilities and their effects on children. I will also try to remain patient and positive in my educational assistance to children with disabilities.

Research on Reading and the Brain…

1.) The evolution of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for scanning the brain while a person is actively reading has increased the understanding of typical reading development and what happens in the brain when a person encounters reading difficulties. Scientists have been able to identify specific parts of the brain linked to reading. Reading is more demanding of parts on the left side of the brain and seems to suppress activity in parts of the right side of the brain. For children who are at risk or have a reading disability, there is decreased activity on the left side of the brain and increased activation of the right side.

2.) Implications for this new outlook include:
-A greater understanding of the brain regions and functions involved in typical reading development and in reading failure.
-Better tests for earlier identification of children with potential reading problems.
-More specifically targeted interventions that will better help children and adults overcome reading failure.
-Increased information about the different factors—including genetic and environmental—that contribute to reading difficulties.

Disproportionate Representation of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Special Education: Measuring the Problem

Some of the issues surrounding the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education include the overrepresentation of some ethnic groups and English language learners (ELL) in programs for students with mild mental retardation (MMR) or programs for students that are seriously emotionally disturbed (SED), the administration of English language IQ tests to students who are ELL, federal policy regulating the disproportionate representation and developing ways such as the Composition Index or Relative Risk Ratios to assess disproportionate representation in special education.

Legislation has attempted to ameliorate disproportionate representation through the Department of Education, focusing attention on policy, procedures and practices that may result in unequal, or unfair treatment of students from different racial and ethnic groups and by defining the problem as possible discrimination. States and districts are encouraged to address fundamental inequities that further imperil the educational prospects of students with different racial, cultural or linguistic background.

The problem as I see it is that The Individual with Disabilities Education Act, which states that children are not to be identified as disabled as a result of poor achievement due to environmental “disadvantage” or ethnic, linguistic, or racial difference, is being ignored as children who are ELL, or have different ethnic backgrounds are lumped into special educational programs for which they are not well suited because a tailored special education program does not exist to assist them with their educational needs. Perhaps it would make more sense to develop an educational strategy that is focused specifically on the students who are overrepresented in the wrong programs? Separate from the MMR and SED programs where most of these students do not belong?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Misunderstood Minds....

Wow. I was really shocked at how incredibly frustrated I felt during just about every simulation on the website. I found myself feeling irritated as I was unable to concentrate, decode or keep up with each "assignment." I was often confused. I felt disconnected and wanted to give up. During the writing simulations, I would second guess myself on the new sets of grammatical and structural rules and it seemed to take me an unnecessarily long time to complete the assignments. The math simulations were particularly hard to handle, and I found myself wondering if perhaps I had an actual mathematical disability after all....

The Misunderstood Minds simulations were really eye-opening. I would have never guessed at the exact types of struggles children with disabilities were dealing with, and I think this exercise has really given me a basis for patience and understanding that will be helpful in the classroom.
As a soon-to-be special education teacher, these examples of disabilities can help me assess the level and classification of specific learning disabilities, which will in turn help me to prepare a tailored action plan for the student, ultimately connecting with him or her in the most effective and beneficial way possible.