Are Learning Disabilities Lifelong?

Howard Eaton, Director of the Eaton Arrowsmith Schools spoke passionately about this subject in his recent address at UBC – he articulated the need for creating a different future for our young people who have been identified as having learning disabilities. As a member of the audience listening to this, as an educator and as a parent, I was convinced that the approaches schools have traditionally adopted in efforts to cater for students with special needs should be significantly reviewed and vital changes need to be made. While schooling in its broadest sense needs a paradigm change, the approach adopted  towards  learning disabilities needs this paradigm change even more! Most schools attempt to provide support for students with identified learning needs by providing extra time for completion of tasks, maybe simplifying expectations or providing aides within a classroom – little is done to identify the cognitive weaknesses and then provide exercises to strengthen the areas of the brain which addresses these weaknesses! Yes it is repetitive and yes it is a very time consuming process….but we are talking about life long impacts for students! Where in our pre service education programs do we educate our teaching candidates about the plasticity of the brain? Where in our curriculum do we provide sufficient time for cognitive exercises to be completed? Is there a country in the world where curriculum is inclusive of such possible cognitive changes being addressed? Until this occurs our students with learning disabilities will always be compromised and educators and parents should not accept this as the way forward!  A change in our pedagogical  approach is  essential but this change will only occur if researchers, educators, parents and people involved in educational policy change their mindset!!

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