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Informational Packet
Taylor Braggins
Exceptional Child in the Classroom
Fall 2014

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities may look different in every child. The following descriptions
show possible examples of what learning disabilities may look like:
A child displays a lack of confidence
and motivation in writing and
struggles to organize written ideas and
think of the words to write. This child
has had very messy handwriting and
uses an unusual grip on pencils and
pens (National Center for Learning
Disabilities [NCLD], n.d.). The child
also often leaves words unfinished or
skips words when writing (Learning
Disabilities Association of America
[LDA], n.d.)

A child seems to struggle often

with finding the right word. This
child feels like the words are right
at the tip of the tongue, and can
describe or draw the object, but
has difficulty naming it. The child
is often frustrated by not having
the right words. In general, this
child has difficulty expressing
thoughts through speech and
understanding spoken language.
(LDA, n.d.).

A child seems to lack

confidence and interest in
reading. This child reads
very slowly, often
reversing the order of
letters in words or
skipping over letters. The
child gains much more
meaning from listening to
a text than reading a text.
Spelling is a challenge for
this child. (LDA, n.d.)

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability causes a person to have trouble learning and using certain skills
and content. According to IDEA (The Individual with Disabilities Education Act), the skills
and process that can be affected by a learning disability include:
math calcualtions
(National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities [NICHCY], 2011b)
While learning disabilities vary from child to child, there are several categories of specific
learning disabilities:
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) difficulty processing and interpreting
Language Processing Disorder (LPD) a specific type of APD that involves
difficulty making meaning from spoken words (example 2 above)
Dyslexia difficulty processing and making meaning when reading (example 3
Dyscalculia difficulty understanding numbers and math symbols
Dysgraphia difficulty thinking and processing while writing and difficulty with
the physical act of writing
Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities difficulty making meaning of nonverbal
cues such as body language and facial expressions.
Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit difficulty understanding visual
information. Sometimes seen with Dysgraphia or Non-Verbal LD. (LDA, n.d.)

Learning Disabilities, continued

Instructional Approaches
Just as learning disabilities vary from child to child, instructional approaches must be
specifically tailored to fit each childs individual strengths and needs. There are, however,
several general approaches that may be beneficial for some students with learning
disabilities in a class filled with many types of learners. Teachers might work to break
learning into small steps followed up with frequent, high-quality feedback. This will keep
students on track during independent and group work, and will allow them to feel
supported and set up for success. Applying multi-modal strategies to teaching and learning
will allow the greatest amount of students to access the information and skills. For
example, provide diagrams and graphics, a physical demonstration, as well as verbal
explanation. Teachers may also provide reminders of practiced strategies to use on
assignments and model instructional practices. Beginning with heavily supported
instruction and then gradually releasing responsibility to the student may be helpful to
some learners with learning disabilities. (LDA, n.d.)

Several approaches may be considered for specific learning disabilities, however,
instruction should always be adjusted to meet the needs of the individual students in the
classroom. Below are a few ideas specific to each area of learning disability. (LDA, n.d.)


Show, dont tell
Write main
Use books on
Use diagrams,
concepts on
pictures, and
Allow laptop or


Practice wait
devices, rhythm,
time (think
Use multi-
sensory methods

Allow use of
Large print

Allow use of
word processor
Oral exams
Alternatives to
Provide note

Non-Verbal LD

Several verbal
cues before
Verbally explain
and show

Visual Perceptual/
Visual Motor

Dictate creative
Large print
Allow use of
word processor
Tracking tools
(ruler, text


What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (sometimes referred to as ADD).
ADHD symptoms usually appear in early childhood, before the age of seven, and the
behaviors are long-lasting (for at least six months). Because characteristics of ADHD are
seen in all people sometimes, the symptoms must be more frequent and more severe
than in other children of the same age in order to be considered for diagnosis. The
symptoms must also cause difficulty in at least two areas of life (home, school, social
settings). Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. There are three classifications for
ADHD: primarily inattentive, primarily hyperactive/impulsive, and combined inattentive
and hyperactive/impulsive.
A few characteristics of primarily inattentive ADHD include having difficulty paying
attention, not appearing to listen, forgetfulness, being easily distracted, and struggling to
follow directions. A few characteristics of primarily hyperactive/impulsive ADHD
include having difficulty remaining seated, interrupting others frequently, talking
excessively, fidgeting or squirming, and having difficulty waiting or taking turns. A child
with combined inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive will exhibit characteristics of both
types. (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder [CHADD], 2014).

The following descriptions show a possible example of what ADHD might look like:
A child is extremely active, seemingly in constant
motion. The child touches everything in sight
and talks nonstop, usually with a loud voice. The
child also tends to be very impatient, often
interrupting others and having difficulty waiting
for things. (National Institute of Mental Health
[NIMH], n.d.)

Instructional Approaches

A child does not seem to listen when spoken to,

and seems to always be daydreaming. This
child appears to become bored easily and has
difficulty focusing on just one thing at a time.
The child seems to lose things frequently and
tends to physically move slowly. (NIMH, n.d.)

Children with ADHD can be determined to have a disability under IDEA under the category
of Other Health Impaired, but some children with ADHD do not choose to receive special
education services. Teachers of students with ADHD should ensure that lessons are
carefully structured so that important points are clear, and should always provide short,
specific directions, sometimes asking students with ADHD to rephrase directions in their
own words. Creating short tasks or breaking tasks into smaller parts will make them more
manageable. Using a timer to allow students to control their own pacing may also be
helpful. Students with ADHD are sometimes more engaged during direct instruction than
individual work. With that in mind, frequent and immediate feedback during individual
work is important, whether provided by the teacher or by peer partners. Tasks that are
novel, interesting, and highly motivating may improve attention. Additionally, teachers
should make rules clear and visible in the classroom. (Brock, 2002). Establishing a
discreet method for reengagement of the student and having high expectations may be
helpful and important for reducing any stigma against the student (Fuermaier, Koerts,
Mueller & Tucha, 2012).

Emotional or Behavioral Disturbances

An emotional or behavioral disturbance can be expressed in many ways and with a
range of severity. The following descriptions show examples of what an emotional
disturbance could look like:
A child is consistently fearful of
new situations. This child often
feels uneasy and anxious
without a clear cause, and the
anxiety may be so
overwhelming that the child is
not willing to try new or
difficult tasks (Arkansas
Department of Education, n.d.).

A child behaves aggressively

toward peers and adults, acting
out in class without regard to rules
or response to discipline
(Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010).
This child acts impulsively and
seems to shows an interest in
gruesome events. The child
repeatedly engages in fights with
peers (Arkansas Department of
Education, n.d.).

A child withdraws from peers

and adults and shows consistent
symptoms of depression. This
child seems to not interact well
with peers, and in some cases
shows selective mutism in
which the child does not speak
(although, the term selective
could be debated) (Mastropieri
& Scruggs, 2010).

What is an emotional or behavioral disturbance?

According to IDEA, an emotional disturbance includes one or more of the following
inability to learn (that cannot be explained by other factors)
inability to build or maintain relationships with peers and adults
inappropriate behavior or feelings
general, constant mood of unhappiness or depression
physical symptoms or fears (associated with personal or school problems)
These characteristics must be present to a significant degree and over a long period of
time in order to be considered an emotional disturbance (NICHCY, 2010). Characteristics
could include hyperactivity, aggression, withdrawal, immaturity, and learning difficulties.
Serious characteristics include distorted thinking, excessive anxiety, bizarre motor acts,
and abnormal mood swings, (NICHCY, 2010).

Instructional Approaches
A positive classroom environment is important for students with emotional or behavioral
disturbances. An open, accepting environment in which the teacher develops a positive
relationship with the child as a human being will promote positive behaviors. Additionally,
illustrating the rules with examples, teaching classroom social skills and self-monitoring,
and using behavioral contracts are useful. Teachers may consider seating arrangements
and should supply extra opportunities for success. Teachers may also create alternate
activities, break assignments into shorter segments, and supply a checklist for activities to
help students feel more focused and less overwhelmed. (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010).

Intellectual Disabilities

What is an intellectual disability?

An intellectual disability (formerly called mental retardation until the passage of Rosas
Law in 2010) refers to both limited mental functioning and limited skills for living
independently. According to IDEA, the definition of an intellectual disability includes each
the following:
significantly low intellectual functioning
limited adaptive behavior skills (i.e. daily living skills, communication skills, social
begins during childhood
harmfully affects a childs learning
Intellectual functioning levels are determined with an IQ test (scores below 70-75), and
adaptive behavior skills are compared to children of the same age group. There are many
known causes of intellectual disabilities:
genetics (for example, Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and PKU)
problems during pregnancy, including fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
problems at birth
health problems
An intellectual disability is not a disease or a mental illness there is no cure. However,
children with intellectual disabilities have many positive attributes. They display tenacity
and curiosity in learning, get along well with others, and are positive influences on those
around them, (Heward, 2014). IDEA requires a system of early intervention services be
available to help children ages birth-3 with intellectual disabilities. This service will help to
develop an IFSP (Individualized Family Services Plan) for the childs development. After
the age of 3, the school (including preschool) will develop an IEP (Individualized Education
Plan) for the child. (NICHCY, 2011a).

Instructional Approaches
Instructional approaches will change to be individualized for each student, however there
are many possible strategies to try. A positive and supportive learning environment is
important for students with intellectual disabilities. Find opportunities for the class to see
the students strengths and success, and support the student with partnered jobs and a
buddy for social times in the day. Hold the student to high standards. Consider the
students sensory needs when placing him or her in the classroom, and always provide
multimodal teaching and learning opportunities. Teachers may provide extra materials for
support during lessons, and may need to repeat and simplify instructions. Teachers should
help the student to set small goals and may provide adapted materials for classwork and
assessment, such as a computer, a scribe, or a tape recorder. Students may need extra time
to complete assignments and assessments. (British Columbia Ministry of Education, n.d.).
A child has difficulty keeping attention on the task at hand for more than five to ten minutes,
distracted instead by the many other objects, colors, and sounds to focus on in the room. The
child can be disruptive in the classroom, using aggressive behavior at times. The childs speech
can be hard to understand, and the child usually answers in short, one to five word responses.
The child is learning basic skills in school and needs much repetition of concepts over long
periods of time. The child sometimes wanders away from the group, making safety a concern.
(British Columbia Ministry of Education, n.d.).

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

Parents may ask for an initial evaluation of a child to see whether special education
services are needed.
Parents have the right to use and choose an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)
The school must have the parents permission before making an initial evaluation.
o If the parent does not provide consent, the school may carry out a due process
hearing against the parent
The school must also have the parents permission before providing special education
o If the parent does not provide consent, the child will not receive special
education services.
Parents can ask for a reevaluation of the student at any time.
Parents must be part of the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team, which must reach
an agreement before the childs placement decisions are made
o The team must agree about the childs needs, program, and goals
The school must provide the parent with detailed written notice before suggesting
any changes to the childs placement.
The parent and school have the right to use mediation to resolve disputes.

Rights of the Students and Parents

Identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities
o Includes home schooled, homeless, wards of the state, and private schools
Provide a free and appropriate education (FAPE) for all students
Provide highly qualified special education teachers
Teach the student in that childs least restrictive environment (LRE)
o Educate in the general classroom as much as is appropriate for the child
Provide intervention services for students who are not yet receiving special education
services but who need extra support
Use a variety of assessment tools when evaluating for special education services.
Make sure that the assessments are not discriminatory
o There can be no racial or cultural bias
o The assessment must be in the language most familiar to the child
Reevaluate the student every three years at least
o If the childs learning needs change, the school must reevaluate the child
o If a parent or teacher asks for reevaluation, the school must comply
Evaluate a child before ending special education services
If the school suspends a child for more than 10 days, the school must continue to
provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for the child.
Provide transition services before the student graduates from high school
(Wright, P. W. D. & Wright, P. D., 2007).

Obligations of the School

IEP Process


The IEP process begins when a parent or school professional asks that a child be evaluated
to see if he or she has a disability. Once the childs parents have given permission, the child
is evaluated using several different assessments. The parent and a group of professionals
go over the evaluation results to decide whether the child has a disability and qualifies for
special education services as defined by IDEA. If the child is found eligible, the IEP team
meets and writes an individualized education plan for the child. The child will begin
receiving services as soon as possible after the parent gives consent. (NICHCY, n.d.)

Referral Process

When students need extra academic or behavioral help, schools provide these students
with early intervening services; often a district may use Response to Intervention, or RTI.
These intervention supports are provided to students who have not been identified as
needing special education services. If a student does not respond to many intervention
supports, the child may be referred for evaluation to see if he or she has a disability.
Referral for an initial evaluation of a child can be requested by parents, school district staff,
state departments of education, or state agencies. The initial evaluation decides whether or
not the child is eligible for special education and related services. The school must have the
parents permission before evaluating the child. This is not permission for special
education services, only for evaluation. If the parent does not give consent or does not
respond, the school may start a due process hearing against the parent (Wright, P. W. D. &
Wright, P. D., 2007).

Assessment Process

This assessment process must be finished within 60 days of receiving the parents consent
to evaluate the child. The purpose of the assessment is to determine whether the child has
a disability, and if so, what types of services are recommended. Professionals with
expertise in each area of concern will evaluate the child (Smith, 2014). This
multidisciplinary team uses many assessment tools and strategies to evaluate the students
strengths and needs. This involves both formal and informal assessments that may include
gathering information from the parents, learning the medical history of the child,
performing formal tests of intelligence, academic achievement, and learning styles,
reviewing observations, academic assignments, portfolio samples, and anything else that
may provide a full understanding of the students strengths and needs (Smith, 2014). The
school must make sure that the tests do not discriminate based on racial or cultural bias,
and they must be given in the language that will provide the most accurate assessment. If
the child is found to have a disability and needs special education services, the school will
send the report to the parents and an there will be an IEP meeting to write the childs IEP.


Once the student has qualified for special education services, a team of teachers,
professionals, and the parents meet to decide on a plan for the students education. This is
the IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, and it serves as a contract for the students
learning and development. The team meets and uses the students assessment results and
recommendations to help make decisions, along with the parents concerns and knowledge
of the childs strengths and needs. The team must decide on the goals for the student.
These goals must be able to be measured, and the team must show how and when the goals
will be measured throughout the school year. These goals are then used to decide on the
resources, services, and adaptations the student will have to help him or her reach the
goals. Some students need accommodations made for testing situations, and this is also
decided during the IEP meeting. Students who are sixteen years and older will also need a
transition plan added to their IEP for preparing for life after high school. Importantly, all
members of the IEP team have to agree and sign the plan in order for the child to begin
receiving special education and related services. If the parent chooses not to sign the IEP,
the child will not receive services for the disability from the school. (Smith, 2014; Wright,
P. W. D. & Wright, P. D., 2007).

Arkansas Department of Education (n.d.). Emotional Disturbance. Retrieved from
British Columbia Ministry of Education. (n.d.) Students with Iintellectual disabilities: A
resource guide for teachers. Retrieved from
Brock, S. (2002, June). Helping the student with ADHD in the classroom. Retrieved from
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). (2014).
Parents and caregivers of children with ADHD: Symptoms and causes. Retrieved from
Fuermaier, A., Koerts, J., Mueller, A., Tucha, L. (2012). Stigma in attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 4(3), 101-114.
Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA). (n.d.). Support and resources for
educators: Specific learning disorders. Retrieved from
Mastropieri, M., Scruggs, T. (2010, July 20). Emotional Disturbance. Retrieved from
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). (2010, June).
Emotional Disturbance. Retrieved from

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). (n.d.). The basic
special education process under IDEA 2004. Retrieved from
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). (2011a, January).
Intellectual disabilities. Retrieved from
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). (2011b, January).
Learning disabilities. Retrieved from
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (n.d.). What is attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADD/ADHD)? Retrieved from
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). (n.d.). Common warning signs of
dysgraphia in children in grades 3-8. Retrieved from
Smith, D. D. (2014, April 30). Steps in the IEP process. Retrieved from
Wright, P. W. D., Wright, P. D. (2007). Special Education Law (2nd ed.). Harbor House Law