Identifying Students With Gravitying Disabilities
How do I identify students with learning disabilities?
It is generally a good policy to inform students with learning disabilities that you are willing to offer assistance, for example, in your introductory comments to your new classes you may say something like this:
“If there are any students in my class with physical or sensory or learning disabilities, you are welcome to drop by my office sometime this week. We can discuss any questions or concerns you may have”.
This encourages students who know they have learning disabilities to identify themselves and to discuss their accommodation needs.
Students with learning disabilities who have not been identified prior to entering university may be identified by an instructor. More than one-third of the students participating in Accessibility Services have been identified and referred by an instructor in whose class the student is enrolled.
The first step in learning how to identify students with learning disabilities is to become familiar with the characteristics of learning disabilities. One characteristic of learning disability is failure to achieve and/or an inability to apply the basic skills of reading, writing, and/or mathematics. However, some persons with achievement difficulties may not be learning disabled. For example, a student who has not had an opportunity to receive an adequate education at the elementary and/or secondary level may be an underachiever.
Indicators to identify students with learning disabilities:
- You may identify a discrepancy between the student’s output and your perception of his/her effort and ability.
- There may be an obvious discrepancy between the student’s oral and written language.
- He/she may have difficulty with reading assignments because reading rate is slow and /or there may be comprehension difficulties.
- Some students with a learning disability have difficulty assimilating information from oral lectures.
- Poor spelling may be one indicator of a learning disability.
- Students with a learning disability may have difficulty assimilating content areas that are based on verbal skills, including mathematics.
- Handwriting may appear cramped. Writing (letter formation) may be illegible often to the extent that words may appear to be misspelled. Capitals and lower case letters are often placed randomly throughout a word.
- Organizational problems are frequent; they range from failure to organize their writing assignments and class notes to failure to organize their time efficiently, difficulty following directions, and slowness in completing assignments.
- Students with learning disabilities may have problems with interpersonal relationships, often because they have difficulty reading non-verbal cues. The result may be socially unacceptable behaviour and difficulty relating to instructors and/or other students. They may have difficulty performing the role of self-advocate.
- Students with learning disabilities may be characterized by feelings of ambivalence. On the one hand, they are eager to learn and to accept help; on the other hand, they may be quick to give up, feeling that they will not be successful. Terms like failure avoidance and learned helplessness are often used to describe students with learning disabilities. While these characteristics may be applicable to many students, they are more pronounced and chronic in the learning disabled.