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I think that it was great to see the mention of Disabilities. I believe it is very important, as an educator, to be able to recognize the signs of disabilities - physical or mental - as most students are not aware they may have them.

Hi D. Preston,
You are right about many of the students coming through our system with disabilities. Approximately 12% of the general population has a learning disability, primarily in reading. These students can benefit from the instruction if they are given some supports, such as guided notes and formatted outlines. These supports help them to know what you determine as being important and helps them to study key concepts.
In terms of the mental aspects it is good to be able to recogize emerging issues with students so a referral can be made in time to keep the student in the program.
As you already know there are many little things you can do as an instructor to help students achieve without changing the requirements of the course or the field.

Hi, You made the statement "to be able to recognize the signs of disabilities - physical or mental - as most students are not aware they may have them." I wondered if you could clarify that statement. I find just the opposite in fact.. that most students are well aware of the disabilities that they have. While I find that most are aware there are always some that choose not to recognize those disabilities and put a plan of action into place that would make them more successful. I look forward to your response.

Hi Terri,
If a student has had an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) as required by the IDEA Act of 2004 in high school they are fully aware of their disability as well as the supports they need. You are right about many of them not asking for assistance. Generally I find about their disability after they have experienced a month or so of course failure or struggle. This could be avoided if they would only tell us what "helps" they need. For those that are not aware of the helps or supports they need I find that most often these fall in the area of study skills. They don't know how to take notes, structure outlines, or study for content. Another big area is that of reading problems. These students do not have disabilities but just academic weaknesses that can be helped through graphic organizers and study outlines. On the career college level we can't "fix" reading problems but we can help give the students learning strategies that will keep them in the course and help them have success with the content.

Having raised a son with dyslexia, I spent the first four years of his academic life trying to get it recognized that there was a problem. Once I did and an IEP was set up for him, he excelled in school. In college, he had to intercede for himself. He didn't want special attention given to him and went about setting up a support group of students who knew about his dyslexia and they helped him study and get his notes organized, etc. He was motivated to succeed because he found teachers and professors who were willing to help him learn in his way. He graduated magna cum laude from college and is currently pursuing his Masters in Divinty studies at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary.

What I learned, as a teacher, is that we are crucial in helping a student learn in spite of the limitations. So many are frustrated because no one has taken the steps to let them learn in their way. Now while this may be a problem in large classes, etc. we who have smaller classes must allow the student to take notes either with pen and paper or to record with a tape player; allow them to use a computer to prepare papers and assignments, and show them how to organize their stuff and thoughts with study guides, outlines, etc. and most important - our encouragement. If these students believe we are pulling for them and not just writing them off, they will do the work and pull for themselves.

Hi Victoria,
What a great story! This should and can be an inspiration for others. I have spent much of my career working with students with special learning needs. As you mentioned the most common form of learning disability is dyslexia. Many of the students when they reach the post high school level have developed coping skills for achieving academic success. Students with these type of cognitive issues need to advocate for themselves by creating the necessary support networks be they fellow students or the college services. By knowing they can succeed they will be able to overcome many obstacles.

Working with individuals that have disabilities is a challenge. I find that these individuals need more support and more understanding from the instructor. It requires patience on the instructor's part and usually I find that I need to spend a little more time with the student.

Hi Jorge,
It sounds like you are a dedicated instructor that wants all your students to be successful, even those that require some additional assistance.
When working with students with disabilities, mainly those with cognitive issues you will find that if you develop certain aids or supports such as guided notes or structured outlines your students will be able to grasp the concepts quicker and will reduce work for yourself.
If you are interested I have some examples of the supports I mentioned that I will be glad to share with you.

I agree that students with disabilities is a challenge. Depending on if its physical or cognitive processing. I find that congnitive processing disabilities are the real challenge. I have also learned that a little more patience,support and understanding from the instructor can make things a lot better.

Hi Dupre,
The cognitive processing disabilities do require some understanding and patience. In addition, the most often requested accommodation is additional time. Students with learning disabilities can do very well in career training courses if they are provided with some basic supports that keep them making progress with their skill training.

I could not have said it better myself. You are so right that many students feel frustrated that no one takes steps to let them learn their way.

My stepson has ADHD and he has different issue with learning in a classroom. It took a special teacher to notice he requied more one-on-one attention then most and that was all it took to jump start his enthusiasm for learning.

Hi Sandie,
Thanks for sharing this great example of a teacher making a difference in the life of a student.

I recently had a student in my class that was deaf. I took the time to learn some of the most used signs and incorporated them into my lectures. This put the student at ease and the translator told me later that because of this, the student commented that he felt he learned more and at a better rate than in other classes. It was almost natural as we do a lot of talking with our hands anyway. The student said he could focus on the instructor and what was being taught and not just the interpreter.

Dyslexia is a very broad disorder. It may be in several levels of serverity and may affect several differnt areas of thinking. I personally don't like calling it a disabilty however cause I am affected by dislexia. Now my case is very mild and I have learned to over come it at a very young age to a point that most poeple never knew I was affected by it. However, it was never a disabilty for me. As a matter of fact the ability to use both sides of my brain simutaniously has enabled me to see a problem from a unique perspective, both sides at the same time. I think that the most important thing about dealing with students with learning disablilties is to make the student realize that in most cases they are not disabled or have anything wrong with them but, rather they have a unique way of processing information that they can use to there advantage.

Do you are any suggestions for the instructor to keep class interruptions as minimal as possible when having to slow down for a student with disabilities?

Hi Darlene,
There are many things that an instructor can do to provide instructional support for a student that has disabilities. Before I can offer an specific suggestions I would need to know the disability the student has so then ideas could be shared. If you want to contact me and share additional information I will be glad to give you a number of "best practices" ideas that have been used in career college classrooms.

i find that students that have a disability and have learned to work with their disability will ask for help so that they can get things started so they do not fall behind in the class. It is those students that use their disability to try and get special treatment so they dont have to work as hard in class and will try to take advantage of the instructor or other students to succeed and blame others when they fail. i stress in class that if you have a disability we have people that can help, but you have to ask us and let us know what the diability is and the help that is needed.

Hi Paul,
You make a good point about working with students with disabilities. This has been my experience as well. If a students wants the career area bad enough they will put forth the effort required to be successful. If they have a disability they will work with the instructor and share the kind of supports that help them to be successful and everyone feels good about the results at the end of the course.

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