There didn't seem to be much by way of accommodations back then, but, necessity is the mother of invention and I began to find ways to help out this young man. I began to record all of my lectures as this student couldn't read my lecture notes. I recorded every text we read in class. And, whenever possible I would let him respond orally or I would scribe for him. He still found ELA class difficult, but he passed ELA 10 and, with continued accommodations, went on to graduate.
The accommodations I provided him most definitely enabled this young man to reach his potential and learn, but there was a benefit I hadn't considered.
When this young man wasn't using the recorded books or my lecture tapes, my other students were. I no longer needed to "re-teach" a lesson to a student who was away. I could just hand them that class' tape, they could take it home, and they could listen and learn. Students also began to borrow the textbook tapes I'd made. They talked about how, if they could listen and follow along, they understood what they were reading better.
But, are they really?
Fast forward to today. I now work in a school in which every student has a diagnosed learning disability, an Individualized Program Plan, and a number of mandated accommodations that they must have. Yet, I still have conversations every week it seems with some of my parents, and with many of my students, who see the use of accommodations as a crutch or as something to be ashamed of.
Seriously! No one questions the accommodation of eyeglasses one must wear in order to see. No one questions a paraplegics' need for a wheelchair. And no one asks the athlete with a prosthetic leg to take it off during the 100 meter dash as it is a "crutch".
For a person with a learning disability, the necessity of an audio version of a unit exam, the need to use a word processor to write an essay, or the use of a standing desk so as to be able to better manage their hyperactivity, is not a luxury or a crutch. It is simply an ethical and mindful response to the fact that some learners need a different way to learn. And, for some learners, that difference is as profoundly challenging as it would be for a myopic person to drive without glasses or physically disabled person to perform some physical tasks without help.
"I Know What I Need: Accommodations, Differentiation, and Self-Advocacy
Together, let's remove the stigma that still exists surrounding learning disabilities and neurodivergence. Let's focus upon the LearnAbilities of ALL our students so that they can maximize their potential and enjoy the right to learn.