Guidance and Support to Meet Learning Needs for Children with Disabilities

Special needs are requirements that occur naturally in people thereby necessitating particular attention on them. They may be psychological or medical. They usually lead to problems in learning for students. The difficulties that such students experience in learning is normally not associated with mental disability. The students possess a certain degree of intelligence, but their brain may fail to register information in the desired manner, thereby making it difficult for them to grasp information fast especially in learning institutions. Nevertheless, they are capable of studying and succeeding in academics. There are many characteristics that are exhibited by students with learning disability. These can be helpful to the teachers while trying to identify the students with special needs.

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The students occasionally fail to pay attention for a long period and are easily diverted by external occurrences beyond the classroom. They are normally forgetful, and have problems of time consciousness. It is therefore difficult for them to make a proper time plan. The problem can also be exhibited in their inability to write legible hand writings and their reduced capacity to read. They usually omit some words while reading as well as pronouncing some letters incorrectly. This may be attributed to their inadequate coordination of the eyes and the hands. Understanding and adhering to instructions is usually difficult with a poor reasoning capacity, and therefore they fail to make sensible objectives. Such students are irritable and always require to be recognized, while on the other hand they are quite disorganized and constantly mess up with procedures.

 

 

 

Learning Needs

There are various types of learning needs. Many are not known because they do not exhibit notable physical characteristics. The most common learning need is dyslexia. It is a problem that is associated with difficulties in understanding. Writing problems occur in some learners, reducing their capacity to spell and write words correctly. It hampers the student’s ability to write a coherent composition or piece of academic writing. This problem is known as dysgraphia. There are students who understand many other subjects apart from mathematics. For them it is usually difficult to plan their time perfectly. This problem is known as dyscalculia and is also associated with lack of budgeting capabilities and the individuals usually spend more money than they would like to spend while they go out for shopping. Problems with motor planning usually affect the student’s capability for proper coordination of the movement of body organs. This affects learning especially where the student needs to learn practical skills. This problem is known as apraxia (Ammon, P. and B. Levin. 1993 pp. 319-326).

For students to be competent in class, they need to possess a good hearing capacity. This is because learning is mostly offered through oral communication. Without proper hearing capability, the students can not listen and understand theories that are taught orally. Partial hearing may also make the student to miss important information. Visual acuity is necessary for the purpose of reading, it enhances the student’s ability to see and link information with some other information that the student has learnt before. Connecting the information with something else related to whatever is in view, be it illustrations, pictures, calculations and such information facilitates learning in students. There are students who lack the capability to view things and relate them with post learning experiences or some other information that may be helpful in learning. It is therefore difficult for them to learn. In learning, a student is largely required to be attentive in order to get all that is taught in class. There are some students who naturally fail to pay attention to details. A lot of information is lost in the process of learning and therefore the performance of the student is affected. The teacher should emphasize on the importance of paying attention to what is being taught.

Learner Profile

This is a combination of information that describes the factors that influence learning in an individual. It helps the teacher to understand the students, where they go after class as well as their motivation and expectations in the course. The teacher is able to plan from the students’ perspective in order to teach in a method that is suitable to the learners. In order to profile the learners in the group, categories of information were developed in order to acquire precise results. These categories are represented in the table below which serves as a guide to the students’ profile.

 

Table 1: Learners’ profile

Data Category Information Collected from Students Conclusion
Individual characteristics
  • Learning needs and inclination
3 students with special needs
  • Age range
Between 19 and 20 years of age
  • Sex
12 female and 10 male
  • Educational background
All students have completed secondary school education
  • Family state of affairs
6 from financially well up families and the rest from middle income earning families
Motivation for studying
  • For the studies to serve as a bridge to another course
  • 9 students
  • To gain a qualification that will enable the students to earn income in future
  • 23 students
  • For pleasure or not very sure why they study
  • 7 students
Knowledge learnt earlier which can facilitate learning
  • Minimum qualifications for this class
  • All the students have met the requirements for admission
  • Other learning they have completed
  • They have also undergone an inception course
  • learning problems they might they have (e.g., misconceptions and bad study habits)
  • 6 students have difficulties in understanding while the rest understand easily
  • Language skills
  • All the students are proficient in English which is the language of studying in the college
Skills that enhance studies
  • Time management
·         5 students do not plan their time properly
  • Writing skills
  • 2 students have illegible handwriting and often make grammatical errors
  • Interactions with other students
  • The students largely interact through group work
  • Accessibility of learning materials
  • The students have access to the college library which has enough learning materials

 

Personal tutorial arrangements

In order to formulate an appropriate tutorial, personal surveys were conducted through the use of questionnaires as well as interviewing the students. This facilitated acquiring of information about individual students. It was an effective method since the data was collected and analyzed quickly. There are many kinds of tutorials that can be used for assessing students. In this case, individual tutorials were used. These are important in providing a direct link between the teacher and the students. It ensures that the student remains active in the learning session. The teacher chooses a student from the whole class to answer a question. On the other hand, one student may be chosen from a particular group to answer the question. With the use of this method, it was easy to understand the thoughts of the students. It is therefore easy to note the weaknesses and strengths of a student for example the student who lacks self confidence was not able to speak up in front of the other students for fear of making a mistake. Understanding the thinking of the students is also important in offering guidance to the learners. It was possible to identify the errors and plan on the best approach to tackle the problem.

The tutorial was arranged in such a way that it was easy to learn how the students were thinking. Each student was to answer at least one question. The structure of the questions was such that all the students could be assessed on a common base. The tutorial was designed to ensure that students do not guess the answers. This tutorial served an important purpose of addressing the problem of each student separately because each of them had a task to accomplish. With each student assigned a particular question, the tutor would walk around as the students worked out the questions assisting them where they went wrong individually. Some of the students worked them out correctly and fast, others worked out correctly but over a long period of time, there were those who got the wrong answers fast while others took a long time to get the wrong answer. The purpose of assigning the students different problems to solve served to ensure that some are not tempted to rely on others whom they felt understand the problems better. This mostly happens for those who generally lack confidence about what they know. The most important issue to address was for the student to explain how he got the answer, whether wrong or right.

From this group, two students had special learning needs. These needs were identified in a variety of ways. First and foremost was to identify their strengths and weaknesses through personal tutorials. The response of majority of the students was closely related while two of them could not answer the questions correctly even after being guided largely. Specific topics were identified and evaluated against other learning needs that had been addressed by colleagues in the same field. This enhanced the understanding of the attitude of the students towards learning skills as well as visible problems. Personal observation was significant in identifying the reactions of the students over a specific question. There was a common characteristic of forgetfulness, with the students seeming to struggle to remember what they had learnt earlier.

After a proper analysis of the results from the tutorial, observation and general performance of the students, one of the students showed characteristics of dyslexic. This is a problem that is associated with difficulties in learning, especially when the student has to recall numbers. Spelling and pronunciation of words was also a problem associated with dyslexic. The second student lacked confidence in class work. She had a feeling that the other students were better and therefore remained withdrawn. The student fails to attempt even simple questions especially in class for the fear of failing.

The two problems were a major barrier to learning for the two students. The dyslexic student could not understand theories and formulas which were essential for examinations. The hand writing was also a problem and therefore the notes that the student took from the lectures were either illegible and therefore could not assist him in revision or some wrongly spelt words that changed the meaning of most of the sentences thereby causing more problems in learning. Lack of self confidence in the second student also made her remain socially withdrawn in class. Interactive learning was therefore not beneficial to the student because to her, group work seemed to be a threat to her personal esteem. This normally happened for the reason that she did not want to make a mistake while airing her personal opinion on various topics. It was not easy for group members who worked with her, and even at times she could deliberately be absent in order to avoid class and group discussions.

These needs had to be supported differently because the cause varied. With the understanding that students learn through associating and linking information that they had learnt or is generally known, the learner with dyslexic was successfully supported through identifying particular information that is related to specific topics. This student developed the ability to understand certain issues that he could associate with familiar things. In note taking, the words where most of the spelling errors occurred were stressed to ensure that the student took the correct notes. The student was also encouraged to develop a tendency of feeling relaxed in class in order to allow the brain to accommodate more information. For the student who lacked self confidence, the first issue to address was to ensure that she understood that all people make mistakes. Constant encouragement and appreciation whenever she got an answer correct worked to build confidence in the student. Even when the answer is not correct, the student would be appreciated for trying. She later observed that even the other students were not getting everything correct and therefore she gathered the courage to be active in class discussions (Geoff Petty 2004 pp. 37-42).

Reviewing progress is important in order to ensure that any deterioration is acted upon any time it is noted in the course of learning. This can be done through observation of the physical characteristics as well as continuous assessments for the students. Observation can be used for the response of students in class to see whether they are participating through answering questions as well as actively participating in group discussions. A personal interaction with the students also assists in tracking progress. Comparison of past examination records can serve as an indicator for success. A change in behavior is recorded and therefore it is easy for the tutor to know whether the behavioral changes are positive or negative. Parents are significant in the success of such an undertaking. They provide information about the student’s behavior at home and therefore it becomes easier to note any changes in the student.

Specialized support mechanisms in the college

The college has special learning facilities for the students with special needs. These include the guidance and counseling department where experts give academic advice to students with such needs or those who are unable to plan their time effectively. There are also special reading rooms and reading materials that are necessary for the students who are unable to use the common materials used by the normal students. These are usually for the physically and mentally handicapped students. The college also offers lectures for teachers concerning special needs. They are therefore equipped with the skills of handling such students. The college provides an avenue for students to interact with students from other schools through exchange visit programs where students interact through debates and games. This helps in building the confidence of students back in their school for they usually feel that if they can answer questions and participate in debates where there are so many observers, they can also do it in their own class where there are few observers.

Teachers concentrate on teaching the students on critical learning skills such as participatory learning and research. Assistance is offered for the students who are unable to conduct appropriate research through helping them to identify the important sources of information for research. Teachers make arrangements for peer support. This assists in developing the confidence that is required for students to learn effectively from peers, which may be lacking for teacher student interactions.

 

 

Conclusion

Learning needs can be found in who are physically able as well as those with physical disabilities. The appropriate learning resources should be provided for students according to the learning need. They should be available all the time and the students should be encouraged to use them in order to improve on their learning capabilities. The students should be assisted to develop their own personal improvement plan. The personal development plan should be a policy for all the educational institutions. All the learner support programs should be designed to match with the learning needs. These should be in line with the available resources. The learners should easily access the support programs which should provide information that is easily understandable.

 

Bibliography

  1. Ammon, P. and Levin B. 1993. Expertise in Teaching from a Developmental Perspective: Learning and Individual Differences, New York: Macmillan.
  2. Geoff P. Teaching Today: a practical guide, 3rd Ed, Published by Nelson Thornes.
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