The State of Learning Disabilities: A New Report

Identifying learning disabilities and providing needed services are a critical child welfare issue.

This very important report seeks to inform the public of the issues behind learning disabilities, conditions that are as misunderstood as they are misdiagnosed.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities, a leading advocacy group, just came out with a report, The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. That figure, one in five, or 20 percent, refers to the number of students who have a learning disability, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. This population is very much misunderstood; all too often, these children are (mis)labeled as lazy or unmotivated or just not as smart as their peers. More often than not, these labels are untrue. Not only are these students at risk of failing school, but also they all too often struggle finding or keeping employment and are disproportionately represented in the prison population.

Despite one in five students having some sort of learning disability, according to this report, only one in 16 receive proper special-education services with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and only one in 50 receive services under Section 504.  This detailed report covers the following:

  • The neuroscience, stigma, and federal laws concerning these students
  • How to identify struggling students
  • Supporting academic success
  • The social, emotional, and behavioral challenges these students face and pose
  • Issues regarding the transitioning to life after high school
  • Recommended policies.

The report provides summaries for each state, with “key data points and comparisons to national averages in several areas such as inclusion in general education classrooms, disciplinary incidents and dropout rates for students with learning and attention issues.”

The bibliographic citation for this report is:

Horowitz, S. H., Rawe, J., & Whittaker, M. C. (2017). The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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Who Speaks for New Jersey’s Children of Undocumented Parents?

…and perhaps of undocumented children as well.  I taught children like these as a bilingual teacher several years ago.  And children like these – children with dreams as big as their hearts – are among the closest friends of my daughters.  Most come from areas of extreme poverty; many come from areas that, because of violence, are among the most dangerous places in the world.

mother and child migrant

By Gillette, Bill, 1932-, Photographer (NARA record: 8464444) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This fine editorial, “Children of Fear,” offers much insight and valuable advice.

Bring Back Our Girls – One Year Later. Malala: “You Are My Heroes.”

BringBackOurGirls 01 r

On this, the anniversary of the kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria, I would like to take the time to remember tham.  On Tuesday, April 14, Malala Yousafzai wrote an impassioned letter on their behalf.  “I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you, and celebrate your freedom with your families. Until then, stay strong, and never lose hope. You are my heroes.”  For more information, the Huffington Post issued a detailed article with many links.

I took this photo during a 2005 concert of the African Children’s Choir and adapted it in 2014, as I felt it expresses the power of African girls beautifully.

Shalom.  Salaam.
‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬

A Loving Mom Declares: “I need my daughter to know that her voice matters.”

girl helmet

A loving mom declares her 2-year-old daughter’s little voice deserves to be heard by everyone.  This is a beautifully written little essay, embracing the spirit of Janusz Korczak​ and “The Child’s Right to Respect.”  For that reason, I felt it very much worthwhile to mention in this space.  Please take a moment and read the essay in its entirety on Becky’s Blog.

World Autism Awareness Month & Day: A Call for Advocacy and Understanding

A ribbon made of multicolored puzzle pieces.  It has become one the most recognizable symbols of autism in the world.  The various colors reflect the many “faces” of autism, a condition often referred to as the autism spectrum (ASD) because no two people with autism are alike.  (The cognitive abilities of people with ASD range from nonverbal to intellectually brilliant.)  The ribbon symbolizes solidarity and hope of a happy, fulfilling life for people with autism.  The puzzle pieces remind us that the condition and the people with it are still very much a mystery.

 National Autism Awareness Month is a public call for greater understanding, appreciation, and advocacy for persons with autism.

     Autism Awareness Month first came to be about 25 years ago, when the Autism Society of America undertook an effort to promote autism awareness.  The primary objective was to “promote … inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest quality of life.”  This year, the Autism Society seeks to go beyond awareness and encourage the public to play an active role as advocates, to speak out for inclusion of people with autism in school and community, embracing acceptance and engaging in an appreciation of their talents and gifts and for what these children and adults are capable of.

In addition, April 2 is designated World Autism Awareness Day, as a result of a 2008 U.N. resolution (first proposed by Qatar).  An autism research and education organization, Autism Speaks, initiated the worldwide Light It Up Blue, campaign in its effort to raise autism awareness.   Among many in the autism community, both advocates and self-advocates, Autism Speaks is highly controversial, because that organization is seeking a cure, whereas many people prefer to see autism as simply another way of being, “different, not broken.”  These advocates and activists prefer the completed puzzle over the single puzzle piece that is a trademark of Autism Speaks.

An astonishing video from a television documentary has recently made the rounds via the social media.  It shows how a Carly, a teenage girl with autism, who grew up nonverbal, was finally to express her inner voice that had been captive for over a decade.  It proves how much there is inside children like her.  Her message would be one we should all listen to.

Early Signs of Autism
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease control, early signs of autism include the following, and early intervention is urged:

  • Does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • Does not say single words by 16 months
  • Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age

World Autism Month is a call for all of us – and society at large – to understand and appreciate children and adults on the autism spectrum and, according to one blogger, to advocate for their parents as well.

Did You Know?

  • In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease for Disease Control estimated the prevalence of autism as being 1 in 68 births.
  • Autism comes from the Greek autos” meaning “self.”   Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1910 used the New Latin term autismus to describe schizophrenic symptoms of children; US psychiatrist Leo Kanner first used the term autism in 1943.
  • Asperger’s syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who in 1944 first described the symptoms in children he was observing.
Asperger Asperger's syndrome advocate psychiatrist physician

Asperger’s syndrome is named for Hans Asperger, who was the first to describe the condition. He did not live to see this honor.

Progress on the War on Poverty – Marian Wright Edelman Testifies Before Congress

When it comes to children, poverty is not just an economic issue.  It’s a moral issue.  Citing Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Pope Francis, poverty is a form of violence.  And violence is immoral, especially when it targets children.  Therefore, we must feel tremendous gratitude to what President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty has done to raise children out of destitution and the moral conscience of the nation to a higher level.

The progress it has made in the lives of millions of children is tremendous.  Dr. Edelman cites a Columbia University study that shows that LBJ’s legacy has reduced child poverty by more than a third since 1967; the figure for children in extreme poverty, from homes with incomes below the federal poverty line, this figure rises to 40 percent.  Among the most successful federal programs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Head Start and Early Head Start, Social Security, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).  The most recent data show that, in 2012, these programs kept 9 million children, 1 in 9, out of poverty.  Childhood mortality is down and graduation rates are up.  Most important, these are not short-term programs or solutions; their effects are long lasting.  Yet, the same progress highlights the ever-present fact that we need to do more to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children.  A lot more.  The primary threat is the increasing fire under which government programs are coming.  Those who claim that such programs do not work and encourage people not to work are “misguided and/or misinformed.”  No, the real poverty trap is that the federal minimum wage is 22 percent lower than what it was in 1964.  The poorest children in the nation still live in segregation, with the fewest resources.  The real poverty trap is the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline.  And our failure to be willing to make the needed investments to end poverty.  Those who talk about people unwilling to work should examine the lives of the working poor, people struggling with multiple jobs and still not able to make ends meet.

“Child poverty is unacceptable in the United States. We are rich enough and have a dynamic enough economy that we should not have the highest child poverty rate among our peer nations. The truth is that despite important progress, the United States is still not a fair playing field for millions of children afflicted by preventable poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, poor education and violence in the world’s richest economy with a gross domestic product of $17 trillion.”

Dr. Edelman urges members of Congress, and all Americans, to examine the Children Defense Fund’s 2014 report, State of the World’s Children, 2014.  I referred to this very important document in my entry of January 24 and include a link to the full text.  “I would like to enter [the report] that you can see for yourselves how poorly our nation, and your individual states support, safeguard
and nurture our children,” she says. “They need you to be their champions.”

The first reason that the violence of poverty continues to afflict so many children is because of the choices we as a nation have made – or failed to make.  Dr. Edelman recounts Martin Luther King’s last sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.  Dr. King cited the parable of Dives and Lazarus.  Dives went to Hell – not because he was rich, but because he did not use his wealth to close the gulf between himself and his brother.

The second reason we still have such high levels of poverty is that while the social safety net can help people who fall on hard times, it cannot prevent those hard times from happening.  “Over the past three decades, the economy has stopped working for middle-class, low-income, and poor families.”  Productivity increases exponentially while individual income remains stagnant, and the gap between the very rich and the rest of the population has widened to proportions not seen in over a century.  “There is no greater threat to our economic and military security” than the fact most of our students do not read or do math at grade level – or even qualify to serve the nation in the military because of poor education, obesity, and our judicial system, which Michelle Alexander has termed the “New Jim Crow.”  Says Edelman, “It boggles my mind that some believe that we can afford to cut tax rates for the richest, but when it comes to investing in the needs of our children, the coffers are dry.”

The war on poverty will not be over until we have fixed policies that have fueled income inequality, providing everyone with a job that pays at least a living wage, that every child has access to a quality education in properly funded schools.  We will not end poverty by “cutting the very programs enabling struggling families to stay afloat in a hostile economy …fueling a cycle of poverty that repeats itself through generations.”  To end poverty, we must do at least three things: expand the safety net to ensure that “no child is left behind,” invest in research-proven programs for children from birth through age 5; and create an economy that works for everyone.  Dr. Edelman calls on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour.  “It goes against all that our
country stands for that someone could work full-time and not be able to make ends meet.”

“To those who claim our nation cannot afford to prevent our children from going hungry and homeless and prepare all our children for school, I say we cannot afford not to.”  Please read the full report; it is available online, at: http://bit.ly/1rQws50

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