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This paper is design to create an understanding of learning disabilities, communication disorders, dual diagnosis as well as giftedness. In addition to the establishment of producing a positive learning environment for children with impairments will maximize their achievement. To understand each type of disability mention above we should look at the characteristics, causes, and definitions of each form of disability and disorder to better enhance the learning environment for both the student and the teacher. As a special educator, it is an imperative aspect to stay abreast of all disorders we come in contact with to produce a quality education for all those involved. For many students with disabilities and for those without, the key success in the classroom lies in having adaptation, accommodations and modifications made to the curriculum and instruction and other classroom activities.
There are many definitions of learning disabilities. However, the most use comes from Individuals with Disability in Education Act (IDEA). It defines learning disabilities as various cognitive or psychological disorders that impede the ability to learn, especially on that interferes with ability to learn math or develop languages skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking) (IDEA 2004).
Some characteristics of learning disabilities are children having a deficits in the area of reading and written language that cannot make connection with similar concepts in learning math (cannot connect 3 + 5 = 8 when asked 5 + 8 equals), difficulty in thinking in sequential or logical order, having behaviors in the area of not being organized and losses things.
No one is exactly sure what causes learning disabilities. Experts are not sure to the causes. The differences in how a person's brain works and how it process information can be from brain damage, heredity, problem during pregnancy and the environment the person lives in.
Currently there is a prevalence figure of 45.3% of school- aged children in the United States classified as having a specific learning disability and receive some kind of special education support (United States Office of Special Education, 2007a).
Communication Disorders is the speech and language disorders that relate area such as oral and motor function. It can be verbal, nonverbal or a combination of both. It revolves three components; sender, message and receiver. Language (the system of symbols used to express and receive meaning) is a factor in each element of the process; speech (the systematic production of sound) is a factor in verbal communication. .
Communication disorders include speech disorders of articulation, fluency, and voice, and language disorders. It may range from simple sound repetitions, such as stuttering, to occasional misarticulation of word and complete inability to use speech and language communication. A child who is language impaired should show skills in the primary language that are below those expected for his/her chronological age.
The prevalence of language deficits in the school-age population in the United States is approximately 2.5%. and 50% of children who receive special education services from other disabilities (Hall et al., 2001).
An understanding of normal patterns of language acquisition is an important part of identifying children with language disorders and developing remediation programs for them. It also involves screening, evaluating, diagnosing and making appropriate placement decisions.
Gifted children may show outstanding abilities in a variety of area including intellectual, academic aptitude, creative thinking, leadership and the visual and performing arts. They also show the ability to find and solve problems quickly. The full development of the gifted student depends on his or her environmental context, strong encouragement, and support from the family and social groups (Sydney Marland 1972). Longitudinal studies of gifted children indicated that most of them are healthy and well adjusted and achieve well into adulthood, with some exceptions that are underachievers.
Teaching cognitive strategies, problem finding, problem solving, and creativity are some characteristics that special programs focus on for gifted students. Effective problem finding and problem solving skills depend on the individuals' flexible use of his or her knowledge, structure and creativity. In addition, it depends on the capacity for divergent thinking, a willingness to be different and strong motivation. Underachievers have feeling of inferiority, expectation of failure and low self confidence.
The prevalence of giftedness is approximately 10% to 55% of the school-age population of children who are identified (Gagne, 2003; Renzulli & Reis, 2003).
To uncover the abilities of children who come from cultural subgroups, special identification methods and procedures that depend less on prior knowledge and experience and more on reasoning and creative thinking are necessary. Children with physical and sensory handicaps can be intellectually gifted, but often their abilities are undiscovered because educators do not search for their special talents.
Fredericks Baldwin (1987) suggested that the term dual diagnosis be used with great care, mental health disorders is one disability with secondary characteristics growing out of the lack of environmental input that is from the sensory disability. Unfortunately, some children with certain impairments struggle in class and have behavior problems. Often these conditions may be a result from having to struggle in class and the emotional health of the child may be cause by attention deficit disorder (ADD) or Attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD). However, IDEA has a problem in the number of children that qualify as a disabled. Furthermore, Pinborough-Zimmerman, Satterfield, Miller, Bilder, Hossain and MaMohn (2007) findings confirm that 6.3% of school aged children were receiving speech therapy services and co-concurring conditions like intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and emotional behavior disorders. In the public school system the numbers have a grave implication to provide essential service for these children.
There should be a differentiation curriculum to serve all learners, regardless of ability, disability, age, gender or cultural and linguistic background. Curriculum should be modified appropriately. First there should be modification of learning disabilities in the area of math, reading and language. In communication disorders the teacher should make sure she speak with students with impairment the same way he/she speak to the regular education students. The curriculums for gifted students are lesson, assignments, and schedule modification are lesson generated toward higher order of thinking, content modification, and encourage group interaction. Some theorists also suggest that curriculum need to be in terms of the learning environment.
The key features of educating a child with any disability or disorder is to focus on tailoring the curriculum in the areas of strengths, weaknesses, needs, interest, ability and characteristic of the child. It is important to understand the differences in order to indentify, assess, evaluate and remediate the student.
Finally, the important of regular teachers and special educators are arm with the knowledge, training and information in regards to disabilities. Students with communication disorders, giftedness, and also any other learning disabilities can learn and be successful in academics. Professional can prepare curriculum and appreciate the vital features of services for special need students. By modifying lessons for student and giving accommodations to these students with other classroom activities.