Read the following journal article "Gifted children with learning disabilities: Theoretical implications and instructional challenge", by Vaidya, Sheila R., Education,
Compose at least a one paragraph summary of the article.
Compose at least one paragraph describing your reactions, opinions, and/or beliefs about the article.
This paper addresses a specific group of children: the gifted children with learning disabilities. The paper describes innovative strategies for identifying such children, instructional approaches to address their strengths and weaknesses, and theoretical implications.
John W., a fifth grader in the learning support self contained class, sits in front of the room, his mind focusing on issues unrelated to the language arts lesson in the classroom. The teacher noticing his wandering look, asks him to focus on the task at hand. For awhile, he attends to the classroom lesson, only to drift back into his distraction. Whatever the cause of his in attention, he tends to spend a lot of time daydreaming, not engaged in the classroom and, is at risk for falling behind academically. However, in a one - to - one interaction with a peer or a teacher, he tends to be captured by ideas and demonstrates higher order thinking of a high quality.
Recent advances in our understanding of individual differences in learning make us aware of the importance of educational practices that consider how children learn while taking into consideration the quality of their thought. While educators have always noted differences among learners, and the current literature makes many references to learning differences and learning styles, classroom practices often assume that all children learn in similar ways. This assumption works out well for some students. However, there is a large group of students who may approach learning in ways that are so different that they do not mesh with the regular approaches. Some of these students are identified as "learning disabled." Others continue to function in the average range in the regular classroom. Those who are identified as learning disabled receive support for their learning disability, others are in the regular classroom and not quite motivated or highly involved in school work. Very few are in gifted programs. Because the learning disability may mask their giftedness, this is a group that is difficult to identify as gifted. Thus, although some of these students may receive instruction for their learning disability, they are rarely screened for giftedness.
Although the field has moved considerably from the point at which it was ten years ago when most professionals found it difficult to handle the idea that a child could be both gifted and learning disabled (Torrance, 1992) the concept is not yet universally clear and acceptable. Conventional methods of identification have been criticized as inappropriate for atypical gifted children (Minner, 1990). Baum and Owens (1988) conclude that while high ability/LD students seem to have characteristics in common with both learning disabled and the gifted populations, they may also have unique traits. They also conclude that high ability/LD students tend to have poor academic self-concepts and believe that they do not fit in well with their peers. Confusion about their mix of special abilities and sharp deficits may lead to feelings of helplessness and a general lack of motivation. Because of the limited research with these children, not much is known about such characteristics.
The paper will address a specific group of children: the gifted children with learning disabilities. Discussion will also include strategies for identifying such students, instructional approaches to address their strengths and weaknesses, and the theoretical implications.
How to Identify/Assess Gifted learning disabled Students
Underachievement in gifted children has many sources. However, systematic research involving the identification of and educational intervention with young gifted underachievers is scarce (Janos and Robinson, 1985). Often, the intelligence of creativity displayed by many of these children is noted in one-to-one learning situations with adults. The problem may be a mismatch between the school's curriculum and testing procedures and the children's learning styles, that is, a person - environment mismatch (Reading, 1989), or a mismatch between the teaching style and learning style. Failure to consider the relationship between the students' unique needs
and the school environment has left learning disabled gifted underachievers misunderstood and poorly served within the educational system.
A typical gifted student with learning disabilities may suffer from an auditory processing problem, a visual perception problem or an attention deficit disorder or exhibit a deficit such as difficulty in following a sequence of verbal instructions. In any event, it is one of these disorders that has resulted in the learning "gaps" exhibited by the students in testing situations. Yet, many of these students may exhibit powerful imagination and higher order thinking or creativity as manifested in originality, novelty of thought or problem solving ability and motivation to learn, rarely measured by the tests. They may be described as potential which is buried treasure (Peterson, 1987) because their giftedness often goes unrecognized and uncherished.
Identification of the gifted students with learning disabilities might be accomplished better by portfolio type assessments and by creativity tests, supplemented by information from IQ and achievement tests. Additional supplementary information should be obtained from parents and teachers. Since awareness results in early identification, teacher preparation inservice and preservice programs should focus upon educating teachers about the gifted learning disabled. The following approaches to assessment are recommended.
1. Portfolio Assessments -
A portfolio consists of a student's assembled work. The steps or phases through which students pass in the course of developing a project are contained in the portfolio. The typical portfolio contains a record of ideas, drafts, critiques, journal entries, final drafts and teacher's suggestions, parent's suggestions or suggestions of those who influenced the project in a positive or negative way. Thus, portfolios provide an insight into the child's process of thought and uniqueness of ideas, from a developmental perspective.
2. Psychological Tests -
(1) We recommend the use of creativity tests which measure divergent thinking, such as the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Such a test measures divergent thinking areas such as originality , fluency, flexibility in thinking, and performance on such a test determines the nature of thinking rather than specific skills in performing at academic tasks. (2) IQ assessments should be used to determine learner's strengths and weaknesses, while achievement test scores may be used to determine giftedness in a specific subject area.
3. Information from parents and teachers.
(i) Parents- While many parents may recognize the high quality of their gifted child's intellectual ability, they may be focusing on addressing the difficulties posed by the child's learning disability and therefore, not nurture the giftedness. Hence, awareness on the part of the parents of such a combination of high quality talent and disability in their child, is necessary. Information obtained from parents should consist of behaviors such as the expression of curiosity, abstract thinking. Examples of these may consist of demonstration of the understanding of concepts such as time or the use of metaphors in language (ii) Teachers can be extensive sources of information with regard to school related performance of gifted learning disabled students. Some of this information is found in teacher's progress reports and anecdotal records about the children's learning and talents exhibited in the classroom.
How to Teach Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities
Two approaches exist in special education. They focus on the two extreme groups and are either designed to address a weakness or to develop superior abilities, such as giftedness. Typically, learning disabled gifted students are placed in classes to provide learning support. There are no enrichment programs to address their strengths. Because of the unusual mix of strengths and weaknesses within these children, the strategies typically used with the gifted or the learning disabled learner do not work. Although many educators have argued that gifted LD students require specialized programming to meet their unique needs
(Baum, 1988; Whitmore & Maker, 1985) practical limitations make separate programming an unlikely administrative option, especially in the face of the move to integrate special education and regular education. Hence, the strategies recommended here are meant to address their needs
in either a regular classroom, a learning support classroom or a classroom with gifted children.
We recommend that instructional needs
be met along with psychological needs
. What do theories of learning tell us about teaching gifted children with learning disabilities? To address children's instructional needs
, it is recommended that the following aspects should be considered:
Individual Differences in Learning Styles
Understanding learning strategies used by gifted learning disabled students can help teachers improve effectiveness in all learners. An understanding of the child's style of learning, thinking and operating in the world, is essential. Children's styles of learning focus upon differences such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic-tactual (Dunn, 1984) or field dependent or field independent style (Witkin, 1977) or the many intelligences manifested by children (Gardner, 1990).
Styles of Attribution
Children's styles of attribution, (Seligman, 1990), used extensively in cognitive therapy approaches with adults and children, have not been studied with reference to their impact in the classroom. Attributional style is a habit of thinking that determines how people attribute success and failures in their lives. According to Seligman, the style of attribution often determines the degree of optimism or pessimism that characterizes an individual's personality. Typically, a person who attributes successful events in his/her life to their own abilities or effort while attributing failures to external circumstances, is likely to expect optimistic outcomes and therefore, operate in a more successful way. On the other hand, pessimistic or helpless persons attribute failure to their lack of ability or perseverance while attributing successful situations to events beyond their control. Hence, being "helpless" results in a style of operating in the world in which, events and situations are beyond a person's control. Seligman believes that a person's style of making attributions or explanatory style is a demonstrable risk factor for subsequent depression. Hence, cognitive therapy for depressed children is usually used to change their attributions. Attribution training emphasizes the direct relationships between strategies and effort, encouraging students to persist when they encounter failure.
When we meet a gifted learner who is confident of his capabilities, we may expect that such a child is well aware of his strengths and attributes his strengths and successes to himself and to his efforts. Attributional styles among learning disabled children are known to be outer directed, especially when they succeed, that is these children blame themselves for their failures and do not give themselves credit for their success. Therefore, awareness of their own strengths is minimal in such children. Because of failure experiences, they may pay more attention to their weaknesses, disregarding their strengths. Although gifted, they may be negatively affected and often confused by their mi of strengths and weaknesses. Hence, early awareness of the giftedness and nurturance of the giftedness is essential. Teaching approaches should focus upon making a child's attributions more "inner directed." This may be accomplished through metacognitive approaches, whereby children are instructed to pay attention to their success and consistent feedback from the teacher which draws attention to the success in a concrete manner, using approaches like written comments or verbal discussion.
Generic Influences on Learning
Reisman and Kauffman (1980) have proposed that there are generic factors that influence learning. They group these into four categories: Cognitive influences, psychomotor-influences, physical and sensory factors, social and emotional
factors. Cognitive influences are described as those that relate to processing and retrieval of information such as, retention of information, ability to draw inferences, make decisions and judgments, ability to abstract and cope with complexity. Psychomotor influences are related to visual and auditory abilities such as visual perception, visual-sequential memory, auditory perception. Physical and sensory factors include those related to physical impairments or vitality versus fatigue. Social factors are related to an individual's ability to interact with others, using diplomacy, understanding another's point of view. Emotional
factors relate to fears, moods such as happy or sad. (Reisman and Payne, 1987 p. 23, 23). The generic influences proposed by Reisman and Kaufman may be considered to be compatible with Garner's idea of multiple intelligences, implying that abilities vary along the dimensions of cognitive, emotional
, social, physical and psychomotor aspects as do the different intelligences. This implies that if teachers become aware of the various factors that influence learning, in the extreme, these may represent handicaps or talents. Awareness through observations of these various factors and how they come into play with the learning situation is an important factor of consideration for teachers.
Personality Patterns and the Cultivation of the Gift
While most of the instructional approaches focus on the learning characteristics, personality characteristics are invaluable assets in developing intellectual talents. Personality characteristics such as a high level of competitiveness and a determination to do their best at all costs have begun to enter into the definitions of giftedness, especially as traits necessary to cultivate giftedness. Energy, enthusiasm, persistence, perseverance, striving are described as characteristics that are identified as especially important in the cultivation of early identified giftedness. The cultivation of the gift is a major concern when gifted children are handicapped because the handicapping condition or the disability interferes with the development of the gift.
The teaching approaches should consider the cultivation of the gift and an awareness of the ways in which the disability interferes. There is no single approach that is likely to be satisfactory in meeting instructional needs
with a wide disparity in giftedness and disability. However, a framework emerging from the above theoretical considerations and which considers psychological needs
along with learning needs
may specify direction for teachers and parents. Based on some of the described characteristics of gifted learning disabled children it appears that teaching approaches may emerge from a teacher's awareness of generic influences on the learner, multiple intelligences, learning style differences and differences in styles of attribution.
Diversity among learners should be considered, especially from the standpoint of generic influences and multiple intelligences. This awareness enables teachers to address specific weaknesses in specific ways. For example, if a child has a cognitive difficulty in sequencing, Reisman and Kauffman (1980) recommend presenting small amounts of the sequence to be learned in an organized format in order to facilitate retrieval. To combat distractibility, Reisman and Kauffman (1980) recommend a structured environment and metacognitive self-instruction.
While remediation efforts are important, the gifted LD student's instruction must also address strengths. Hence, in instances of exceptional oral language abilities or exceptional analytical abilities, problem-solving skills should be addressed with enrichment activities. The child's ideas, thoughts, knowledge or theories and intuitions should be considered in developing an educational program, accompanied by evaluating strengths and weaknesses. For example, emphasis should be on developing the learner's strengths and becoming self-directed learners.
Emphasizing the motivation to achieve, Heckhausen (1982), emphasizes that the child should attend to the outcome in a way that leaves no doubt that the outcome is recognized as "self-produced." This concept relates to the idea of locus of control and attributional style and metacognition. Assisting students in the development of metacognitive strategies is a useful general approach. Metacognitive understanding about the value of effort may be an important determinant of performance, particularly for Gifted/LD children. Metacognitive approaches involving self-assessment and reflection are essential strategies for teaching gifted/LD students and need
to be investigated further. Because teachers sometimes are not explicit or detailed in providing strategy instruction, children are often left to their own devices in deciding when and how to use a strategy.
Senf (1983) suggests that gifted LD children are more often referred for assessment not because of academic deficits but rather because of non-academic reasons, such as the psychological distress resulting from the discrepancy in their abilities. Thus, their social and emotional needs
are of major concern. Counseling and one - to - one mentoring may be useful approaches to help the child cope and manage his/her learning disability. Through enrichment activities in areas where the child shows strengths, develops strengths, children should be encouraged to take pride in their accomplishments and strengths, thereby encouraging students to compensate for their weaknesses by developing strengths. Instruction should focus upon making the child's attributional style more inner directed and thereby improving student's motivation to learn by circumventing difficulties emerging from psychological issues.
The developmental perspective of how knowledge is constructed by a child within the framework of this or her own perspective and personality is important.
More research is needed
to investigate successful techniques of teaching for the gifted learning disabled students to learn in spite of their disabilities. Torrance (1992) refers to the use of "right brain" learning techniques, especially, the use of music and dance as a facilitator in teaching. Innovative methods are necessary and many of these will possibly be invented by creative efforts by children, teachers and parents.
for collaborative interventions between parents, teachers and school psychologists, to meet the needs
of the students is necessary. Mentorship programs provide gifted learning disabled students with an opportunity to learn and experiment, develop their potential skills and gain competencies. These benefits and learner outcomes are what makes a valuable part of education for the gifted student with learning disabilities.
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