Why Education for Students with Learning Differences Should Be a Viral Topic in Our Communities and Mainstream Media

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The Prentice School

Have you heard the buzz about the on-the-job construction worker from Toronto dancing to a hit song by Ariana Grande? The video, posted on social media by his wife, went viral, boasting tens of millions of viewers. The breakup of “Brangelina” made several published lists of top entertainment stories of 2016. I long for a world where real-life concerns, significant to all of society, became as viral and news breaking as what the Kardashians had for dinner last night.

There is need for greater awareness and understanding of numerous human concerns that affect our communities, including one that affects many in the celebrity community: learning disabilities and differences and the need for early, proactive intervention. To incorporate some celebrity spark to the topic: Actor Keanu Reeves struggled in school with dyslexia, as did billionaire investor Charles Schwab. Actor Daniel Radcliffe, known for his role as Harry Potter, has lived his life with dyspraxia, a neurological disorder that affects motor skill development and processing. All celebrity buzz aside, we need to recognize that about 5% of our nation’s school-age population have learning disabilities (LD) that have been formally identified. Data suggest that an additional 15% or more of students struggle due to unidentified and unaddressed learning and attention issues (The State of Learning Disabilities-Third Edition, 2014).

A lack of intervention, special services and limited individualized education programs for children with learning differences can ultimately affect our communities. Here are just a few of the ways:

– Financial drain on the community in the future: A prosperous community and economy is one that prepares its kids to be successful, productive, self-sufficient adults. This must encompass all students, including those who have different abilities, strengths, weaknesses and ways of learning. We need programs for every demographic.

–  Broken families within the community: A struggling child can negatively impact the entire family unit. When you help a student with learning differences it not only positively impacts the student, but the entire family as well.

– Bullying: This has been a growing topic of concern. Students who struggle or lack appropriate assistance with their learning differences often shut down on learning, feel defeated, have low self-esteem or self-confidence and are often targets for being made fun of or bullied. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, nearly half of the parents of children with learning disabilities (45 percent) said that their child had been bullied in the past year.

– The cost of future social services: The possibility of unemployment, homelessness and incarceration increases for adults who struggle as children with learning differences and do not receive proper support. More than half of people with LD (55 percent) had some type of involvement with the criminal justice system within eight years of leaving high school. As a community, we need to alleviate the struggle through early intervention!

Successful film director Steven Spielberg spent his childhood bullied by classmates and being classified as “lazy” by school administrators. It wasn’t until he was in his 60s that he was diagnosed with dyslexia! He was blessed to have found great success in filmmaking, due in part to his feelings of being an outsider helping him to co-write The Goonies, a hit movie about a quirky group of friends who didn’t quite fit in at school. But many others are not so fortunate. Early intervention is so important. The earlier the intervention, the more likely the issues are to be ameliorated. Students with learning differences require individualized strategies and acquired tools to succeed.  The further the inabilities progress, the more costly it can become.

For students who struggle, learning is optimized in a safe environment where qualified educators and specialists show care, support and love for them. When they feel supported, accepted and nurtured, they are more confident and driven to succeed. As youth, recognizing their cognitive diversity, or learning differences, can help with getting these students into the work force as adults. Recognition, awareness, knowledge and involvement in the community can help maximize the potential for success in all of these areas.

The Prentice School is a private, nonprofit academic school located in N. Tustin, California, serving students from all over Southern California, and is a Certified Nonpublic School through the California Department of Education, fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The Prentice approach is designed to engage students on three learning pathways, including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Using evidence-based curriculum and instructional methodologies, a structured literacy approach, multi-sensory instructional strategies, and ongoing progress monitoring, The Prentice School offers an unparalleled learning experience to students with learning differences who possess average to high intelligence, and whose needs have not been met in a more traditional classroom setting.