Beginning school is an exciting time in child’s life. However, for children with special needs or
Learning Disabilities (LD) this can be an anxious and nerve-racking time for all concerned.
Children with learning disabilities can have a disorder in one of more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language (spoken or written), which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations. It also includes directional confusion, sequencing difficulties, and short-term memory retention problems. These problems are NOT primarily due to visual, hearing or motor handicaps, NOR due to mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or because of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. The individual is considered to have a learning disability if achievement is not commensurate with age and ability levels in one or more of the above specific areas when provided with learning experiences appropriate for age and ability levels.
Research in Europe and the USA suggest that up to 20% of children experience problems with their schooling at some stage and that approximately 5% suffer from disabilities severe enough to interfere with normal progress.
Approximately 300 million people have English as their primary language and as many more make use of it.
If children fail to acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills before the end of second grade they will struggle for the rest of their academic lives. The cycle of failure and frustration that follows has devastating effects on a child’s self esteem. Therefore failure in the infant years puts a child at risk of school avoidance, social isolation and as an adult, at risk of economic disadvantage and associated health issues.
Spelling is the key to both good writing and reading of the language. True spelling is writing from the spoken word. This is the way of thinking which everyone must use to write a sentence. The teaching of phonics and the analysis of the sounds and the composition of words properly belongs in the teaching of written spelling. The purpose of reading is to learn what the author has to say, not to learn phonics.
Handwriting is a complex perceptual-motor skill. Precise techniques for good easy handwriting and for accurate pronunciation must be taught from the very start because of the great importance of learning phonograms and words by writing them directly from hearing and saying them aloud. Unless children write correctly, they do not see the correct symbols for the sounds, and motor patterns once established are difficult to correct. Also the writing process does the most to unite speech, spelling and reading. Small errors prevent children from learning to write easily, legibly and neatly.
A good written vocabulary is essential to logical, sequential reasoning. Words are most effectively taught in the spelling lessons, and in order of their frequency of use in the language (not in categories). The importance of spelling rules must be taught by examples, when they are met in the writing of words being studied.
Words written from dictation in a normal conversational voice force children to think about what they are doing and apply the rules they have learned.
Therefore, the early years are the most receptive ones for rapidly acquiring the basic elements of English, and this permits early study in other fields of education, where understanding the laws of nature helps develop the student’s reasoning faculty. This latter goal relies on a fund of knowledge and an extensive vocabulary with which to think and to express one’s thoughts on paper and verbally.
Hence, the early mastery of a good vocabulary for both reading and writing becomes more urgent every year. Until it is learned it is almost impossible to teach even a rudimentary understanding of the rapidly changing scientific and mechanical world with which we now have to cope. Hence, the communication gap, which blocks understandings everywhere today, is little more than the inability of many people to express themselves clearly in English.