Learners with Exceptionalities

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Learners with exceptionalities are students who have special educational needs in relation to societal or school norms. An inability to perform appropriate academic tasks for any reason inherent in the learner makes that learner exceptional. (Slavin 1) About ten percent of students in the United States receive special education and there are many different types of learners with exceptionalities, including learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, mental retardation and gifted students. A handicap is defined as a condition or barrier imposed by the environment or the self and a disability is a functional limitation that interferes with a person?s mental, physical or sensory abilities. (Slavin 1)

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects the brain?s ability to receive, process, store and respond to information. The term learning disability is used to describe the difficulty a person of at least average intelligence has in acquiring basic academic skills. (LD 1) Learning disorders can affect a person?s ability in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and mathematics. Other features of a learning disorder are: a distinct gap between the level of achievement that is expected and what is actually being achieved, difficulties that can become apparent in different ways with different people, difficulties that manifest themselves differently throughout development, and difficulties with socio-emotional skills and behavior. (LD 1)

Though experts aren?t exactly sure what causes learning disabilities, they may be caused by heredity, problems during pregnancy and birth, or incidents after birth. Often learning disabilities run in the family, so it is not uncommon to find that people with learning disabilities have a parent with the same problem. Illness or injury before birth may also attribute to learning disabilities. Drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, low birth weight, lack of oxygen and premature or prolonged labor may also account for these difficulties. Head injuries, nutritional deprivation and exposure to toxic substances can also contribute to learning disorders. (LD 2)

Dyslexia is one form of a learning disorder. Dyslexia is identified as difficulties with reading, writing, spelling and maybe even speaking. Dyslexia is a life long language processing disorder that hinders the development of oral and written language skills. Children and adults with dyslexia can by highly intelligent, however they have a neurological disorder that causes the brain to process and interpret information differently. (Dyslexia 1)

Dyslexia can have different effects on different people, depending on the severity of the learning disability and the success of efforts to develop alternate learning methods. Traditionally dyslexia causes problems with reading, writing and spelling and those problems manifest themselves differently in each person. In fact, some children with dyslexia show few signs of difficulty with early reading and writing, but have more trouble with later complex language skills, such as grammar, reading comprehension and more in-depth writing. Dyslexia can also make it difficult for people to express themselves clearly. It can be challenging for them to use vocabulary and to structure their thoughts during conversation. Others struggle to understand when people talk to them because of their difficulty processing verbal information. (Dyslexia 1)

Warning signs for dyslexia include difficulties in the following areas: phonological awareness; assigning correct sounds to letters- alone and when combined to form words; pronouncing words properly; spelling words; learning basic sequential information; reading with age-appropriate speed and accuracy; reading comprehension; answering open ended questions; organizing thoughts; and learning a foreign language. (Dyslexia 2)

Recognizing dyslexia early in life is a key factor in how much the learning disability will...
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