Ways to Better Identify and Support Students with “Invisible” Learning Disabilities

Aaron is the subject of several conversations during team meetings at his busy middle school near Washington, DC, but they never go much beyond expressions of exasperation.

Both personal interactions and testing shows he is very bright, but he just can’t stay organized or focused and has a very difficult time with math. He is not a significant behavior issue, but occupies increasing amounts of the teachers’ time to keep him focused on lectures and make sure he does class work and homework.

“I don’t know what we can do with him, but he really worries me,” says one teacher who has worked closely with Aaron to bring up his science grade. “He can do the work, but he seems to be dropping further and further behind.”

She has good reason to worry. Aaron has attention issues – probably if tested he could be diagnosed with a learning disability or impairment involving ADHD. He might even suffer from another lesser-known disability, dyscalulia, which makes it hard for some students to understand and perform in math.

But unfortunately, odds are he won’t be diagnosed or get enough support, and it is unlikely he will succeed without it.

In a new report last month the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCDL) finds that one-in-five students have learning disabilities, but only about one third of them are diagnosed and given plans that help them. It also notes these students are far more likely to create behavior problems, fail in school, never attend college, and be involved in crime. One third repeat a grade and many of them drop out.

“Children with learning and attention issues are as smart as their peers and with the right support can achieve at high levels, but a lack of early or effective interventions leads too many kids on a downward spiral,” says Mimi Corcoran, president of NCLD.

Kathleen Laundy, a therapist in Old Saybrook, CT, a college professor and author of a book on mental health teams in schools, says that while schools have put more emphasis on evaluating and accommodating these students, there is much more that must be done for those whose disabilities are not obvious or not easy to pinpoint.

“Children with disabilities like these often don’t get the attention that is given to those with more profound disabilities such as speech and hearing, mobility challenges and strong developmental delays,” says Laundy, who has been deeply involved in efforts nationwide to get support for children with learning disabilities. “It can be challenging for general education teachers to recognize and know how best to address the more subtle learning challenges of children with attention issues, for instance, because their challenges are often invisible, particularly if the student has not been fully evaluated and parents have not been involved in the process.”

The NCLD report describes new brain science that helps diagnose issues like ADHD, dyslexia, or a cluster of disabilities, such as dyscalculia or related dysgraphia, which involves trouble with writing. However, it notes, often schools and parents are not aware of the disabilities or assume these students are lazy. The NCLD research also found it is common for them to believe students with these disabilities will grow out of them, though they often don’t.

“It isn’t that these students can’t be diagnosed and helped; new research is deepening our understanding of the differences in brain structure and function in children with learning and attention issues,” the report notes. “Brain scans and other tools are even helping researchers measure the impact that instructional interventions have on children who learn differently, including those with dyslexia, ADHD, and other issues.”

But the report finds despite advances in research, many students aren’t identified and helped. Laundy and the NCLD report offer three similar remedies.

1) Get the word out. Schools need to provide more information about all learning disabilities, especially those more difficult to detect, Laundy says, including the mechanism for helping these students such as independent education plans and 504 plans.

The training might include information about the brain science and the ways that the school identifies, tests, and provides accommodations to these students. It should help educators understand their own biases and the incorrect information they may retain about students with these more subtle learning disabilities. They should be dissuaded from notions that their problems aren’t as severe as some, that they will outgrow the problem, that they are simply incapable of challenging work, or are lazy. (The study showed 43 percent of parents thought students would outgrow the problems; 33 percent of teachers thought that students with learning disabilities were just lazy.)

2) Develop structures. They need systems in place to identify less obvious learning disabilities and they should use outside resources.

“Teachers and administrators have often been trained in specialty areas, and have not received sufficient systems training to work collaboratively with other health and education specialists who can evaluate and plan for students with attention difficulties, for instance,” says Laundy. She says schools should put energy behind systems they probably have in place but are often too busy or distracted to implement, and find ways to tap into experts to help.

NCDL recommends a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) to help schools with early intervention and accurate identification. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers funding to develop this type of decision-making framework, the report says, which “uses data from frequent progress monitoring to help educators quickly respond to students’ needs and provide targeted instruction and support.” It also recommends use of outside specialists.

It notes that universal screening bolsters teachers’ observations by assessing all students, not just the ones showing outward signs of struggling.

3) Follow up. Every educator knows that it is difficult at a busy school to conscientiously identify these students, implement useful procedures to assess them, develop accommodations, and then follow up to see that strategies are implemented and adjusted when necessary. The last steps, however, are often the most critical.

“Helping students understand how they learn and practicing how to ask for accommodations are essential for success,” the report notes.

Often even more energy must be devoted to implementing accommodations, adjusting strategies so the student can succeed but also helping them develop new skills, Laundy says

“Too often, sustainability is the challenge,” she says.


The Story of Memory: An Interview with Paula Hawkins


Cody Delistraty | Longreads | May 2017 | 8 minutes (2,228 words)


Born in Zimbabwe on August 28, 1972, Paula Hawkins’ family moved to London when she was a teenager. Although writing fiction interested her in her younger years, her stories generally remained unfinished. After graduating from Keble College, Oxford, she took the practical route and entered the newsroom at The Times of London, where she became a well-respected financial journalist.

In her thirties, she wrote romantic comedy novels with titles like Confessions of a Reluctant Recessionista, All I Want for Christmas, One Minute to Midnight, and The Reunion under the pseudonym Amy Silver, but this never proved a perfect match for her talents. Increasingly tight on money and disenchanted with writing lighter fare, she sent a partial draft of a new novel to her agent. It was unlike anything she had ever published: dark…

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Should Young Children Learn Through Play?

The Traditional Teacher

Deadly Nightshade Not all of the products of nature are nourishing.

The earliest years of education are those which have been reformed the least. In secondary schools, there is a significant and growing movement in favour of strict discipline and formal instruction. Secondary school teachers are subject teachers, so it’s not so hard to convince them that subject knowledge should be foregrounded and children should have to listen to the expert in the room. But teachers of younger children are much less likely to be subject specialists. Primary school and preschool teachers tend to see themselves as teachers of children, not teachers of subjects.

Of course, understood correctly, there’s nothing wrong with considering oneself as a teacher of children. It would be worrying if any teacher did not say this, if we mean by it that we care about those we teach as human beings. It’s stating the obvious.

But when teachers…

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A Life of Hope and Resilience

Stories Over Coffee

EDGAR RICO obtained his Associate’s Degree in Sociology from Citrus College, went on to get his B.A. in Sociology from California State University, Los Angeles, and then earned his Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. In his free time he enjoys going to healthcare centers to speak to injured patients, with hopes of enabling them to feel better and enjoy their lives.

Such achievements are difficult enough when one has a support system and the ability to move about life as one may please. Which is why it’s almost incredible to believe the fact that Edgar has done it all while being paralyzed from the neck down and while coping with the loss of his mother. This is his story…

The night that changed it all

It was a beautiful Friday in Los Angeles and Edgar was feeling happy, he had just gotten a new job at CarMax and…

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Principal Chad Smith – Online Education Taking Instruction To A Different Level

principal chad smith

Improving the employee’s performances is among the key worries of the management team. With increased productivity, the company can make more and enlarge. One of the teaching methods that businesses can use is an internet training program. A web-based training program has several advantages that conventional teaching can’t provide. Since the schedule has to be compatible with everyone setting up a seminar for the entire company may be a boring task. The workers can get them anytime, anywhere, since the majority of the modules are supplied on the internet. An online training program eliminates the hassle of finding the ideal time for the learning procedure.

Chad Smith Principal Los Angeles rather than fitting it into their schedules, workers can do it whenever they have time. Some online training programs can be carried out during breaks in the office while some can be done as take-home assignments. Another benefit of online training programs is its cost effectiveness. Compared with conventional courses, they offer more economical expenses since there are minimal conditions. With just a computer and an Internet connection, the worker can do the modules at home. An internet training program also gets rid of the requirement to travel and a large place for outside training sessions, helping the business save on expenses that are additional.

With just a click of their mouse, employees can access their on-line classes. The business can also set up a newsgroup where in the workers can input their thoughts regarding the lessons. This is useful for businesses which have several employees designated in various locations. What is even better is that the resources for the training could be reused and upgraded for future training. So long as the company’s operation won’t be at stake, workers can finish the training in the time most convenient for them. The content for an on-line CRM training are also delivered consistently and noticeably throughout the whole class.

The content is supplied with as much detachment there’s although a couple of instructions are given. Without misinterpretations and any prejudice, the same message will be spread across the board for employees to learn. The workers can immediately implement these for company operations since a shorter time frame is needed to educate procedures and applications like computer networking support. Principal Chad Smith will help the company assess if knowledge that is adequate was given by the internet program for the employees. In case there are still flaws, advanced training sessions could possibly be provided.

Principal Chad Smith – Immortalizing Worth Through Education for Sustainable Development

Education is the principal agent of transformation towards sustainable development, raising people’s capacities to transform their visions for society into reality. Education not only provides practical and scientific skills, in addition, it gives the motivation, and social support for pursuing and employing them. For this reason, society has to be profoundly worried that much of current education falls way short of what is demanded. When we say this, it reveals the very requirements across the cultures that let everyone become responsible towards quality enhancement. Chad Smith Principal reorienting its goals to recognise the importance of sustainable development and enhancing revelation and the standard of education must be among society’s highest priorities. It is not that we talk just about environment but also about every part of life. We consequently have to clarify the notion of education for sustainable development. It was a major challenge for educators during the past decade.

The significance of sustainable development in educational set ups, the correct balance of peace, human rights, citizenship, social equity, ecological and development subjects in already overloaded programs, and ways of incorporating the humanities, the social sciences and the arts into what had up to now been seen and practised as a division of science education. Principal Chad Smith argued that educating for sustainable development ran the risk of programming while others wondered whether teachers were being asked too much of by requesting schools to take a lead in the transition to sustainable development. The desire of many, mostly environmental, NGOs compounded these arguments to lead to educational preparation with no necessary understanding of how education systems operate, how innovation and educational change occurs, and of helpful worth, professional development and important curriculum development.

Not recognising that effective educational change does take time, others were critical of authorities for not acting more quickly. Thus, many international, regional and national initiatives have led to an expanded and refined understanding of the significance of education for sustainable development. For example, Education International, the leading umbrella group of teachers’ unions and associations in the world, has issued a declaration and action plan to boost sustainable development through education. A common plan in these is the requirement for an integrated approach through which all communities, government entities, collaborate in creating a shared understanding of and dedication to strategies policies and programs of education for sustainable development.

Furthermore, many individual authorities have established curriculum development jobs and committees, panels, advisory councils to discuss education for sustainable development, develop policy and appropriate support structures, plans and resources, and finance local initiatives. Along with international education, development education, peace education, citizenship education, human rights education, and multicultural and anti-racist education that have all been essential, environmental education has been particularly important. In its brief thirty-year history, contemporary environmental education has steadily striven towards consequences and targets comparable and similar to those inherent in the theory of sustainability.