Once access to a free and appropriate public education became the law of the land, the fate of these children, and indeed ALL children, took a turn for the better. Schools started to create opportunities to "include" children with disabilities in the flow of school life, and as time went on, terms like "least restrictive environment" and "inclusion" were part of the normal business of education throughout the nation. For students with learning disabilities (LD) this meant not only a commitment to opening the door to appropriate educational settings, but also that these students would be engaged in learning the skills and content that comprise the general education curriculum.
Key Ingredients for Success
- A carefully designed set of instructional and learning goals that are individualized for each student (think IEP)
- The identification of research-based instructional methods and practices that have a proven record of helping students with disabilities
- Well-defined supports and accommodations that help both teachers and students
- A system of tools and procedures for assessing and documenting the extent to which students with LD are meeting high standards and achieving their instructional goals
The following are three important Web-based resources to help educators and parents ensure that children with LD are "included" in effective and high quality instruction.
The Access CenterThis national center is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs. Primarily for educators, this Center offers a number of online resources including a helpful document titled Strategies to Improve Access to the General Education Curriculum. Look for a chart in this article that lists strategies and techniques that can be used to help parents and educators make decisions about how to maximize success for students with LD .
Also look on this website for a piece called Research to Practice FAQ: Meeting the Needs for Access. Read about different types of research and click through to resources about ways to ensure that students with LD have equal opportunity to benefit from quality instruction.
The U.S. Department of Education
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) holds states, districts, and schools accountable for student achievement. NCLB requires regular assessments to mark progress and highlight weaknesses in core academic subjects. Research shows that teachers who use student test performance to guide their teaching are more effective than those who don't take repeated samples of student progress. This publication, Using Data to Influence Classroom Decisions, describes why data collection and ongoing reflection is so important.
The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET) is a partnership of six organizations working together to coordinate national resources, offer technical assistance, and disseminate information about secondary education and transition for youth with disabilities. The Center offers Policy Updates, Parent Briefs, Research to Practice Briefs, and a wide range of reports and summaries including updates from the National Longitudinal Transitional Study (NLTS-2). Be sure to look for a paper titled Never Too Late: Approaches to Reading Instruction for Secondary Students with Disabilities that features descriptions of two effective approaches to working with students with LD: Collaborative Strategic Reading and the Strategic Instruction Model
Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D. is the Director of LD Resources & Essential Information at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.