Sensory Problems and Over-identification

Some children referred to special education for SLD evaluations have undiagnosed sensory problems — vision, dyslexia and hearing.

“According to research, as many as 75% of children that are considered learning disabled have clinically significant visual problems. Yet, these children are often labeled as having a specific learning disability, dyslexic or as having ADD before vision is ruled out as a possible contributory factor. Once labeled and eligible for special education services, most of the time good visual skills are NOT a goal listed on an Individual Education Plan set forth by Multi-Disciplinary Teams” (Vision Association, 2009).

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities….About 13–14% of the school population nationwide has a handicapping condition that qualifies them for special education. Current studies indicate that one-half of all the students who qualify for special education are classified as having a learning disability (LD) (6–7%). About 85% of those LD students have a primary reading and spelling tasks, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays” (Dyslexia, 2001).

Schools screen for hearing problems but some go undetected. There are periodic ear infections reducing alertness and learning ability. Follow-up audiology is not carried out. Poor hearing-aid maintenance lets the hearing problem impact classroom communication.

“Childhood hearing loss is a very common problem within our schools. There are an estimated 8 million children in North America who have some degree of hearing loss. Even a very mild loss can affect how a student learns. Every teacher in the early elementary school can expect to have one-fourth to one-third of his or her students without normal hearing on any given day. Children spend at least 45% of their day engaged in active listening activities. It is obvious that teachers need to be aware of the impact such a loss can have on learning” (MSN Education).

Hearing problems mimic attention deficits.

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