SPED Question

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Pashtun, Sep 20, 2015.

  1. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I am curious as to how this is addressed in other districts or/and schools.

    In our school and probably district the overwhelming majority of students on an IEP have a learning disability classified as "unknownor unidentified". Is this common? Shouldn't these students have an identified "disability"?
     
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  3. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    In my district, they don't list the type of learning disability on the IEP, but in order to qualify as having a learning disability, they have to have a documented, specific processing deficit, which is on the eligibility paperwork, and explained on the psychologist paperwork.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Has your district moved to an RTI model for identifying LD kiddos, as opposed to a discrepency model? That would explain the unknown or unidentified label. Under the RTI model, I don't think it's necessary to identify a specific learning disability, just that the student has not made sufficient progress with tier 3 interventions. I could be mistaken about that though... that's what I understood my district was thinking of doing, but I could be misunderstanding the implications of the RTI model of identification.
     
  5. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Does the specific deficit have a name? or is it "processing issues" or "slow processing speed" or "poor short term memory"?

    If I ask our sped teacher tomorrow what learning disability does "insert name " have, it likely will be "unknown or unidentified".
     
  6. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I think we are starting to mesh them together. Mostly it is a discrepancy model.

    Honestly, I am not very knowledgeable in sped in any way.

    I know that the students that are pulled out for sped during the day, are grouped by grade level, and do the same activities(overwhelmingly) together.
     
  7. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    In my last district, students could be identified with a specific learning disability in math, reading, or writing, but we didn't get any more specific about what the name of the learning disability was (i.e. we wouldn't state that a student had dyslexia, only a reading disability). We identified students using a discrepancy model.
     
  8. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    There are several different processing disorders... visual motor, auditory, working memory, etc. I don't know them all off-hand.

    Truthfully, I doubt your special ed teacher would know offhand what (if any) deficit a kiddo had unless they had recently gone through an eval or re-eval. During my SPED days, I very seldom knew what their specific documented deficit was... although in a lot of cases, you could figure it out, especially for the kids who had processing disorders related to memory. Even then though, there were at least two deficit areas which fell under the general category of working memory.
     
  9. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Do you think that knowing the specific disorder would help to design a better plan to help those students?
     
  10. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    In terms of identification, I think the answer largely depends on how your district approaches SLD. I know that's not very helpful and largely what you and others have already said.

    Some states/districts approach SLD by not only requiring a discrepancy between IQ and achievement, but identifying the area of processing difficulty that is supposedly causing the discrepancy. So, it's possible that this is required, but for some reason this hasn't been identified, but your team is still moving forward and identifying

    It could also be referring not to the area of processing difficulty, but the subject area where the learning disability has been identified. I have a harder time thinking this would be the unknown area, but still - could be.

    Still, as others have said, it could possibly be that RtI is serving as the mechanism of identification, not assessment of processing difficulty, so that's being left "unknown."

    In terms of helpfulness: The short answer is "no." In general, you won't get any helpful information from the psych report beyond what you'd get in a good, thorough curriculum-based skills assessment, other than potentially identifying a few accommodations you might use, or ways you might approach interventions. However, a good skills-based assessment will get you to the same destination, but in a more specific and direct manner. So, bottom line - I wouldn't consider if a negative from an instructional perspective.
     
  11. FourSquare

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    The more specific districts get, the more room a parent has to sue for specialized services. Needless to say, most of our kids get labeled as general LD.
     
  12. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    To be honest, I think it would be of fairly limited use to teachers. At least the psych reports I've read... they are pretty much indecipherable to teachers or parents. I don't think it would be a bad thing for teachers to be aware of, but I don't think it would ultimately do much practical good. The psych reports I've read do include suggestions, but they have almost always been so generic that any teacher would already be implementing them all.
     
  13. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    We moved away from the discrepancy model several years ago. When we evaluate, we look for a pattern of strengths and weaknesses. We then look at what academic areas their weakness(es) could be impacting. Most of the time teachers just know that a student has a specific learning disability in any of the following areas: Basic reading skills, Reading Comprehension, Reading Fluency, Math Calculation, Math Problem Solving, or Written expression.
     
  14. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    What would be an example of a disablility in reading comprehension?
     
  15. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I guess I am having an issue with not knowing what the specific disability is.

    In the medical field you would want to know that a person has "insert disease" so that you can properly address it.

    It doesn't work this way in education and would not be a benefit?
     
  16. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    You're right. The learning disability needs to be more specific. We address some of that when we discuss their present levels of performance. It especially helps when they have just been reevaluated.

    An example of a reading comprehension disability would be if a student has low processing speed or low working memory in the cognitive area and low reading comprehension scores on the academic tests. The two tie together. The student reads so slow that they forget what they read or they can't remember what they read because of their poor working memory. Some of it also has to do with the type of questions that are being asked.
     
  17. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    So is fluency and decoding the solution?

    How does one address processing speed or low working memory?
     
  18. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Pashtun, just replied to your private message with a similar response, but for sake of others, the general issue is that one cannot address processing speed or low working memory directly. Rather, if you knew there was a processing deficit, you'd have to assess which skills were specifically being impacted, then intervene directly with those skills. This begs the question, why even assess or know cognitive processing deficits in the first place if you're going to have to assess specific skills anyway? This is ultimately what has led many school psychologists, and federal law, away from the discrepancy model, or even the PSW (patterns of strengths & weaknesses) model as smalltowngal mentioned. Simply put, they don't have intervention utility. gr3teacher - the real reason psych reports written from a discrepancy or PSW model aren't helpful isn't that they are indecipherable, but that they just don't contain useful information unless they go past explanations of IQ score results, and move into the direct skill assessment and intervention planning arena, which few reports do.

    Pashtun, you're example of the medical model, and general way of thinking overall, makes complete sense. The general problem is that our field is not yet advanced enough to know what to do with something like a "deficit in working memory." You can't fix it, and you can't even really accommodate for it unless you know how that issue affects actual skills, which you can assess through a thorough skill-based assessment anyway, rendering the initial IQ/processing test relatively useless for things like SLD.
     
  19. Backroads

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    So, EdEd, if I'm understanding you correctly, as those in the school system the majority of us are simply not trained to deal with the underlying causes (being more of a medical/psychological undertaking) and thus leading to tackling the observable student difficulties?
     
  20. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Exactly what EdEd said. It is hard for most assessors to accurately address the underlying root problems of what causes a student's disability.
     
  21. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Not really. So, my main point is that some underlying causes simply can't be changed. Working memory, for example, is pretty consistent. That's an underlying cause that you can't really fix. You could do more repetitions when practicing certain skills, which might help compensate, but can't really fix working memory - no one can, not psychiatrists, psychologists, brain surgeons, teachers, etc. At least not yet - maybe in 50 years we'll get there :).

    It's worth pointing out that plenty of underlying causes are fixable - for example, if a child is acting out because she isn't getting enough attention, enrolling that child in a mentoring problem may address the "root cause," at least to some degree.
     
  22. bros

    bros Phenom

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    District can't diagnose.
     
  23. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    I agree that some underlying problems are resistant to any type of remediation, but picking the right intervention and additional intervention is important.

    For example, a student who has moderate visual processing issues would need different instruction to help with reading comprehension than the student with moderate auditory processing issues where the impact on language is impacting the reading comprehension. Not knowing the underlying problems and addressing reading comprehension with visual supports isn't going to do much with the student with visual processing issues. Not providing OT for students with visual processing issues because the academic problem is reading comprehension also impacts the student's progress.

    The other reason that knowing a student has working memory problems, processing problems, or memory retrieval deficits will impact how teacher deal with students. In education utopia all teachers would not be ascribing motivations to what they see, but we all know that unfortunately, that student with processing or working memory problems often get labeled as lazy and not trying or that well known "horse" when the teacher's interventions are not working as it does with other students with SLD.

    I believe it is critical that teachers understand the processing deficits of the students. That may mean that the special education teachers understand interventions well and can explain the what and whys to the general education teachers. It also means that many students probably can't be educated well in the general education classroom because the interventions need more than a general education teacher can give with subjects that don't have accommodations that can support the learning of the student. For example, science or history can be learned with accommodations for reading and writing (text to speech and speech to text), but ELA is where the student may need a more restrictive environment that is not a class of 15+ kids with disabilities with little to no 1:1 or small group help.
     
  24. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Ok, but shouldn't they have the diagnosis?
     
  25. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Thank you, this is what I was thinking. This does not happen at my school.
     
  26. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    My suggestion, if the IEP doesn't give a specific learning disability, would be to look more at the list of accommodations. That is the more useful information since that is what requires teacher implementation.
     
  27. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    They are not useful at all, this is what has sparked this conversation for me. I do not feel I am provided(or researched myself) good accomodations that will help the student move forward.
     
  28. EdEd

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    So I'd first clarify that physical disabilities that may require physical accommodations (e.g., visual acuity) would be important to know because there are unique accommodations that may be available. My comments were mainly pointed at intellectual testing and cognitive processing as measured by those tests.

    Specifically within the realm of intellectual testing, can you think of any particular area of processing that knowledge of which would lead to unique interventions undiscoverable without that knowledge?

    I think this is an issue largely within teacher attitude, and we shouldn't rely on labeling students with internal problems in order to evoke teacher sympathy. What if, for example, a student did NOT have an underlying cognitive processing deficit - would we then be okay with a teacher having a negative attitude toward that student? One of the philosophies of RtI, which I think is huge, is the belief that students are in need of support & sympathy simply because they're in need, not because they have an identified brain problem.

    I guess my main question, a2z, would be to ask you for just one specific example in which understanding a cognitive processing issue leads to unique interventions that wouldn't be known through a thorough skills assessment?
     
  29. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Pashtun I completely sympathize - IEPs and Psychoeducational Evaluations are rarely useful, the latter largely because they focus on overly general accommodations that are obvious to teachers, and focus on internal processing issues that can't really be changed. IEPs are largely useless because we're scared of lawsuits and rarely put anything with teeth in them. Generally, effective SPED teachers will create their own plans within the classroom environment that are actually what's helpful. Those plans may be not formalized in a report you could read, Pashtun, but I'd suggest setting up a time for talk for 10 minutes with the SPED teacher about any student you're having concerns with.
     
  30. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Yeah, I think I am going to do this. i just have some students that I want more imput on what specifically I can do to help them versus small groups, one on one, and is it at their reading level...etc.
     
  31. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    I struggle to see why you feel that intellectual and cognitive testing doesn't give vital information as to approaches for instruction. I believe we must be miscommunicating somewhere.

    Could it be that our interpretation of "thorough skills assessment" differ in meaning as to what constitutes skill assessment and what umbrella (cognitive or academic) it falls under?
     
  32. bros

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    Not everyone can afford to go to a neurologist or neuropsychologist to get a diagnosis, so some students will just get evaluated by the district - usually with no need for an IEE
     
  33. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Ok,is this what is best for the kid?
     
  34. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Ok. Didn't read entire thread, but my NJ district is quite thorough with collecting info from doctors, sped testing, classroom teacher observations, district psychologist that they are able to categorize students with specific leaning disabilities.
     
  35. bros

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    Doctors can diagnose, schools cannot (in most cases). So a district can say that the student has issues with reading comprehension or written expression or things like that, but they cannot say dysgraphia, dyslexia, etc. because those are medical diagnoses.

    The important part of your sentence is that information is collected from doctors, which again, can only be done if the parent consents, which most do, because it would be rather ridiculous if they didn't, at least a restricted consent with a limited duration.

    Sometimes, the higher end districts can afford to have individuals on staff who can diagnose, as they have the level of training required, but they can typically only diagnose ADHD.

    Also, some states do not recognize dyslexia, which is just peculiar.
     
  36. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    NJ has new required, yearly dyslexia training for teachers. While diagnosis is a medical term, schools can (and do) assess dyslexia and other learning disabilities. The medical part of our CST process mostly serves to rule out health/visual/auditory types of issues that could be underlying causes of student struggles.
     
  37. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    The school districts do not 'diagnosis' learning disabilities or intellectual disability. That's not a diagnosis. A student can have an outside diagnosis and not have an educational need and that student would not be put into special education. We do test for dyslexia, but here in Texas dyslexia is under 504, not special education.
     
  38. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    We generally agree on most things, so we probably are just mis-communicating :). That being said, the burden of proof generally resides with someone advocating for a particular strategy, so I'd throw the ball back in your court, again with this question:

    What's an example of intellectual or cognitive testing that uniquely leads to intervention utility? In other words, we couldn't arrive at the needed intervention without the information provided by that specific intellectual or cognitive test?

    Perhaps. When I say skill assessment, I mean a an assessment of specific, observable behaviors. "Working memory" doesn't fall into this category as it can't be directly observed. We observe other skills, and postulate that those skills tell us something about working memory. For example, on the WISC, we use the amount of numbers kids can recall sequentially to make an inferred statement about an underlying cognitive construct we have chosen to call "working memory." We aren't actually observing the the neurological mechanism of "working memory" taking place.

    So, when I say a "thorough skills assessment," I mean an assessment of specific, observable behaviors such as reading fluency or number of vowel sounds that can be correctly decoded in the context of CVC words.

    As a side-by-side comparison, here's an example in the realm of memory:

    Skills assessment: Number of repetitions needed to produce independent recall 2 days later.

    Cognitive assessment: Generalized inference of memory based on an assessment of proxy skills thought to be related to the underlying construct of memory, then reported as a scaled score on an IQ test.

    In this situation, the skills assessment gives us immediate and specific information for instructional planning, signaling instructional utility. The cognitive assessment of memory simply gives us preliminary information to form an initial conclusion about how we might expect the child to perform on tasks requiring memory. However, we'd need to then do a skills assessment, or discover through formative assessment, exactly how many repetitions we'd actually need to provide before we'd have enough information to be considered instructionally useful.

    So, the conclusion many have come to is - if the cognitive assessment doesn't actually lead directly to instructional strategies, and we'd have to do an operational skills assessment anyway, why not just do the skill assessment in the first place?
     
  39. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Technically, schools do not generally diagnose - they identify a child as qualifying for SPED services in a particular category. May be semantics, but that's the situation.

    That being said, diagnoses are rarely helpful - understanding specific skill deficits are.

    I'd challenge anyone to identify one strategy that would be helpful based on a diagnosis of "dyslexia" that would A) only work for students with dyslexia, and B) not be discoverable through a curriculum-based assessment.

    In other words, how would a diagnosis of dyslexia help you teach better?
     
  40. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I agree; this was a battle I fought constantly when I was in Special Ed. It's essential to focus on a student's individual profile of strengths and needs rather than to approach a student with the thought that, "They have____________, therefore they will __________."
     
  41. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I will take a risk here.

    I have no strategies for helping a child with dyslexia....none.
    Knowing that a child is diagnosed with a learning disability, dyslexia, allows me to google, ask for help..etc to get ideas to help the child.

    IMO, knowing the problem, helps to find more and better accomodations.

    This is my line of thinking.
     

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