To clarify, learning disabilities are a little bit different than special needs. Learning disabilities are things that are in the way of our learning. My wife, Jody, has dyslexia. As a young girl, she struggled with it and had to go through special training, and still managed to finish school with really great grades and a Master’s degree.
I almost want to rename “learning disabilities” to something like “learning hindrances.” These are just obstacles in the way. Sometimes these “disabilities” are not genuine disabilities. Oftentimes what matters is the environment that you put your student in. Let’s consider someone who is highly distractible. They’re the kind of person that you actually want to put into a context like working in an emergency room, if they have the skills for it, because they can be interrupted. There are other people who don’t like interruptions; they’re not good in emergency rooms. They need to be in a more manufacturing or more consistent office kind of context where they’re working through their data sheets and getting things done.
Sometimes our culture labels biases and personalities as disabilities, so I think that’s something you should consider and appreciate regarding your student.
From there, all you’re trying to do is figure out three things for your child.
1: Where do they want to be? Or where do you want them to be? What are you trying to get them to?
2: Assess where they really are. What exactly is their challenge in this disability?
3: Think up a plan.
We’re trying to move from: where your student is—to where you’d like them to be—using a plan. Very simple process. In other contexts, we like to call that Here, There, and Path. There is where you’re headed, Here is where you are now, and the Path is your plan to help your child with these challenges, these hindrances, to get to a new place.
-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
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