What does this term mean? What things do we consider when we talk about learning difference… disability… and divergence.
Group one users can be found listed on the groups page
What does this term mean? What things do we consider when we talk about learning difference… disability… and divergence.
Group one users can be found listed on the groups page
I feel that it is important to incorporate both terms when attempting to define students with exceptionalities. When I think about learning difference and from what I have read I believe that all people of all different abilities learn slightly different. In the definition of difference it states in the Wikipedia dictionary that "difference can only be stated on the basis of comparison or categorization". With this said, every individual learns differently from one another. Wikipedia also states in the definition of disability that "a disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual or their group". This definition also compares an individuals ability level but suggests that there is a usual.
Is a learning disability really a "disability" if their are ways of working around that individuals specific way of learning and understanding?
Do we each "learn differently" and figure out how to best fulfill our learning needs?
It is our job as a teacher to work to figure out how to meet the needs of each of our students. Figuring out each of their learning differences should be a main focus.
I agree with Nora. Recently, when I read articles about tracking and Sally Smith's book it did get me thinking about what is our job as a teacher, what are our obligations to students? It is our job to know our students. It is our job to form a bond with our students. Encourage them and want to learn different stategies to accomadate their learning styles. I really relize how being in homogeneous groups is detrimental to a child's self esteem. The feeling of never raising above is so existant. I know because I was there. I am glad that we as educators and future educators can move beyond our mistakes. It is important to have high expectations for all our students. Once we do take it upon ourselves to make our lessons plans inclusive and helpful, students would begin to know that it is alright if their learning style is different and that one style is not necessarily better than another.
Students who have a learning disability have the capacity to succeed they just need extra help in order to do so. The problem with this term today is that it has developed a stigma. Currently this category is over-saturated with students who either lack correct cultural capital to succeed or bright students who’s parents want them to receive extra help and benefits associated with the term.
Is usually based on the way in which various students learn. This is rooted in Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory, which has eight and a possible nine types of learning from analytical/logical to interpersonal. The premise of his theory is that students learn through different ways and abilities. Some students are better linguistically, while others are better at spatial. It is then the job of the teacher to notice these differences and educate students using their own unique abilities.
We like to think of all students following the same path in school. They are learning the same material, so why then do they seem to not all achieve the same goals, right? Staying with this same example, some students tend to go off on their own paths or “diverging” from the initial path. Although I do not know the exact meaning of divergence in education today, I can surmise that students with disabilities tend to diverge from the mainstream. Thus, divergence applies best to students with exceptionalities because these students are not following the same path as their peers. They need special attention to succeed; whether it is physical aids, more time spent on material, individualized instruction, etc.
While all three of these terms are used in education, learning disabled has come to have the most negative connotation. By describing students who can succeed as disabled, they are hindered by more than the disability, but by language as well. I think as, Allison suggested, terming learning disabilities as differences would not distinguish these students from their peers in such a negative manner…and would in turn help them to succeed.
My understanding is that a learning difference has to do more with temperament and preferred learning style. For example, I might have a student in my classroom who learns best kinesthetically. I would refer to kinesthetic learning as a different style than visual or auditory. The difference may impact the student negatively in some circumstances where the child is asked to rely primarily on a less preferred learning style - but the difference does not create an overall or general impairment to learning.
Maybe I haven't gotten far enough along in the reading yet to know this for sure - but I believe that a divergence is when a large discrepancy exists between a student and the other peers of his/her age. This divergence can occur in regards to learning, as well as physical, emotional or social development.
A student with a learning disability experiences a divergence from peers in the area of learning (or abilities that impact learning, such as speaking, writing, reasoning or cognitive processing). The disability is understood to impact the student in a more general and pervasive way than a difference in learning style - and can usually be aided in various ways to assist the student in the process of learning. When accurately diagnosed and treated, the divergence that exists for students with learning disabilities can be greatly reduced if not eliminated alltogether.
As a person termed as 'learning disabled',this meaning has evolved for me. I unlike most people today learned later on in life that I had a different learning style. A different learning style is what it means to me today. But growing up, before a label was given to me, was extremely painful for me. I knew I didn't 'catch it' like others. I knew I was slower and therefore preceived myself as dumb or stupid. Once I recieved a label, it was more of a relief for me. It was like wow I now know what my struggle is. Let's take the proper channels to work with it and I did. Although I found out later on in my life, past elementary years, I was very interested in finding out ways/strategies that help support my learning style. The things that we should consider when talking about disability and learning difference is not making that child/person feel inadequate. Instead appoarch it in the sense of customizing your learning style to fit you. Learning Disablities definitely means different learning style.
The textbook says that learning disabilities describe "a discrepancy between ability and performance" (Belson 53). To me this means that a student has the potential to learn, but when his or her intelligence is tested by some sort of standardized or IQ test, he or she is then labled as below-par. The reason the student's performance differs from his or her ability is the source of the "disability" (dyslexia, ADHD, reading comprehension, etc.). In essence, when a child is labeled as "learning disabled," he or she is believed by many to be incapable of learning either as quickly or as completely as a "normal" student.
On the other hand, when one talks about a "learning difference," I find that it usually refers to the specific way that a student learns best as compared to other students' individual learning capacities. For example (as Allison said above), one student might learn best visually, while another student might learn best in an auditory manner. When speaking about learning differences, there is not a negative insinuation like there is for learning disabilities because it is widely known that all students learn differently, and therefore all have learning differences. Because they are all labeled as such, it is irrational to believe that their performance and ability could be affected, or at least in different ways.
As Allison said above, I'm not sure exactly what "divergence" refers to, but I believe that it could be defined as an abnormally large learning difference. For example, all students learn differently in reference to the best way that they learn, but they are also all able to learn in common ways. If a teacher is reading aloud to his students, they should all be able to grasp the concept in some way or another; but if there is a student in the class that absolutely cannot learn in an audial manner because she can only learn visually, this might be considered a learning divergence. This is obviously very hard for the teacher to address, and therefore probably has a negative connotation, like "learning disability."
As I become a more informed teacher, able to differentiate more and more, I struggle with our textbook's definition of learning disability as "discrepancy between ability and performance". Does this mean that a students is taught information in a variety of learning styles and then still struggles to know the information? I know that there are often "discrepancies" in the students of my classroom between what I'm trying to teach them and what they actually learn. However, being a second year teacher, I pretty much teach to the middle and struggle to involve various learning styles for my objectives. Does that make my students "learning disabled" then? Or perhaps am I "teacher disabled" and should be given more training in reaching different learners?
To say there is a "discrepancy" between ability and performance, there must be an assumed level of performance that a student is expected to reach with a predetermined amount of ability. Who sets these levels? Are they really an accurate measure of student ability?
As a person who was labeled with a learning disability in 1st grade and placed in a "low-level" reading group, I have experienced the ridicule and embarrassment of "learning disabled". However, I don't recall my teacher ever diagnosing my specific reading shortcomings, working with me one-on-one to improve the problem, or differentiating her teaching in any way to help me. From my personal experience teaching and as a student, I feel that the term "learning disability" needs to be revamped and include a clause that says, "discrepancies between ability and performance after all learning modalities have been presented to the student". If you've differentiated a lesson to a student in ways that are compatible with his/her learning styles and they still don't comprehend the lesson, then there is a learning "disability".
I found this great article online (see below) that addresses the many different roots and meanings of the word Disability. I thought some of you might be interested in reading this. I do find it interesting how the author points out that the root "dis" is typically use in English language in conjunction with words that have negative connotations (examples she provides are: disarm, disoblige, disagree). While the original root "di" essentially means "to separate" (which does not, in itself, have a negative connotation), it may subjectively connect in human minds with a separation of negative sorts. This subconscious negative connotation relates to much of what my classmates have discussed above in terms of subjective and negative bias related to disability. I agree with Andy that the importance is not making people feel inadequate for their differences in learning styles - or the differences they may be experiencing between their abilities and performance.
On the “Dis” of Disability
by Kristina Chew, PhD on May 1st, 2007
This post is written in honor of this year’s Blogging Against Disablism Day, the purpose of which is “to write about disability and rail against the discrimination that disabled people continue to face.”
I believe very much that how we talk about our children greatly, if unconsciously, influences how we think about them. If we emphasize deficits, impairments, “can’t do that,” “will never do that,” these negatives become the sum of what our child is. In the course of my life with my son Charlie, my language has evolved to speak of his skills and abilities and to note that, while these might be “few” in some areas or “developing” or “not yet,” these are skills and abilities that he will acquire someday. Thus, in writing about disability here—and specifically about autism—I tend to focus on the “ability” part of the word disability, especially when I am talking about my son Charlie. Most recently, I have written about Charlie packing his own lunch, Charlie attending a reading with me and Mothers Vox in Brooklyn (yes, the podcast is coming soon), Charlie’s excitement about his first-ever playdate, Charlie dealing with a moment of complete and unexpected disappointment (he and I went to his favorite restaurant and the door was locked tight).
Charlie has plenty of ability and of abilities; Charlie is disabled. What is it that he is seen as “not” being able to do?
For Blogging Against Disablism Day, I thought I would reflect on the other part of the word “disability,” the dis- prefix; the negative, “can’t do it” part of the word “disability.” One online dictionary notes this about the prefix dis-:
A prefix from the Latin, whence F. d[’e]s, or sometimes
d[’e]-, dis-. The Latin dis-appears as di- before b, d,
g, l, m, n, r, v, becomes dif- before f, and either dis- or
di- before j. It is from the same root as bis twice, and
duo, E. two. ………….. Dis-
denotes separation, a parting from, as in distribute,
disconnect; hence it often has the force of a privative
and negative, as in disarm, disoblige, disagree. Also
intensive, as in dissever.
Separation and parting—being “disconnected”—depriving (hence dis- having a “privative” force”) and negating: These are the basic meanings of dis- as a prefix. To be disabled, then, would be to be separate and apart—distanced—from ability, and even deprived of some ability (say a child, being non-verbal, is “deprived of speech”) and “not able” to do certain things.
Dis has a few other meanings which, while not as directly related to the meaning of the dis of “disability,” may ring in the ears of a listener. “Dis” can also mean “to show disrespect to, often by insult or criticism” according to the Free Dictionary, as in a person being “dissed” or put down for making odd noises (hums, chirps) in a public place. The act of putting down a person making such bird-like sounds would be “dissing”; “DIS” is a term that means, according to this glossary of things ornithological, “dead in shell” and refers to “when an egg embryo dies before it hatches.” In classical mythology, Dis is one of the names of the God of Underworld, also known as Pluto, also known as Hades.
Distressing? Disconcerting? No wonder today is Blogging Against Disablism Day.
But consider this meaning of dis: It is the dif- in “different” and the di- in “diversity” (by way of divers). The Latin root word of “diversity” is the verb divertere, which means to “turn in different directions.” The Latin root word of “different” is differre, which means to “bring in various or different” directions.” While Charlie’s disability means that there are some, perhaps many, things that are difficult for him to do—talking, learning academic skills like reading, sitting still—the fact that Charlie is disabled also means that he is “differently abled” and that he has in the words of Tim Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics) “diffability,” which refers to how Special Olympians are differently abled in athletic competition rather than unable to compete.
And this notion of the difference that disability makes—of the difference that Charlie, my son who has autism, has made on my life and on the lives of those who know him—is good enough to dissuade me about what might be thought depriving and negative about disability. Life with Charlie is different from what I thought life raising a child might be; life is not easy; life raising a disabled son is distinctly, distinguishedly, good.
And those are words that I believe in.
On the “Dis” of Disability, by Kristina Chew, PhD on May 1st, 2007
What an awesome article! It made me think about what a difference there is between Chew as a parent and Buck ("The Child Who Never Grew") as a parent. I wonder what they would say to each other. Chew seems to appreciate, if not be thankful for in an odd but lovely way, her son's disability, whereas Buck has been forever tormented by her daughter's.
In addition, I agree with Chew that, stemming from the meanings of the root "dis," having a learning disability would seem to mean being separated from or deprived of ability, which is not necessarily always true. I like that Chew goes on to say that learning differences and divergences are good things, not negative ones. But still, the point is that "disability" is a word associated with a negative connotation.
Thank you Alison for posting the blog. I do agree with Lauren and I thought it was an interesting point that you brought up about what if Buck and Chew met each other, what would they say to each other because your right, they did have completely different views of their children. Disability is a word associated with a negative connotation. Whether that will be changed, I don't know. On one of the responds to Chew's blog a person wrote that at his college in the newspaper they would use or I should say they would write disablitiy as dysablitiy because the latin root of 'dys' does not have the negative connotation as 'dis'. He said that it never caught on , people thought it was a typo, didn't catch it being politically correct, etc. The newspaper ended up going back to the old way of writing the word. So negative words do take a long time to dissipate. There are several examples we can use like for example the word 'crippled' , that is no longer appropriate and rightful so. It is more approriate to say physically challenged. I will even use my own race, African-American. It is no longer appropriate to refer to one as 'colored', these words are prime examples of words that have negative connotations and they are no longer used, hopefully. If they are we tend to think of the person using them as being ignorant/lack of knowelege of the appropriate use. So hopefully the word of 'dis'ablitiy will dissipate like the other examples I gave. In the meantime, I think that it is important for us to focus on the child's ability and make them understand that they simply have a different learning style and there is nothing wrong with it.
I really enjoyed that article about the negative implications of the word "disabled." Although I do agree that Chew and Buck had very different takes on their children, I do not know that it was because Buck lacked the understanding that Chew did. I think the differences are of course because of the different time frames and of course different social understandings. I think that if you consider the circumstances that Buck was living in, the fact that she eventually wrote about her experiences was quite admirable and showed a pride in her family. She lived in a time when most people would send their children off to institutions and never visit them, prefering to pretend they were not a part of their families. But Pearl clearly loved Carol and eventually used her experiences to help others. I think that both Buck and Chew were proud of their children in different ways.
I think the label "Learning disabilities" gets a bad rep by a lot of people and for various reasons. I think a lot of people think of learning disabilities in regards to those who might be mentally retarded, or suffer form brain damage from various reasons. I know when I tell people that I am receiving my M.A. in special education, they always say, "oh, you must have a lot of patience to be working with those types of children." And to be when they say something like that, I feel like one they sound ignorant because they don't understand what I mean by special education, and two when they say "those types of children" or similar phrases. I should start saying, "I am getting my M.A. in working with exceptional studens". I think a lot of people assume when they hear the tearm "learning disablities", and they base too much on their assumption. Therefore, I think its important for people who are aware of the term and who are educated on the topic, explain exactly what it means. When I think of this term, I think of many things. I think of students who struggle in main stream school, students who need one on one attention, smart students who are exceptional smart they just learn a different way. I think the tearm is a little distorted, and doesn't really define students who have learning issues. I think the term "learning differences" is a more acceptable term. I think students who have learning disabilities have a difficult time learning in a main stream atmosphere, but that doesn't mean that they never can. I think that there are specific schools out there that can give this population of students the tools to succeed in a main stream school, as well as in higher education. Another point I want to make about what comes to mind when I think about learning disabilities, is the word "fair". I think we need to be fair when we are considering the students who fall under this category. For example, when it comes to NCLB, as well as accomodations, I think a lot of people in school administration forget about the term learning disabilities, and they treat these students without any consideration of their needs. I feel like, I might have gotten a little off topic but I feel like this quetions leaves a lot of room for a broad response.
Each one of the students in this class represents the term “learning differences.” In fact, this class has made me acutely aware of my own learning differences. I admittedly have had trouble with this class because it lacks the verbal interaction that I crave. Sit me down for with a book in my lap and my mind will wander. Sit me at a three-hour lecture and I’ll take furious and copious notes, ask questions, and volunteer responses. To apply this understanding of myself in my classroom is to utilize all of the materials that I mentioned in my IEP (and more) in combination with the strategies that I have learned over the course of my MAT for adapting, my lessons to include the maximum number of learning styles. Of course, it is also necessary to avoid overdoing it because we have to recognize that students have strengths in multiple areas.
To imagine disability in the classroom, I conjure up a world wherein all learning is achieved via reading a textbook. The mere t hought of it makes me squirm in my seat and I begin to yawn. I can imagine the feeling of my eyes watering as I try so hard to keep them open. Frustration, boredom, anger, apathy: these are all feelings that come to mind when I imagine my learning difference magnified into a disability. As a teacher, it is my job to make learning accessible to all students, regardless if their difference is actually a disability. I believe that every day of teaching is like another puzzle waiting to be solved, new and unforeseen challenges greet me every day. Collaboration with other teachers and education professionals, keeping abreast of the most current research in my field, and always striving to tailor my teaching for the benefit of my students are just of the ways that I can “problem solve” within my classroom.
Although there is a long way to go, I think that there is a shift in the mindset of many educators. Look at everything our class has discussed these past few weeks. We all are interested in exploring different learning styles and abilities. I can't imagine that anyone here would go on to teach in a classroom and ignore the needs of their students, only sticking to the standards. I think we all are interested in providing the best possible education to all students, with learning differences, learning disabilities and divergences. As RFries mentioned above, this class style is not the best for everyone. I know that I personally prefer close-knit discussions in person. But some people like working at their own pace, and this class is perfect for class. I think that this reflects the changes that we are looking to make in education. Appealing to all learning differences, whether they are classified as "disabilities" or not. I think that education that focuses on meeting these needs helps to undermine the negative connotations associated with disabilities. If students see that their teachers value the differences in all of their classmates, then they are more likely to value them as well. I know that this sounds a little bit cheesy, but I think that our interest in this topic can change the current situation. Things are already changing if you look at different stories. Buck was brave when she told her story and now Chew is admirable for fighting negative impressions.