By: Cassidy Van Vooren
Do you have a friend that has dyslexia, or a learning disability? It is common to wonder about what they go through, and what having a learning challenge entails.
To put it simply, Dyslexia is a brain disorder from the medical viewpoint, and an obstacle from the educational standpoint (see more about what Dyslexia is in the video above). Most who have worked in education, teaching or administration for a long time, are familiar with what those students with learning disabilities go through. Still, many are uninformed on this topic.
“When I was doing my counseling program, I had a class on disabilities, but it was very vague. It wasn’t-- it didn’t really go into detail, it wasn’t till I got here that I actually learned what it means and what it looks like,” said Ms. Rocio Gomez, Samueli Academy’s College and Career Counselor, addressing her education on learning disabilities and dyslexia. Gomez expressed that she didn’t know much about the topic.
Mr. Hugo Jacobo, the head of Special Ed (SpEd), which is the department that deals with individuals with learning disabilities, also addressed the issue of education in the area of SpEd. Jacobo also said that it’s his job to keep the teachers at Samueli informed about SpEd and how to better help and service those who have certain need.
“It really does take experience,” claims Jacobo, underlining the importance of experience in working with kids who struggle differently than others.
Marc Contreras, a senior here at Samueli, has learning disabilities that make it more challenging for him in some aspects of school.
“Reading and writing is one of my struggles,” he said, his eyes focused,“so it’s something I have to work on.”
Contreras says that this affects all aspects of his education. Just think about all the times that you have to read and write in school, and think about having a slight difficulty in doing those two things. Contreras also said that the different learning challenges vary for each individual who has a learning difficulty.
He also gave an account of being at Santa Ana High school, prior to his Junior year. Where he did not receive the same amount of support that he does here at Samueli.
Marc Contreras also has an IEP. A legal document stating what accommodations his learning challenge should be met with, that the state is required to adhere to.
“An IEP is a plan-- it’s an individual plan for a student and it’s tailored to that specific student, with a team of people. Parents, student, teachers, pathologists, nurses, all kinds of people that help develop a plan that will ideally help the child succeed,” Ms. Rocio said, then went on to explain that an IEP does not carry from high school to college, and at the college level you are provided with an alternative, called a 504.
“It’s not a legal document like an IEP, an IEP is a legal document, the 504 plans are accommodations but they’re for different kinds of accommodations,” Ms. Rocio added.
At Samueli Academy the accommodations and services that are offered to those with an IEP are numerous. The instructional aids that you may see in classes are there to add extra support to those who need it. Another service that is offered is the option of taking a test or exam in a separate room than the class, to a smaller and less stressful environment.
Additional time on tests and exams are also offered for those who need it. Marc Contreras, says he appreciates the extra time and sometimes quieter environment to focus more on his studies, and not be worried about his reading speed.
Many may not know that those who had learning disabilities, over a couple of decades ago, had no IEPs or 504s, or SpEd services, so that they were excluded from school altogether. The way that common society viewed those that struggled were; “dumb”, “incompetent”, or just not trying hard enough.
Some of the challenged that would be qualified as SpEd would be; the Dyslexic, Deaf, Blind, Autistic, and others. The great thing about today is that most see those with learning disabilities or challenges, as not disabled or incompetent. Yet there is always more we can do to make those who are different feel that their differences are a gift, and not a burden.
Out in this world, information is everywhere, and learning challenges are more common than we know. There is so much more to know about this topic. Thus, I commend you to go out, ask questions, be curious, everything is not as it seems. There’s so much more to Special Ed and Dyslexia than meets the eye.
Caption for video: (Video Link, TEDx Dyslexia)
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