Save our spe­cial­ists

We must main­tain cur­rent com­ple­ment of re­source teach­ers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

(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)

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