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Are some cases of learning disabilities more a question of a misfit between child and school than of something wrong with the child? Should inclusion include every student? There is a plethora of research addressing these issues. Educators have an arduous task of effectively identifying learning disabilities in children and supplying the necessary resources for them to be successful and productive citizens who can effectively compete with their peers.

The question of whether cases of learning disabilities are more a question of a misfit between child and the school than of something wrong with the child, is no doubt one that needs to be answered; however, the issue of properly identifying students with learning disabilities, must be addressed first and foremost. This issue has been a rather controversial one. One in which much research has been conducted. The Hart Research/American Viewpoint Poll highlights many of our country’s growing concerns about the system of identifying and serving students with disabilities. Highlights of the poll include

· 44% of parents have a struggling learner in the household

· Parents (8%) and teacher (0%) believe that adoption of the alternative system would have a positive effect on the progress of students with learning disabilities.

Help with essay on Children with Learning Disabilities: Where Do They Belong?

· 85% of teachers who see the effects of the current system in classrooms on a daily basis prefer a newer model.

· 65% of teachers believe that many of their colleagues could use more training to help them identify students with learning disabilities.

( Hart, Peter. Parents and Teachers Say Nation’s Schools Fail Kids With Learning Disabilities).

The findings of this research suggest that many students with learning disabilities are not identified in a timely manner for them to receive the services they need to compete with their peers. As a result, many children are placed in regular education classes and expected to function with normalcy, when in fact, they just can’t. Once students are properly identified, what next? Should they be mainstreamed into a regular classroom setting or should they be placed in special classes with students with similar disabilities?

Should inclusion include every student? There is research that contains “differing views” on this controversial topic. Advocates of the policy of mainstreaming believe that “all children should be included in the general classroom, regardless of their disability (Council for Exceptional Children). Still, there are others like members of the American Federation of Teachers who believe that mainstreaming is not necessarily the solution. They believe that “placements should be determined by the needs and abilities of the child and that when disabled children are appropriately included in regular classes, teachers should be given adequate training and support services. (American Federation of Teachers, 16)

Before students are identified learning disabled, one must consider why they have been identified. Is it because they are behavior problems? According to Jane M. Healy, “learning disabilities, both formally diagnosed and unofficially suspected, are now blamed for a large proportion of learning casualties, from underachievers to school dropouts (Healy, p. 17). Could it be the teacher doesn’t know just how to relate to the child, thus creating a misfit between the child and school? Or, could it be that there is in fact nothing wrong with the child, he/she just needs to be challenged? There have been numerous times in my career when I have noticed this to be the case. Teachers don’t know how to relate to certain children, children aren’t being challenged, and as a result, develop behavior problems. The teacher is quick to determine the child is either ADHD or has some other learning disability. It really saddens me when this happens. Oftentimes, these children, (in my school), are African-American boys being raised in single parent, low income housing areas.

As a single parent myself of two African-American boys, I would hate for my children to be singled out and identified learning disabled because of the color of their skin or perhaps because their teachers don’t understand them. As I mentioned in a post on the Blackboard, my eldest son, in first grade, posed quite a challenge to his teacher. I constantly received phone calls about Michael’s behavior. His teacher at the time was actually brazen enough to suggest perhaps he needed to be tested for ADHD. I, in turn, asked her to have him tested in reading. Reluctantly, she reported that Michael was in fact reading on a .5 grade level in the first semester of first grade. He was obviously bored and unchallenged, thus, a definite misfit between the child and the teacher.

Unfortunately, many of the parents I work with trust their teacher’s judgment and do not insist that perhaps there is somewhat of a misfit between their child and the teacher or the school. These parents allow their children to be tested and identified learning disabled, thus setting them up for failure. Is inclusion then the answer for these children? According to Albert Shanker, AFT President, “the concept of inclusion is deceptive because it helps parents believe their child is being normalized. It takes away the stigma of special education, disabled, or retarded (Inclusion Can Hurt Everyone, Apr. 16). Shanker further states, “in reality, inclusion is creating a nightmare for the teachers and is harming both regular and special students (Shanker, Apr. 16). The Council for Learning Disabilities supports school reform efforts that “enhance the education of all students, including those with learning disabilities.” The Council “supports the education of students with learning disabilities in regular classroom settings when deemed “appropriately by the IEP (Individual Education Program) team. However, the Council “cannot support indiscriminate full-time placement of all students with learning disabilities in the regular education classroom also known as, inclusion (Council for Learning Disabilities, 1).”

Essentially, the issue of whether some cases of learning disabilities are more a question of a misfit between child and school than of something wrong with the child is one to be researched and debated for years to come. Teachers must be trained to identify, as well as to work with children with learning disabilities. Teachers must be trained to look for other possible solutions to behavior problems, and not just assume a child with these problems is learning disabled. The bottom line is that “NO CHILD IS LEFT BEHIND” and we, as educators, must do whatever is necessary to ensure that all children receive a quality education that positions them to be successful, productive adults. Children are truly a gift from God and the Bible clearly states we are to “train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 6).” If God says it, that settles it. All children deserve the very best we have to offer, regular education students, as well as learning disabled students.

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