The process of responding to the needs of students with learning disabilities can be discussed as rather challenging and complex, as it is observed in the Australian schools. According to Chloe, there are three aspects associated with this complex issue, and they are the problem of appropriate parents and professionals’ intervention, the problem of identifying resources, and the problem of government’s funding (Chloe Posting 1, 2014). While focusing on these aspects, Chloe recognises the origin of this complexity in the problem of definition. Chloe’s considerations are supported with the fact that the term ‘learning difficulties’ used in the Australian school environment is not appropriate to discuss all students who can have problems in learning in general words (Rivalland, 2000, p. 12; Westwood, 2008, p. 3).
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Chloe also points at the connection between the weak definition and absence of effective diagnostic tools to assess students with learning difficulties (Chloe Posting 1, 2014). This statement is reasonable because standardised tests that are usually used for assessing students are not appropriate to identify all possible disabilities and problems in learning. Teachers need specific assessments and tests that are not based on comparing students’ results with average ones. The reason is that much attention should be paid to the origin of the student’s problem in order to find the solution and help students (Robinson, 2002, p. 30; Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2001, p. 337). From this perspective, it is important to agree with Chloe who accentuates the role of the teacher’s careful observation before assessing students.
One more important barrier identified by Chloe is the teacher’s unwillingness to address the needs of students with learning difficulties while developing interventions and adapting the curriculum (Chloe Posting 1, 2014). Working with disable students and other students with learning difficulties, teachers need to create instructions appropriate for the diverse student population (Kavale & Forness, 2000, p. 239). However, the problem is in the fact that teachers often lack the necessary competence, and they need to receive recommendations and consultancies of special teachers who work with disable students.
Among negative effects of identifying students with learning difficulties at school, Chloe emphasises the negative role of labelling. According to Chloe, the teacher’s labels lead to the students’ loss of self-esteem (Chloe Posting 1, 2014). The actual results of labelling can be even more dramatic. Thus, according to Westwood, those teachers who use labels make students with learning difficulties become the part of the ‘bottom’ groups (Westwood, 2008, p. 78). The potential problems in this case are “negative social labelling effects, reduced curriculum coverage, removal of opportunities for lower-achieving students to work with and learn from high-achieving students, and a widening of the gap between high-ability and low-ability classes in terms of achievement” (Westwood, 2008, p. 78). From this point, labelling students as disable, teachers can fail to propose effective interventions, and they can create more barriers for learning. In this situation, discouraging labels should be avoided in the school environment, and more focus on the effective intervention strategies is required.
Chloe Posting 1. (2014). Web.
Kavale, K., & Forness, S. (2000). What definitions of learning disability say and don’t say: A critical analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(3), 239–256.
Rivalland, J. (2000). Definitions & identification: Who are the children with learning difficulties? Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 5(2), 12–16.
Robinson, G. (2002). Assessment of learning disabilities: The complexity of causes and consequences. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 7(1), 29–39.
Sternberg, R., & Grigorenko, E. (2001). Learning disabilities, schooling and society. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(4), 335–338.
Westwood, P. (2008). What teachers need to know about learning difficulties. Victoria: ACER Press.