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|Title:||Why Despite Legislation, Our Education System is "Failing" Children with Learning Disabilities|
|Keywords:||education;system;children;learning;disabled;Disability and Equity in Education;Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research;Disability and Equity in Education|
|Abstract:||<p>In the Public Education System all children have the right to receive the best possible education that public funds can provide. Outlined in the Ontario Ministry Document, Formative Years (1975), is an explanation of an education system that "ensures that each child experiences a measure of success in his or her endeavours, so that each may develop that self-confidence needed for further learning" (p. 5). However, not all children are born equal, some have varying disabilities that interfere with their ability to achieve "a measure of success". This paper addresses the child with Learning Disabilities and the problems he or she faces in our current education system. A _Learning Disabled student is one in whom there is a significant discrepancy between academic achievement and assessed intellectual ability which is not due to physical, emotional, cultural or mental handicaps. The etiology is unknown. Before this type of student can receive specialized help, he or she must be correctly diagnosed as Learning Disabled (LD) by specialists in the school board. This process can involve teachers, principals, special education teachers, resource teachers, psychological services, instructional assistants, committees, Doctors and administrators. This is a process that involves an inordinate amount of time. A delay often impinges on the well-being of the LD student taking its toll in loss of self-esteem, failure to keep up with his peers and failure to progress academically. This may result in behaviour problems, lack of interest, emotional withdrawal, or physical symptoms. Continued delay in implementing a supportive programme benefits no one except perhaps the Board of Education which avoids the expense of special instruction for the student in question. This paper will argue that while there is legislation in place that ensures each child, including those with disabilities, will be educated in an environment that encourages "maximum individual growth and development" (Minister of Education, Hansard, January 8,1989) our public education system often 'fails' these children. Through delays, current philosophical trends or misguided intentions a board can prevent and/or delay, albeit unintentionally, the placement of an LD child in an appropriate setting that "meets the needs of the pupil". ( as above) An explanation of how the education system works in relation to the LD child is presented. A historical overview provides the background to the current legislation involving the rights of LD children. The deficits of these children are documented and references are cited to support this. An overview of how children learn to read and how LD children differ from the norm is presented. The prevailing theories of the education system, school boards and administrators are discussed in the light of the ministry guidelines for the education of LD students. r- ...... , .' The current theory of mainstreaming, a method of keeping the LD child with his or her regular class, is both economical and appropriate, according to many school boards. It can be argued that this is not always the case. There exists a sub-group of LD students for which mainstreaming is not beneficial, rather the reverse. Case studies are presented to support this view and a programme designed to meet the unique needs of these exceptional students is discussed in detail. The programme advocates a whole-child approach involving the social, emotional, physical and cognitive aspects of the child. It will be argued that such a programme is necessary for the successful well-being of the LD student. It will also be argued that this programme is best presented in a segregated setting, and could not be - appropriately implemented in a mainstream classroom,. Support for the theories that are .-/ the basis of this belief are cited. While there is a sound pedagogical foundation for the proposed programme, in the short term it is viewed by the school board as expensive due to the low pupil/ teacher ratio required. "Bill 82 gives youngsters an entitlement to special education programs. [School boards] use the mainstreaming argument as an evasion in order not to come into conflict with the province over questions of financing". (S. Lewis, June 1989, p. 5) The expense in the long run, incurred through high school drop out rates, high levels of unemployment, increased use of mental health programmes, etc., are picked up by government departments other than the school board. It is my contention that these funds might be better used for identifying and recognizing early precursors of children at risk for school failure due to LD and implementing an early intervention programme. Prevention through education of teachers and administrators is advocated. It is by recog~izing the potential problem early that many of the damaging results may be prevented. Early identification is the key and immediate intervention is the answer. The ability to ameliorate the low self-esteem, the behavioural, emotional and physical problems that are often the result of an unhappy, unsuccessful and/or unrecognized LD child is within the school system's grasp. Early signs that help identify LD factors are known and some school systems are implementing this knowledge with pre-schoolers. The delay in putting this into effect, prevention rather than remediation, especially in the light of the problems outlined in this paper, risks both monetary and potential loss. This paper advocates that school boards explore their options in order to circumvent a policy that causes the 'failure' of some of its exceptional children.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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