Evidence-based Practices for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities
- Rubina S. LalRubina S. LalUniversity of Mumbai
- and M. Thomas KishoreM. Thomas KishoreNational Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences
Learning disability (LD) is a broad term to refer to disorders related to listening, speaking, reasoning, reading, writing, and mathematical calculation. Though the term LD is used to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities in some countries, the authors use it in this chapter to refer to “Specific Learning Disabilities.” Students with LDs will typically have average or above-average intelligence. Significant features are problems in language-processing skills and a mismatch between the student’s intellectual ability and his or her academic performance. Hyperactivity, attention deficits, and socio-emotional adversities have been associated with learning disability, but cannot explain it. Since people with LDs do not have physical manifestation of the condition, it often goes unnoticed during early childhood. The problems become evident only when the child enters school, where the academic and social demands they face are far greater than their individual learning ability. Comprehensive assessment of the core skills in the areas of reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematics should be done using multiple measures, both standardized and nonstandardized. The assessment process may need inputs from a multidisciplinary team. Qualitative and quantitative data from the assessment is required in order to select suitable teaching strategies for students with LDs. There are several approaches for identification of an LD, but a discrepancy between intellectual ability and academic achievement as a key indicator seems to be widely followed; and the Response to Intervention (RTI) method is specifically popular in educational settings. The RTI is a research-based assessment and teaching method of ascertaining how a student responds to interventions in core curricular areas given in group and individual sessions. Use of RTI reflects a paradigmatic shift from the discrepancy model, which allowed the student to fail before interventions were made. While enabling the identification of students in need of services through individualized education program, RTI is an instructional model designed to improve the academic performance of all students in the class, with varying levels of instruction to suit their individual needs. The psychoeducational approach is also popular as a means of assessing LDs among educators because it allows linking of cognitive and psychological processes with the acquisition of core academic skills which in turn will help in providing comprehensive remediation. There are several effective intervention strategies for enhancing reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Some of the strategies are universal and some are specific to the targeted language. Intervention programs vary with reference to the age and grade, and use of information and technology. However, all programs depend on teachers’ abilities and on a supportive school environment. Teachers’ knowledge about nature and needs of students with learning disabilities, and their ability to use research-based teaching methods are crucial to ensure positive learning outcomes for such students. Appropriate curricular input at preservice training level, mentoring and support of newly inducted teachers, and ongoing professional development are key factors for building teacher competency. School management has an important role in creating the necessary infrastructure and resources for effective assessment, intervention, and evaluation of students. Administrators must support the use of appropriate and culture-fair assessment tools, research-based teaching strategies, documentation, and importantly, collaboration among the members of the educational and multidisciplinary teams. However, much of the literature comes from English-speaking countries. Since LDs are a language-based problem and there are multiple languages across the globe, there is a lot of scope for documenting evidence-based practices from non-English-speaking settings.