Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices of Primary and Secondary School Teachers on Specific Learning Disorder

Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices of Primary and Secondary School Teachers on Specific Learning Disorder

Nandini Jayachandran (Institute for Communicative and Cognitive Neurosciences, India), Mary Iype (Government Medical College Trivandrum, India), Poovathinal Azhakan Suresh (Institute for Communicative and Cognitive Neurosciences, India) and Divya Vinod (Institute for Communicative and Cognitive Neurosciences, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4955-0.ch004

Abstract

Early identification of Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is essential not only for effective remediation of their problems but would also prevent the problems from aggravating. The role of general education teachers in early identification becomes crucial, as they are the ones who first identify the academic and behavioral issues of school children. The main aims of the study are to assess the knowledge, attitudes, and current practices pertaining to SLD, among pre-primary, primary, and secondary school teachers in public schools from Trivandrum, India, to find whether there exists any relation between years of teaching experience and awareness on SLD and to assess the effect of a short-term training program on the knowledge, attitude, and practices of school teachers. In conclusion, short-term training programs of a multi-disciplinary nature are found to be effective in bringing about improvements with both pre-primary and primary teacher's knowledge factor, but such training is maximally beneficial for improving attitude and practice of teachers in the primary level.
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Introduction

Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is a neuro-developmental clinical condition affecting children during school years, the effects of which persist well into adult life. Though the condition is primarily detected in a given child in terms of well below average skills in the academic areas of reading, writing and mathematics, compared to age and intelligence level, manifestations of SLD has many more shades to it, be it underlying cognitive processing problems or overt behavioral problems or the language deficits or concomitant emotional problems or social skill deficits.

Specific Learning Disorder is not a single disorder, but composed of disabilities in several areas such as receptive and expressive language, basic reading skills as well as comprehension skills, written expression difficulties ranging from copying problems, poor handwriting, spelling errors when writing to dictation to lack of clarity and organization in getting thoughts to writing while asked to do spontaneous writing and poor mathematical calculation and problem solving or mathematical reasoning skills. Moreover, it is highly heterogeneous in clinical presentation, which entails consideration of each child’s specific skill deficits and characteristics in assessment as well as management. As there is heterogeneity within each domain and between domains, Lyon et al., (2001) suggests that these disorders should be treated as separate disorders. In same lines, Stanovich (1991), has advocated that domain-specific disabilities be labeled separately, and co-morbidities should be addressed only after initial domain-specific classification is done.

The condition, if remains undetected, may result in chronic poor school performance, class detention and even school dropout leading to low self-esteem, and development of withdrawn aggressive behaviors, anxiety, depression, and even antisocial behaviors. The cornerstone of SLD treatment is remedial education, which should ideally be started early (in primary school years) to take advantage of the higher plasticity of the central nervous system during this period (Karande, 2008).

The field of SLD was initially based on Medical model/framework in terms of minimal brain damage, later shifting to the sensory-motor aspects of learning such as visual, auditory and motor processing skills in the 1950’s and 60’s and the educational framework focusing on visuomotor processing and discrepancy between scholastic ability and IQ (Karanth, 2008). Since the 1970’s there has been a renewed emphasis on SLD as a language based disorder due to several factors such as findings of the high incidence of fluency, articulation disorders and communication disorders among SLD’s and due to the emergence of psycho-linguistic studies on the acquisition of language in children (Karanth, 2008; Bashir et al., 1987; Kamhi & Catts, 1989; Scarborough, 1990).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Early Detection: Early detection is defined as awareness of commonly appearing signs of SLD in the form of delayed language, poor listening and comprehension, slow letter recognition, slowness in blending letters to words, poor reading comprehension, spelling errors in writing, difficulty in spontaneous writing, slowness and frequent errors in mathematical calculations, and difficulty with word problem solving as well as behavioral features of restlessness, lack of concentration, etc., and skill in detecting the same during early school years, both those who at-risk (2 nd Standard or below) and those from 3 rd to 5 th standard.

Response to Instruction (RtI): An approach to identify SLDs by providing targeted assistance (for at least 6 months) in areas of difficulty to students having features of the same or who are underachieving and diagnosing them as SLDs if they fail to make sufficient progress.

Language Learning: The capacity to acquire receptive and expressive oral and written language skills such as listening and oral comprehension skills and expressive skills.

Teacher’s Training: Teacher’s training refers to training in the form of lectures, discussion, and hands-on exposure imparted by experts/specialists in the field of specific learning disorder aimed at improving knowledge level, positive attitude, and realistic understanding of general education teachers, special education teachers, or teacher educators.

Specific Learning Disorder (SLD): Is operationally defined as a neuro-developmental condition diagnosed in school years, manifesting as persistent and substantial difficulties compared to his/her age in the academic skills of word decoding and fluency, reading comprehension, spelling, writing difficulties, number sense and calculation, and mathematical reasoning for at least 6 months (despite receiving support targeting area of difficulty) in the absence of intellectual disability, sensory issues of vision or hearing, access to adequate instruction, neurological or mental disorders, language differences, or psycho-social difficulties.

Primary School Teachers: General education teachers teaching students in the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education or State Boards, from 1 st to 4 th standard.

Secondary/Middle School Teachers: General education teachers teaching students in the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education or State Boards, from 5 st to 7 th standard.

IQ-Achievement Discrepancy: The substantial difference between a person’s measured general intelligence level and his/her scores in one or more areas of academic achievement.

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