Having worked with both middle and high school students the majority of my career, I have always been an advocate of discussing their learning disability and their Individualized Education Plan. Unfortunately this is often a taboo subject among educators who seem uncomfortable with the topic and worry about overstepping unknown boundaries.
Parents also struggle discussing their child’s learning disability with them. This reluctance by both educators and parents puzzles me: knowledge that they have an identifiable and treatable condition often
comes as a great comfort to children. Without this information, self-esteem can suffer and children are likely to feel helpless and less competent than their peers. Compare this to a child who suffers from asthma or diabetes; we would freely explain the nature of the illness and the steps that can be taken to minimize the symptoms. The same should be talking to children about their learning disability and Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P). Knowledge can be powerful!
Here are excerpts from my packet “Looking at your I.E.P” in my TPT store. I always talk with parents prior to discussing these issues with their child. In my experience, parents are usually always eager to have you involved (or oftentimes leading!) this critical process.
It’s important to talk about how our brains are responsible for learning. To simplify the complexity of learning, I like to compare neural pathways to a complex system of highways. There are millions of vehicles that carry “cargo” (information) along the highways at high speeds with no obstacles. They bring the information to many areas in the brain; these areas are similar to garages and are used for storage.
Sometimes there can be a traffic jam along one of the highways. We’re not sure what causes the jam, but it can stop the information from getting to where it needs to go!
Armed with a copy of the student’s I.E.P., I explain exactly what the document is. They love knowing that it is a legal document written just for them! We dissect the different areas including:
- Present levels of performance
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Special Services
Do you talk with your students about their learning disabilities and their I.E.P.s? What have your experiences been?