Save our specialists
We must maintain current complement of resource teachers
(An open letter to the Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture.) Dear Minister Perry: Currently, the public school system has an estimated one in six students who struggle with learning. Some of those children are identified with intellectual delays and are provided special adaptations and supports. However, a significant number of students go unidentified and are often labelled as unco-operative or incapable, when, in fact, many have average or above average intelligence and struggles in school due to learning disabilities. Additionally, finding the supports necessary within the school system for a student with a diagnosed learning disability is a struggle for many Island students and their families.
The Learning Disabilities Association of Prince Edward Island advocates for the sustained classroom and resource teacher assignment, necessary to meet the needs of these students within our public school system. With appropriate interventions and timely adaptations, all classroom teachers have academic achievement. For example, phonemic training, programmed grammar instructions and text memorization are proven techniques that work well for a great many children with dyslexia. In practice, we know that our classroom teachers need support in bringing evidence-based methods to the classroom with confidence.
Children with learning disabilities can prosper with special adaptations such as voice to text computer programs for writing, voice recording smart pends, and read aloud technologies. Our association knows that accommodating learning disabilities is a more nuanced challenge than more obvious conditions, such as ensuring that a child who cannot see the board gets glasses. Yet the challenge is no less important and we cannot deny children with dyslexia and dysgraphia the support that would help them read and write like their peers.
We can all acknowledge that, despite the very best intentions, many of our classroom teachers do not have the necessary training to determine how to accommodate these students. This is why it is essential that we not lose our resource teachers within the school system. Appropriate training and learning intervention is not a luxury. It is necessary for preparing these students for productive citizenship and ensuring that the school system is meeting its obligations to appropriately accommodate students with disabilities.
The Learning Disabilities Association of Prince Edward Island strongly advocates for an investment in P.E.I.’s teachers. We encourage specific training in learning disabilities and classroom adaptations. We believe this should be a requirement for all new teachers on P.E.I. before obtaining licensure.
We know that specific training in learning disabilities and classroom adaptations is not something that will happen overnight. That is why we strongly advocate that our schools do not reduce the available resource teacher specialists who support our classroom teachers. We strongly suggest that P.E.I. is steadfast in maintaining our current complement of resource teachers and makes evidence based interventions for learning disabilities a priority. P.E.I. cannot afford to lose the potential of one in six of her school children. The cost of education cuts is our future workforce and citizenry.
- Dr. H.E. Keizer is president, Learning Disabilities Association of Prince Edward Island (on behalf of the LDAPEI board of directors)