This chapter is written for all the kids who set off to school intending to learn to read and write, remember and be organised and find success, but falter because of an unexpected and spectacular collection of invisible difficulties. Soon after starting school they realise their learning is not the same as the others. Every day the others read and write with apparent ease and scoot through the glorified reading boxes, while they struggle to crack the print code and burn with humiliation. This wasn't their dream. Shame quickly replaces the dream to read and write, and as it grows every kid ponders the question, "How can I keep my dignity? What can I do to take the focus away from my learning?"
A few turn their shame inwards and stop trying because it's impossible to fail if they don't try. As the emotional pain grows into baggage too heavy to carry a few will give up and refuse to go to school. Others contemplate the incomprehensible because they see that this may be a better option than dealing with their shame in front of their peers every day. For those who prefer to act out their shame, the script plays out with surprising speed, volatile emotion and errant behaviour. Contrary attitudes are honed to perfection. Not being able to crack the code still hurts, but at least the child begins to gain recognition for something. And all the while, school continues, day in and day out, promoting reading, spelling and writing as the very essence of learning. How is it that any child with a severe learning difficulty can remain emotionally intact when the very heart of learning and recognition hinges completely on having adequate literacy skills?
Gradually educators are intelligently dismantling the traditional notion that
students should only access information through the reading of print, and to
prove their knowledge acquisition, produce print in essay-type formats. As one
middle school student recently complained, "Doesn't my history teacher
"If he wants me to write essays all the time then all he's testing is my learning disability, and I'll just keep showing him that I've got a really bad one."
Teachers often worry about the poor organisation and planning abilities of kids, especially those with learning difficulty. Unfortunately, engineering thoughtful structures, monitoring progress and reworking routines for students requires hard work. Some ideas are more effective than others, and most work for a while before they need a face-lift to meet a new challenge. The reality is that plans to organise those who do not yet have the natural capacity to organise themselves consumes precious time and energy. All students do best when working in a thoughtfully developed climate of routine, order and structure. Let's explore a myriad of simple way to develop organisation, planning and persistence...
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