Exciting New Information for LD Students
This picture and others on this site, shows a model. Here, she pretends to be frustrated and discouraged. The expression on her face reminds me of many students I have known, including those with learning differences.
It really is discouraging to try your best but still not understand.
Lisa has read her assignment three times but still doesn’t understand. She thinks it might have been a mistake to think she could do the work in a regular class. Maybe she should give up and go back to the special education class. Maybe that’s where she belongs. Maybe she should give up on he dreams of going to college.
If you ever feel this way, DO NOT give up.
1. You can get help from this website.
2. You can get help from your school’s special ed teachers.
3. You can get help from your classroom teachers.
But help won’t come to you. You must ask for help.
A Brief History: Learning Problems over the past 100 years
1. Although research began in the 1800s, most people until the 1930s described learning disabilities as brain damage and did not expect these students to be able to learn much.
2. Children with ADHD were first treated with stimulants in the 1930s. Educators then described learning disabilities as poor connections in the brain.
3. In 1962, the term “Learning Disabilities” was first used. Educators now recognized that students with learning disabilities could be intelligent in spite of problems with reading, writing, spelling, social skills, attention, or organization.
4. In about 1975 laws were passes giving students with learning disabilities the right to have an individual education plan (IEP) These laws have been modified and improved since then.
5. In the 1990s, laws were passed requiring special accommodations for learning disabled college students.
What’s in this part of the Website?
There are pages with information and suggestions for students with
Dyslexia and related problems
These pages include stories including the story of my son, Tony, who is severely dyslexic but who managed to get through college and got his Master’s Degree in order to teach High School Physics.
I hope some of you will share your stories and suggestions.
Information that can CHANGE YOUR LIFE
1. When people thought learning disabilities meant brain damage, many educators thought it was a waste of time and effort to teach these students anything more than basic life skills.
2. When people recognized that people with learning disabilities could be extremely intelligent, educators began to develop new methods and gave students the right for accommodations such as extra time on tests or oral exams. This made students feel more hopeful. More teachers seemed to understand their problem. BUT none of these strategies solved the problems.
YOU KNOW THIS IS TRUE, DON’T YOU? One author (I don’t feel I should name the author) wrote this less than ten years ago.
“What you need to know is that you can learn to compensate for these shortcomings and you can excel, even though your learning disability will not go away and it can’t be cured.”
3. Recent brain research is proving THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY TRUE !
It started with research on rats. Marion Diamond and others showed that rats in cages with other rats and with a variety of interesting toys (enriched environments) actually became smarter than rats in less enriched environments. Certain parts of their brains were larger and heavier. Brains can be changed.
In 2007, Norman Doidge, in his book, The Brain that Changes Itself, described revolutionary experiments showing that people can sometimes use strategies to make changes in their brains. One of the stories he told was about Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.
Now, Arrowsmith-Young has published her own book: The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, 2012. Barbara Arrowsmith was born with multiple physical and mental disabilities. She managed to get through college and into graduate school by working far harder than other students. After much research, she developed simple exercises and repeated them over and over. Her learning improved because areas of her brain actually changed.
She now runs a school for children with learning disabilities where the first step is to identify the exact problems that need remediation. Reading problems can be caused by combinations of many specific problems. The children use the exercises to remediate these problems. Her results are amazing.
So far, if you want to use these strategies, you would need to travel to Toronto, Canada for the testing and either spend several years in her program, or if you are lucky, you might find people in your area who have been trained in her methods. Few students have the money and are willing to take the time to do this. But, if your children inherit your disabilities, they might have the chance to change their brain and overcome their disabilities.
Over the next decade, we will no longer tell students they can only compensate for their shortcomings… that their learning disability will not go away and cannot be cured.
What can we learn from this that can help us right now?
In a book called Learning Disabilities by Paquette and Tuttle, they refer to Dr. John Ratey who wrote “A User’s Guide to the Brain.” He “recommends a ‘use it or lose it’ strategy when it comes to strengthening brain connections. Although it is often a struggle to learn new things, the learning process strengthens the brain.” p. 27
They also discuss a study of the gray matter in the brain – the part of the brain used for thinking and processing information.
“The gray matter … has a growth spurt in the teenage years. This is more good news because it gives you a second chance to tighten the circuitry of your brain by stretching yourself and trying to use as many parts as possible. The brain cells that are used get more nutrients and that helps them survive. The choices you make determine which connections survive and which don’t.”
What does this mean for you?
You might have tried to read or write or do math many years ago, and then given up. Many students give up. Many schools give up on trying to teach students to read or write or do math.
Giving up causes those connections in your brain to begin disappearing. But now you have another chance. Right now, especially if you are still a teenager or close to that age, you have another chance – a way you can change your own brain.
You can practice your handwriting over and over, practice spelling, practice reading, practice math, practice social skills. The more you practice these skills, the more change will take place in your brain. This will make further learning easier.
I can’t promise that these exercises will solve all your problems but this information makes sense and I would certainly recommend that you give it a try.
When you read my son’s story ( Tony’s Story ), you will discover that he made it through college and got a master’s degree while still reading at about fourth grade level. There was no way he could read any of his books. After graduation he began trying very hard to read the one book he most wanted to read… and to everyone’s amazement, he really taught himself to read.
LD Links: List and Links to pages on learning differences/disabilities.
If you have a question or comment that should be kept confidential, or a story to share, go to Contact Judy