Recognizing Learning Disabilities at an Early Age
From pre-kindergarden all the way up to when we graduate from high school, we are tested to see how well we are doing. No matter at what age, we are learning something new, and are expected to excel in what we have learned. However, how well do we identify the kids that need extra help at school? Accurately identifying learning disabilities is very important for identifying kids that would benefit from receiving extra help or being taught using different methods than the norm. However, as I experienced, sometimes there are negative consequences for misidentifying someone with learning disabilities.
For the first 7 years of my education, I was known as the little English girl in a completely French school. All the staff was French and knew very little English. The teachers who did not know how to communicate with me would often leave me a corner with my own material. This pattern continued over the years, and I was soon placed in a special needs class without be given the necessary test to asses my learning capacity. I found myself with kids who had learning disabilities, and being taught in the same manners that these kids were being thought. At this time, I was very discouraged as a kid. Although there’s nothing wrong with having a learning disability, I felt that being in these classes meant I was stupid; that I was not as smart as my peers. I also felt out of place with the other special need kids. I knew that we did not have the same problems in regard to learning as I understood the material but had trouble communicating in French. I felt very isolated at school, being refer to simply the English kid that could not follow the kids in the ‘normal class’.
Thus, the school staff made little effort to identify the type of help I actually needed, and group me with kids I could not relate to. This type of assessment had a great impact on me throughout my whole elementary education. I felt that I was having trouble in school because I was stupid, not because of outside factors. Therefore, instead of trying to improve, I made very little effort since I believed it would not change much whether I tried or not.
It was not until I moved to Montreal and started to go to an English school in the 8th grade that my grades drastically improved. I was able to fully communicate with my teachers, and I understood everything that I was supposed to be learning. I was actually motivated to make an effort and improve at school. More importantly, I no longer felt stupid or that I could not do better. However, for the first 7 years of my life, being taught as a child with learning disabilities did more harm than good. Therefore, wrongly identifying a kid, with or without appropriate tests, as having learning disability can have negative effects on their education. Thus, they will not get the appropriate help that they need at this important stage of education.