Students with Diagnosed Learning Difference
Research in education and developmental psychology has shown that each of us learns differently and has true strengths and weaknesses. This variability is present in everyone, but we believe that we can be deliberate in helping our students learn to appreciate these differences and develop skills in using their strengths to help them compensate for their weaknesses. This is particularly true for our students with diagnosed learning differences. It is never our intent to lower our academic expectations or standards, as these students are often some of the brightest on our campus. We still want to challenge and encourage them to test their physical, intellectual and academic limits. We simply want to create a system which acknowledges their cognitive differences and guides them through the process of learning.
A conference will be scheduled with each family when documentation is submitted in order to work together to determine which of the recommended interventions and supports will be provided at school. Hammond is not obligated to meet every recommendation listed by the evaluating psychologist. The family will always be encouraged to seek outside professionals to meet any additional needs of that student. A formal Academic Enrichment Plan will be written and signed by the student, parent, division head, and Hammond’s educational specialist. This plan may be revised at any time and is expected to change as the child develops and progresses through our school. Regular meetings with families will be scheduled in order to assess the effectiveness of the student’s plan and the degree to which Hammond continues to be an appropriate educational environment for that child. Teachers are kept informed of all support services and are expected to familiarize themselves with all information contained in a student’s psychoeducational testing.
Grades and Graduation Requirements: Teachers are never expected to alter grades or assignments for children approved for accommodations. It is rare for graduation requirements to be adjusted based on a diagnosed learning difference, but our administration and college counseling office are always willing to have these individual conversations with families. Special circumstances are considered thoughtfully and carefully on an individual basis.
Procedures for Approval/Documentation
Although our teachers remain committed to working with every single student to provide extra help and individual support, formal classroom accommodations are only available to those students who have provided the necessary documentation. Psychoeducational testing must be completed by a licensed psychologist and be consistent with the College Board standards. www.collegeboard.com/ssd/student/index.html All tests and scores must be provided and interpreted in the assessment report. The full psychoeducational report must be provided to Hammond’s educational specialist for eligibility for accommodations. The student must meet criteria for and be given the diagnosis of a DSM-IV learning or attention disorder by the evaluating psychologist in order to be eligible for formal accommodations.
Referrals for Psychoeducational Testing
Hammond works closely with our families to determine when it is time for a referral for psychoeducational testing. Hammond’s educational specialist meets with families in order to clarify individual referral questions, discuss financial considerations, and provide general guidance through the process. ACE staff is available to assist with the collection of teacher questionnaires for evaluating psychologists. Evaluating psychologists are always welcome to come on campus to meet with teachers directly whenever needed.
Classroom Supports and Accommodations
Each school makes its own decisions about which accommodations are consistent with its mission, goals, and students. Facilities, staff, and technological resources also play a role in these decisions. Hammond strives to find a balance between asking our teachers to assist and support students with certain learning differences and making sure that a teacher’s instruction time for all students is protected. Although many of the accommodations provided are enacted by the classroom teachers, the ACE and its staff are available when additional resources and support are needed.
Preferential Seating: Some students with difficulty paying attention, resisting distractions, or auditory processing are assured special seating in the classroom. Some teachers assign seats in their classroom and others do not. This accommodation simply means that extra care will be taken with regard to the placement of that child in each of his or her classes. This may also mean that the classroom teacher is asked to pay special attention to the placement of that child with regard to distracting peers. If assigned seating is not used by a teacher, then the student is expected and encouraged to begin to take personal responsibility for his or her seating selection in each classroom.
Support for Taking Notes in the Classroom
Hammond strongly believes that taking notes is a necessary skill both in the educational environment and in the real world. It is never our intent to provide accommodations which will replace the development of this skill. Certain diagnoses make taking notes particularly challenging, but we will encourage students to work diligently to maximize their own potential in this area. Any plans or interventions are intended for the use of that individual student and are not to be distributed to others. The use of professional transcription services are forbidden for Hammond students. All specific approved supports are considered learning tools in the development of this important skill.
Parallel Note-Taker or Note Buddy: Teachers are asked to assist a student in identifying a peer who is proficient at taking notes. Individual arrangements are made between the two students (sometimes with the help of the teacher depending on the age of the child) about how and when the notes will be shared or copied. Notes can then be compared to each other as a study tool in order to learn where the identified student can improve his or her own note taking.
Outline of Lecture from Teacher: Many teachers create outlines or power point presentations to organize their classroom time. Many teachers provide these to their classes and post them on Moodle for everyone. Teachers are not asked to create outlines if they do not already exist. However, if there is an outline, approved students may make a copy. It is not the teacher’s responsibility to provide copies daily. Schedules and procedures for this are determined by each classroom teacher. Student notes can then be compared to the teacher’s outline in order to improve the student’s skills taking notes.
Recording Devices: Many college students across the country use smartpens or specialized recording apps for taking notes. Students and families are informed of the guidelines for acceptable use.
Accommodations for Tests
Keyboarding for test taking: Keyboarding for tests is approved for students diagnosed with dysgraphia or dyslexia. There are also certain circumstances where a student’s fine motor deficits or medical issues impair handwriting to such an extent that this is offered as an alternative to traditional classroom administration of tests. Specific procedures are designed to protect test security. Typing decices and/or assistive technologies are always available in the ACE for this purpose, but some teachers are able to provide this accommodation in the classroom.
Larger font/spacing of test questions: This accommodation is offered for our middle school students with dysgraphia. Teachers alter the format of the test in order to assist students whose handwriting difficulties make it difficult for teachers to accurately read and interpret answers.
Extra Time: Some classroom teachers provide extra time to all of their students because they are interested in assessing the level of knowledge and understanding without time limitations. Other teachers believe that time constraints allow for the assessment of mastery in addition to factual knowledge and understanding. This is a personal decision for each teacher and is respected and supported by administration. Students with diagnosed learning differences are given fifty percent extra time on all in-class graded assignments. Specific schedules, test designs, and teacher preferences will impact the procedures for utilizing an approved student’s extra time. The ACE is available as an alternative location for the administration of a test or portions of tests whenever needed or requested. All approved students are expected to plan ahead with teachers in order to clarify the details of this procedure. Every effort is made to avoid students missing other classes for the purpose of utilizing extra time for tests. Students should communicate with athletic coaches if after school time is needed to accommodate extra time on tests.