Poll Says Learning Disabilities Can Be Pinpointed, Addressed Among Young Kids
August 31, 2004
WASHINGTON -- With studies suggesting that one in ten children have a learning disability, the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD), a coalition of seven of the nation's leading organizations focusing on the problem, today released the results of a national opinion survey of Americans indicating that an overwhelming majority believe that "all children learn in different ways" (71 percent) and a majority (76 percent) accurately believe learning disabled children are "just as smart as you and me."
The survey conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide between April 9 - May 10, 2004 of 1,054 adults also notes that Americans accurately (91 percent) agree that "children with learning disabilities process words and information differently." In addition, the public correctly identifies a number of possible indicators of learning disabilities among children:
[list][*]identify reversing numbers/words when reading (79 percent agree) [*]have trouble reading (72 percent agree) [*]have trouble organizing information (67 percent agree) [*]have trouble learning how to write (65 percent agree) [*]have average/above average intelligence, but have trouble learning (56 percent agree)[/list:u]
"Children and adults with learning disabilities often struggle for acceptance and understanding because of the hidden nature of their disability" according to Jane Browning, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. "We all understand that someone using a wheelchair needs special accommodations, but we often fail to realize that the 'ramp' a person with a learning disability needs, might be extra time to process information, or low-tech assistive devices like a tape recorder for note-taking. Learning disabilities may be invisible, but they are real. Everyone with a learning disability can succeed, given the right opportunities."
CCLD has established a special Web site for parents and others who are seeking information about learning disabilities (www.focusonlearning.org). The Web site also explains where parents can go for help for their children. The Web site contains all of the polling questions cited. The poll was sponsored by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.
Unfortunately, according to the survey, the public does not understand that learning disabilities are permanent even though they believe that most children can learn to compensate for their disability with proper instruction. Therefore many parents adopt a "wait and see" attitude when faced with potentially troubling behavior, especially in young three to four year-old children that need to be identified and helped in their earliest years. These behaviors among young children include:
[list][*]having trouble making friends or getting along with other children (only 33 percent of parents see this as a serious problem) [*]having trouble following simple directions or routines (only 27 percent of parents see this as a serious problem) [*]becoming restless or easily distracted (only 25 percent of parents see this as a serious problem) [*]having trouble with numbers, the alphabet or days of the week (only 20 percent of parents see this as a serious problem) [*]having trouble rhyming (only 16 percent of parents see this a serious problem)[/list:u]
But, parents correctly identify critical difficulties with five to eight year-olds as potential warning signs of a learning disability:
[list][*]having trouble holding a pen/pencil (67 percent of parents see this as a serious problem) [*]making errors with reading/spelling over and over (60 percent of parents see this as a serious problem) [*]having trouble matching letters with sounds (58 percent of parents see this as a serious problem) [*]having trouble learning new skills and relies on memorization instead (52 percent of parents see this a serious problem)[/list:u]
"Among our greatest challenges is how to ensure that students with learning disabilities experience success in learning and that high-stakes assessments are able to capture these accomplishments" says Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, Director of Professional Services at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. "Accommodations and modifications can be a student's lifeline to success in the high-stakes arena" he continues, "but these provisions must be tailored to the needs of individual students in ways that do not compromise the purpose and integrity of the testing. More work in the areas of assistive technology and universal design are needed to provide keys to helping us assess and monitor these students' progress."
Finally, the public is worried that learning disabled students may suffer in the current standardized "high-stakes" testing environment:
[list][*]a majority (55 percent) believe that enforced standardized testing will be hurtful for students with learning disabilities [*]71 percent of Americans disagree with giving all children the same test in the same way [*]but 66 percent of the public agree that standardized tests are fair for children with learning disabilities if modifications in the test environment are allowed[/list:u]