No Easy Answers: The Learning Disabled Child at Home and at School

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9780553354508: No Easy Answers: The Learning Disabled Child at Home and at School
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Parents and teachers of learning disabled children have tumed to Sally Smith's No Easy Answers for information, advice, and comfort for more than fifteen years.  In this revised, trade paperback edition of the latest information on learning disabilities in a clear, honest, and accessible way. This completely updated edition contains new chapters on Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and on the public laws that guarantee an equal education for learning disabled children.  There is also an entirely new section on learning disabled adults and the laws that protect them. Sally Smith, the parent of a learning disabled child herself, guides parents along every step of the way, from determining if their child is learning disabled to challenging the school system to provide special services.  Drawing on more than twenty-five years of experience at her own nationally acclaimed school, she also offers valuable strategies to teachers who are anxious or discouraged as they struggle with learning disabled students.  Although there are no easy answers, Sally Smith's experience, wealth of information, and sense of humor provide essential support.

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From the Back Cover:

He can remember the television ads but not his own telephone number. She forgets the multiplication tables she knew only yesterday. He's always losing his homework, misplacing his books, forgetting where he's supposed to be. She wants everything done the same way. While such children may be intelligent, resourceful, and independent, they may suffer from learning disabilities that can hinder - and often hide - their true potential. Fortunately great strides in research and resources have transformed our approach to helping learning disabled children. Drawing on thirty years' experience as both an educator and a mother of a learning disabled child, Sally Smith brings you up-to-date in this completely revised and expanded edition of her classic guide.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD?
 
 
He reads saw for was.
He says a b is a d, and a d is a p.
He skips, omits, or adds words when he reads aloud.
She reads well but can hardly spell a word.
She writes 41 for 14.
He can do any mental arithmetic problem but can’t write it down.
She doesn’t know today the multiplication tables she knew yesterday.
He can talk about life on Mars but can’t add 2 + 2.
He puts down the same answer to four different math problems.
He draws the same thing over and over again.
She asks endless questions but doesn’t seem interested in the answers.
He is an expert strategist in checkers but doesn’t understand simple riddles.
He has an adult vocabulary but avoids using the past tense.
She starts talking in the middle of an idea.
He calls breakfast lunch and confuses yesterday with tomorrow.
He can’t tell you what has just been said.
She can talk about Homer but can’t tell you the days of the week.
He discusses monsoons but does not know the order of the seasons.
He can remember the television ads but not his own telephone number.
She can remember what you say to her but not what she sees.
She can’t picture things in her mind.
She can’t see the difference between Africa and South America on the map.
He doesn’t see the difference between pin, pan, and pun.
 
She is a good child, quiet and polite, but she doesn’t learn.
He prefers to play with children much younger than himself.
She says whatever pops into her head.
He rushes headlong into his work, is the first one finished, and does every problem wrong.
She has trouble lining up and can’t keep her hands off the child in front of her.
He doesn’t stop talking, giggles too much, and laughs the loudest and the longest.
He doesn’t look where he’s going, bumps into the door, swings his lunch box into the nearest leg, trips on his own feet, and doesn’t look at the person who is talking to him.
He loses his homework, misplaces his book, forgets where he is to be.
She leaves a trail of her belongings behind her wherever she goes. He acts like an absentminded professor (and has untied shoelaces as well).
She likes routines, is upset by changes, and is reluctant to try anything new.
He wants everything done the same way.
He doesn’t follow directions.
She is distracted by the least little thing.
He doesn’t pay attention.
He doesn’t look.
She doesn’t listen.
He doesn’t remember.
   She doesn’t do what she’s supposed to do.
      HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD?
Is this a bad child?
    Willful?
      Lazy?
        Manipulative?
          Spoiled?
            Disturbed?
 
Probably not. This might be a very young child, or it could be a learning disabled child. It isn’t that other children don’t behave this way. They do! It is THE QUANTITY, INTENSITY, AND LONG DURATION OF IMMATURE BEHAVIOR that make the learning disabled child different. It is the uneven quality of this child which is confounding. He is demanding, bewildering, baffling, and consuming. One day he can do something, and the next he can’t. Some of her talents are extraordinary, yet she cannot manage the simplest routines of daily existence. This erratic quality makes the adults around him and her feel insecure. What will happen next? Is he doing it on purpose? Does she do it to get me mad? These are typical questions asked by the adults who deal with the learning disabled child. They don’t understand. His talents and successes give them hope. His distractibility, infantile responses, and disorganization exasperate them. They don’t know what is going on. That, in itself, is exhausting. Teachers and parents find themselves feeling drained and inadequate. They want to do the very most and best they can for him, but they don’t know what to do. When they are with such a child, adults who are otherwise competent often feel helpless and incompetent.
 
THEY FACE SO MANY DIFFICULTIES
 
Imagine yourself to be this child, such a patchwork quilt of “can dos” and “can’t dos.” Would you believe you are intelligent, as the adults say, when all your buddies can read and you can’t? Wouldn’t you wonder about yourself if you kept hearing all kinds of sounds but missed what the teacher said? Other kids could remember so much, but you couldn’t. Wouldn’t that bother you? Might you wonder if something were terribly wrong with you if you were always forgetting things or tripping over your own feet and your friends didn’t? Have you ever wakened in an unfamiliar hotel room and tapped that terrible feeling of utter disorientation—“Where am I”? There is nothing familiar to hold on to, and for a brief moment your mind is blank. This is the way many learning disabled children feel in everyday space. And the lack of a sense of time and timing that they feel is comparable to your jet trip to Australia, where twenty hours later, without a watch, you have no sense of what time it is. Try threading a needle with a pair of extra-thick rubber gloves on, and you will come close to the feeling of the child whose hands don’t work well for him when he tries to hold a pencil and write. Try it while someone is stating firmly that if you only tried harder, you could do it.
 
If you analyze the process of tying your shoelaces, you will realize how exceedingly complex an act it is. Now imagine trying to tie a bow when you cannot visualize what a loop looks like. It is the feeling of the lost driver who knows his destination but doesn’t know where he is starting from, of the frantic mother who is being yelled at but can’t locate her car keys anywhere. Frantic and overwhelmed—common feelings of the learning disabled child, who is confused, bewildered, doesn’t know where to begin, what to do, how to go about doing a task, doesn’t understand what’s going on within him—this despairing child overwhelms the adults around him. Frequently he would rather be called “bad” than “dumb,” so he will say, “I won’t,” when he means, “I can’t.” Often she comes across as negative, hostile, or silly; she may be a loner, avoiding help, laughing at adults, sporting the “I don’t care” attitude or saying, “I think this work is boring and stupid” when she can’t do it. Sometimes he presents himself as sweet, kind, considerate, overly conscientious. Whatever the outside cover, the inside is hurting. Most adults feel that hurt, and when they don’t know how to remove it, they feel helpless. Too often, the frightened child is forgotten along with the precious qualities that the child does have.
 
THEY ALSO DISPLAY A HEARTY ENTHUSIASM ...
 
There is something extremely appealing about a wide-eyed, open-armed youngster with a beaming smile. “Look, the sun is smiling on us today!” he says as he hugs the world around him. “I’m glad Mr. Rain stayed away,” an immature statement for an eleven-year-old but still a pleasure to hear.
 
There’s a sheer joy—temporary though it may be—that many learning disabled children bring to life. Often they seem to embrace life with an enthusiasm and jauntiness that most of us lose with maturity. The spontaneous expression of feelings, the unedited comment, the untrampled-upon gesture are all trademarks of the impulsive child. There’s a freshness that he conveys, perhaps because he doesn’t see the whole picture, that turns our attention to experiences we have come to take for granted. In the midst of checking the route map, watching the road signs, estimating when the next gas stop must be made, our attention is suddenly diverted to an unexpected delight when the learning disabled child remarks, “How fresh and good the grass smells!”
 
Often overly sensitive to the feelings and relationships of the people around him, this is the child who slips her hand clumsily into the hand of a troubled adult and squeezes gently. The adult silently wonders, “How did that little girl know what I needed just at that time?” Many adults have commented that learning disabled children seem to have ESP, a certain profound knowledge of emotional states (even if the child can’t apply it to himself).
 
Sometimes a learning disabled child is very shy and retiring, tending to back away from social situations, and especially unfamiliar ones. Often, however, he meets people easily, although he may have trouble maintaining those relationships. In one family of three children, it was always the learning disabled child who knew everyone at the unfamiliar swimming pool, had become a well-known figure in the hotel dining room, and had met every new neighbor within minutes of their arrival. He didn’t remember their names but everyone knew his. “Oh, you’re Joe’s family!” people would say to the rest of them. His friendliness to strangers and his open, guileless remarks enchanted newcomers. In any new situation, this family found it was Joe who made everybody feel at home at once. His impulsiveness may have led him to wandering, but he did get the layout of a new place down pat—that is, if he found his way back to the appointed spot. He had a way of heading toward the men’s room but along the way discovering all sorts of fascinating byways to share with his family. He was indiscriminate in his choice of companions. He was equally at ease with a beggar and a millionaire, both of whom introduced him to exciting new experiences. He would always come back from one of his jaunts (while the family was frantically looking for him) bearing a precious gift somebody had given him—a flower or a candy—or leading some embarrassed but friendly stranger back with him.
 
Not sufficiently afraid of the dangerous or the unknown, the learning disabled child frequently embarks on adventures that could fill a novel. She’s the one who discovers the unbeaten path to the hermit’s cottage and has tea with him, uncovers the nest of blue eggs, finds the attic closet filled with treasures (even though she may get locked inside it for a while). Walking along the beach picking up pebbles at random, he finds a half-dollar. He is the one who ducks under the barrier and gets to shake the governor’s hand. Important people are treated like any other friends by this child, who is not famous for diplomacy and has no sense of priorities. He doesn’t discriminate, to the point that it becomes poor judgment in social situations.
 
He is likely to be an asset at a party, where he genuinely welcomes people and puts others at ease. Trouble may come later if he meets with a frustration or misinterprets a remark. At school, he often takes on the welcoming role at the beginning of the term or in a new grouping.
 

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