Good Bye to the Learning Disability Paradigm

goodbyeI know it is years away…and maybe not even in my lifetime, pills but I dream of the day when we will move beyond and say good-bye to the learning disability paradigm and welcome a new order of understanding into our consciousness. See, I believe that the “learning-disabled paradigm,” with its half-baked solutions for helping children who struggle in school, is the epitome of the weakness myth. I think it is important to state up front that I am not suggesting that the students who are labeled LD do not struggle—they clearly do, and suffer as a result. And I am all for helping kids catch up and learn what they need to know to get ahead in life, but the way in which we do that—with a sole focus on the weakness of the students—is only half the equation. If we are going to remediate weaknesses, we must have an equal commitment to building strengths. To do so will require embracing the philosophies related in this book and then backing them in Congress with the same energy that we enforce No Child Left Behind and with the same vigor with which we federally fund the remediation of weaknesses. This is one of the most powerful ways in which we can help struggling students succeed.
Furthermore, we don’t help children succeed when we place all the blame for the learning problems on them. This is how the learning disability paradigm operates. We begin by assuming that the unable to concentrate in school. If early instruction in reading and math was poor, a student who cannot catch up may become so frustrated that he gives up. If ever-increasing numbers of middle and high school students are being diagnosed with LD, then the weaknesses in our antiquated school systems must be reviewed as contributing factors. We cannot keep holding children back when they are intelligent and sometimes even gifted just because they understand and grow in the world differently than the dominant learning paradigm. How are we so sure we even have it right? Many of the most successful people I know are so called disabled. What a hoax.

  1. Katherine Reply

    Thank you! Because it is so important and I mean it so much from the bottom of my heart let me say it again. Thank you!

    As a person who spent two years in the disabilities program back in the mid 1970′s. Only two years mind you, I can tell you that enough damage was done to my self-esteem that it took until now for me to over come the damage done.

    My parents did the best they knew how. My mom did not want me to struggle like she did. The schools did not know how to work with a child with dyslexia, and I am sorry but they have not improved all that much for all that they do try. We have a bunch of right brained people growing up in a left brained society and being told that we are not good enough. That if we can’t conform and fit a mold that we are less than worthy and not as valuable as the other kids. Or perhaps even worse you have the teachers and parents who care so much and do not want to see these tender children get hurt that they try and protect them from everything and tell them it is better not to try at all. That is what I was told. I know that the teachers didn’t mean for me to take it like I was to stupid to learn. They only wanted to protect me. Unfortunately all I could see was that they had no faith in me. If my parents couldn’t believe in me and my teachers couldn’t believe in me, they were supposed to be the ones who know everything especially when you are in grade school, how could I believe in myself.

    What saved me?
    I went to lots of doctors and psychologists my whole life. They all told me what I was bad at. Even when I found a great Dr who finally explained for the first time how my brain worked and why I was always so frustrated all the time he couldn’t tell me what I would be good at only what I would be bad at. I could have told him what I was bad at. I have a long list.
    Then one day I came across a book with a code in it to go on line and take the Clifton Strength Finders Test. So I took the test, received the results and at first I was skeptical because some of the words did not sound like me at all. Then I went and looked up the “strengths” in the book and read about them. As I went through them and talked to my family about them I realized that it was dead on. For the first time I had proof that I had strengths and I could even pull them out and show them to people. I printed them out and hung them in my room at home and on my cube at work. My life has never been the same sense, it gets better every day. I know now that I am not defined by my “unique learning style” I am Katherine with many wonderful strengths to offer the world, including the way I learn.

  2. Jody Perrin-Walters Reply

    Finally that understands my children. This year alone I stood firm on not holding back my kindergarten son….he is very well rounded, great at many many things….excellent social skills, follows directions, very respectful, plays nicely, keeps his belonging in order, went from struggling with reciting the ABC’s the first 9 weeks because he was shy to belting them out whenever and wherever and going from a shy little boy to having to pull his green tag the last few weeks of school for being chatty. The first nine weeks I was told the teacher was worried he was so shy and that he was not going to succeed at sports because he was soooo tiny….then to her complaining that he was talking to much at the end. He ended up joining a hockey team where he was the teeny tiny player who was quick and tiny enough to get in between the bigger guys to get the puck for the team. Why do we want to hold him back I asked….it was one thing after another that really was not a big deal from he gets B and D confused and the sounds U and y….he forgot the 12 when he counted to 20 one week when she tested him….and got no credit for remembering it the following week. Oh but that didn’t count the test was last week. Where he may have been a little behind in some areas of skill he was mastered in areas that take some children well into third grade to master like sharing and sitting still……oh but that didn’t count! When she continued to complain that he had gotten chatty the last exciting week of school I said….well it looks like he has mastered one of the greastest things in life….his ability to communicate. I looked at her and said I’m proud of him and think that he has a strength in life that many adults never can accomplish. I was forced to place my child at another school across town because the pricipal was afraid that my kindergartner that didn’t always get his b’s and d’s correct might ruin her state standard test….so he was placed in 1st grade but across town at the school without the school excellence award from the state….and greater diversity of students. I smiled and said I’d be glad too….maybe they will understand my child more and know that all children think differently and are good at many different things….and he will become more well rounded as an individual by being with a melting pot of students.

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