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Points of Discussion for Questions of Learning Disabilities in Corrections Classrooms

Hello All,

Rochelle and I are organizing an event in which we hope to encourage conversation around learning disabilities in corrections classrooms.  As part of these organizational efforts we'd like to solicit from our groups subjects for discussion.  What would you, as educators in the field, like to hear more about concerning learning disabilities within secure classrooms and the challenges faced by both students and their instructors in such an environment? Your contributions are much appreciated.

-- Heather Erwin -- Correctional Ed, SME

Comments

Miriamb3's picture
One hundred

Thanks, Heather and Rochelle, for your request for topics for a disussion on adults with learning disabilities who are within secure classrooms. My suggested topic is to look at issues around English learners with learning disabilities who are in correctional facilities.It is difficult to diagnose learning disabilities in an adult whose native language is not English - especially if the adult has limited previous education in any language or comes from a culture/group where the native language is written in another alphabet (e.g., not Spanish or French), or even in a non-alphabetic script.  So the first question I have is this:

1. How do we know the adult has learning disabilities? How is he tested? In what language?

Another questions I have is from experiences I have had doing training with mixed groups of adult ESL teachers, some from community college classrooms some from adult ed programs or CBOs and some from corrections.  We weren't discussing learning disabilties - just working with adult English learners in general. However, the following issues have come up from instructors who work in correctional facilities, and I think they might be applicable to all incarcerated adult learners with learning disabilties:

2. We can't use the live internet with them.

We can't do group work - so these student to student problem solving activities can't be done.

We can't talk about civics/community/work topics with them because it will be nearly impossible for them to find jobs after they are released. Or: We can't talk about any of the typical topics, actually, because many of these students may be deported after they are released.

Maybe this second issue isn't on theme, but it sure can impact instruction, I would think, especially instruction for learners with disabilities who struggle with abstractions and need instruction to be directly applicable to their immediate needs

Miriam Burt

SME, adult English Language Learrner CoP

Heather Erwin's picture
One hundred

Thanks Miriam, this is fantastic! And I am particularly compelled by your second question. The two experts Rochelle and I have secured for this discussion are from California and so should have a unique perspective and good understanding of the students to which you refer. Thanks again for your suggestions.

Miriamb3's picture
One hundred

That's great, Heather. Definitely, as your experts are from California, they will have had experience with English learners in secure classrooms, including some learners who may have learning disabilities. Thanks, Looking forward to the discussion.

Miriam

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Hi Miriam,

I appreciate your comments.  I think it is such a significant topic in our field that I would suggest it deserves its own discussion.

I would like to gauge the interest in this topic of ESL and LD.  Would you like to start a discussion strand in your group to ask the question?

Thanks,

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

Disabilities in Adult Education Group

 

Miriamb3's picture
One hundred

Thanks, Rochelle. I think that's a good suggestion for a discussion strand,

Best, Miriam

Heather Erwin's picture
One hundred

Rochelle and Miriam,

I also think this is a great idea for an additional discussion.  I'm interesting in learning more about how learning disabilities are best addressed in ESL students. It does also seem that ESL students in corrections classrooms are particularly vulnerable to learning challenges, and susceptible to derailment of their educational efforts if issues aren't successfully addressed.  Much looking forward to hearing others opinions.

-- Heather Erwin

Nicole's picture
First

I agree with Heather: Learning disabilities and our ESL learners in general would be a great idea for an additional discussion.  Many ESL students exhibit behaviors that may look like a disability when in fact other factors are at play.  On the other hand, just like the general population, some of them do have a learning disability which is VERY difficult to diagnose accurately with valid test.  Some Spanish speakers may be tested with a valid instrument but what about the others?

Nicole

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Hi Nicole,

The behaviors you mentioned that English language learners exhibit can resemble those of a person with LD, but may actually be language learning deficits.

According to research in the field, when looking at causes for adult English language learners' failure to progress, practitioners should look at key indicators of LD which are:  1) persistence of their learning problem, 2) having a problem (s) continuing over time, and 3) assuming that the student has access to normal competent instruction.

Having access to a reliable, valid testing instrument in the student's native language administered by someone experienced in that language makes an LD diagnosis very complicated or even impossible with the limited resources in adult education.

I agree that this would make a very interesting guest discussion over and above whatever can be addressed during our upcoming guest discussion on LD in correctional facilities.

Thanks for your interesting message, Nicole.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

 

 

 

Nicole's picture
First

You are correct of course Rochelle but we also have to consider the level of prior schooling or school experience of the ESL students for one thing.  Also the level of actual English vocabulary; familiarity with English script (some languages use similar letters but have a different sound, e.g. the letter y in English is a /u/ sound in Russian, the p is a /r/ sound); the appropriateness of the materials used especially for beginning level learners and/or low-literacy learners.   Competent instruction for the population is key as you mentioned.

Nicole

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Hi Nicole,

Thanks for updating the list of other considerations when investigating an ESL student who might be at risk with a possible learning disability.

Miriam Burt, the SME for the Adult English Language Learner COP group, and I will soon begin planning a possible joint discussion on this topic,

Would you have an interest in being on the guest discussion panel?  

Do you have any other suggested speakers you could recommend?

Thank you,

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

 

Nicole's picture
First

Hi Rochelle,

I plan to follow and participate in the discussion but I am not sure I can be on the panel.  I don't know when this discussion will happen and I may be away for a time.  I would recommend Robin Lovrien S.  She combines both fields, ESL and LD, and does it very well.  Didn't she add an ESL component in the Learning to Achieve publication?  I don't have the reference with me at the moment but I have used some of the information in workshops I have given. 

Nicole

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Hi Nicole,

Robin Lovrien (Scharwz) has been a colleague of mine for many years and we have worked together on this topic.  She has an outstanding reputation and did work on the Learning to Achieve project.

To find the online module, one must sign in to the LINCS Portal  ( https://courses.lincs.ed.gov/1/ )  with your password (it will be the same one used to enter our LINCS COP group).  Then, click on to https://courses.lincs.ed.gov/1/enrol/index.php?id=4  to access the online module, LD and English Language Learners.  Goals of this online training will be to identify testing and accommodation considerations for the English language learners.

We hope to schedule our joint discussion on Adult Learning Disability Populations within Secure, Correctional Facilities  in mid January.  Once our plans are submitted and approved, possibly, mid March might be a good time to schedule an ELL and LD joint discussion.  Please contact me privately to talk more about this if you are interested in being involved.

Thanks for your comments, Nicole.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

 

 

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Hi Heather,

I am looking forward to our guest discussion on serving students with learning disabilities in correctional facilities.  I know that in the Disabilities Group, we have members that are employed in jails, prisons, etc., that will appreciate the upcoming discussion, as well as others who have never had that experience.

Here are some of the questions I am interested in hearing about:

1)  What are some of the constraints on correctional education in serving with students that have learning disabilities?

2)  How does recidivism relate to the need for continuing practice for students with LD?

3)  What kinds of motivators can  teachers use in correctional facilities?

4)   What types of critical job skills training programs are available to students with LD in correctional facilities?

What other questions are out there for our speakers?

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

 

Heather Erwin's picture
One hundred

Hi Rochelle and Miriam,

Great questions and I, too, am looking forward to the conversation! Some of the questions I would like to see discussed are:

1 -- How are (are?) learning disabilities diagnosed in secure facilities/classrooms?

2 -- If students self-identify, what services are available to them in a prison or jail classroom?

3 -- What LD specific PD best suits the needs of educators in secure classrooms?

I'm hoping to hear more from community members as we get our speakers ready to roll.  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Holiday!

-- Heather Erwin, Correctional Ed SME

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Hi Heather,

With the questions you just posted, we have a good foundation for the guest speakers.  I hope that our group users will submit other questions that are interesting to them.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

 

Kathy_Tracey's picture
One hundred

Teaching multi-level classes are always a challenge, but addressing the needs of the LD student presents even more challenges to teachers who may have limited resources.  I would like to learn how (and if) programs are able to implement any form of technology in the classroom. Also, what are some of the best curriculum resources that teachers from the field recommend? Finally, can manipulatives be used? If so, how are they being used? If not, what other strategies are teachers using to help students improve their literacy? 

 

Masha Bell's picture
Ten

Whole class language work is manageable. But when it comes to learning to read and write, and u consider how much rote-learning both those skills involve in English, it becomes clear that individual progress is inevitably very variable, because learners learn and forget at very different rates. 

While some students make good progress with reading, despite phonic inconsistencies like 'man - many', 'on - only, once', 'our - your', others need to spend much longer on getting to grips with just the most common of them: http://readingandwritingenglish.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/300-most-used-words-in-english.html 

This is even more true of learning to spell. With reading, students merely have to learn to recognise the tricky words on sight faster and faster. Coping with alternative spellings is much more difficult for 2 reasons:

1) Learning to produced the correct variant spellings for particular words (e.g. blue, shoe, flew, through, two/oo) is much harder than merely learning to recognise a word instantly.

2) Twice as many common words have irregular spellings as contain letters with variable sounds (roughly 4,000 and 2,000).

See:  http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/4219-unpredictably-spelt-common-words.html  and

       http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2009/12/reading-problems.html

It is far more feasible to teach reading to whole classes, or at least fairly big groups. All students can get something out of that.

Spelling progress tends to be much more variable between individuals. With weak students it's best not to put too much emphasis on 'correct' spelling. They have to do written work which chimes in with their level of ability and interests. The main thing is to get lots of practice.

Masha Bell

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for adding your comments about differentiated instruction.   You included some very interesting questions that we will share with the guest speakers about any forms of technology in the classroom,  the best curriculum resources, manipulatives and other strategies. 

I appreciate your sharing these points.

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

 

Joansd's picture
First

I would love to hear some current information concerning accommodations on the GED in a corrections setting. Documentation is tricky.

 

Thanks,

Joan Donald 

Palm Beach County Schools

RKenyon's picture
One hundred

Yes, you are right, Joan.  The GED Accommodations process is always challenging, but especially tricky for incarcerated students.

Thanks for the good suggestion.  

Rochelle Kenyon, SME

 

Heather Erwin's picture
One hundred

Hello Joan,

Thanks for your question, I will be sure our experts are alerted to that particular need.  I'm glad to see you are in Palm Beach as both Brant and Steve (our experts for the discussion) are California-based and should have some good feedback.  I know they will likely also want to talk about high school equivalency as an alternative to the GED. Many thanks for the suggestions.

-- Heather Erwin, Correctional Education SME