Raise Awareness for National Learning Disabilities Month

Raise awareness of learning disabilities through reading, writing, research, and collaboration.

By Dawn Dodson

Posted

student doing research on a computer

Establishing an environment that is both equal and safe for all learners is the responsibility of all professional educators. This means creating a place where each learner is given a voice and all students are encouraged and supported in risk taking. Accomplishing this scenario requires a careful process in which everyone comes to awareness of each individual’s strengths. It is in that spirit, that October has been named National Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. Raising awareness about learning disabilities in both children and adults creates an opportunity for individuals who need help or support to connect with those who can provide it. In the classroom, observing this month can take shape through learning about different learning disabilities. Students discover how they can support others with the understanding that everyone has strengths to share with one another.

 

Thank you, Mr. Falker

Studying about people who live with disabilities, learning and otherwise, begins in my classroom with literature. As a mentor text, I read aloud Patricia Polacco’s book, Thank you, Mr. Falker. It is an account of Polacco’s own struggle with dyslexia and the teacher who discovered it. I use this book when teaching comprehension strategies, namely making personal connections to text. It provides a starting place and focus for class discussion about learning disabilities. Through discussion, the class identifies Polacco's struggle in learning to read, as well as how classmates helped and/or hindered her learning experience.  This discussion opens the door for the novel study to follow.

Literature Circles with a Purpose

Cynthia Lord's novel, Rules, brings light to a disability. Catherine, the main character, chronicles her life with an autistic brother. From experiences with friends and school, to private family moments, this book raises awareness of all disabilities. It portrays the reality of life for those who live with, or support, these individuals. Throughout the novel, Catherine gives her brother life rules to help him navigate through the real world. As we read this book, the class breaks into groups to create a set of learning rules. The focus of this activity is to analyze how each member of the cooperative group learns, and then to create rules that support the learning style of each member. Every pupil is given a learning modality survey to discover his/her learning style. Once they have identified their learning styles, the group comes together to share their results, research strategies, and identify rules that will help each person to achieve success in the classroom. The rules are illustrated on posters, shared with the class, and displayed in the room with the title, “Class Learning Rules”. The goal of this assignment is to raise awareness and respect for each individual in the classroom, as well as to support one another’s success.

Interview, Research, and Respond

As a part of the novel study, readers choose a disability to research. Requirements for the project include research investigation and an essay. As a part of the essay, pupils are required to interview a person who either has a disability and/or a family member who lives with a disabled person. This is the most beneficial element of the project. The learning and awareness that arises from the interviews cannot be substituted. The focus of writing then becomes facts about the specific disability being researched, and how a person and his/her family cope with it. Additionally, pupils read biographies about famous people who have found strategies for coping with learning disabilities and achieved success. At the conclusion of the study, all learners are aware of the obstacles that come with living with a disability. The ultimate goal of the novel study and accompanying research project is to bring about awareness of others, not only in the classroom, but in society.

ELA Common Core Connections:

The following language arts standards are included in this study:

RL.6.3: Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

RL.6.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

RL.6.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

W.6.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

W.6.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W.6.10: Write routinely over extended time frames for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

More Lesson Ideas:

Can You Feel the Thunder

Here is a short story and lesson plan with accompanying worksheets that practice reading comprehension skills as well as raise awareness of living with disabilities. The story deals with a deaf character and how the family copes with the disability.

Understanding Learning Differences

A study that incorporates both awareness of learning disabilities and the different learning styles. The goal is to raise awareness  and understanding of pupils living with learning disabilities.

What’s Wrong with Me?

Study the different learning disabilities that exist, and the people who have been diagnosed with them. Pupils watch a program and conduct research over the course of this study.

Acceptance of Learning Disabilities

This focuses on raising awareness of learning disabilities through a variety of activities and assignments. The activities incorporate a variety of different learning styles.


Language Arts Guide

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Dawn Dodson