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SLD Classes and Higher Ed

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: My daughter is in seventh grade and a SLD part-time student. She is being weeded out for social studies. Her first grade was a D. The second grade was a C. In SLD classes she maintains a A-/B average. When she goes to high school will there be SLD help for her? Will colleges turn her down because of being in SLD classes?

A: By SLD, I assume you mean specific learning disability (the terms may vary from state to state). When you say she was "weeded out" (a very interesting use of the phrase, by the way), you probably mean that she is mainstreamed or included in a regular social studies class which is not a part of the SLD or special education program. In some schools, a regular social studies teacher might have consultation from the SLD teacher, or even team teach the course with the SLD teacher. I don't know if either of those things is happening in your daughter's class, but I wanted to let you know that the model exists, and is very helpful for children with LD. You might find that this type of program exists (or you could request it) in the high school.

You wondered whether your daughter's status as an SLD student might hinder her chances of getting into college. An important issue here is whether your daughter's A-/B grades in the SLD classes are "equal" to the same grades earned by kids outside the SLD program. In some SLD classes, the curriculum is modified by essentially making it easier. If this is true for your daughter, she just might have difficulty getting into (and staying in) some colleges. In other programs for students with LD, modification means changing teaching strategies (so that they match the learning needs of the students) without compromising quality or lowering standards. If your daughter is working up to her capacity (that is her intellectual potential -- usually determined at least in part by IQ test scores), then her grades are probably a valid measure of her performance.

The fact that your daughter earned lower grades in the social studies class could be due to several things. It is possible that the course is not being modified as much as it needs to be (the teachers may not be teaching in the way she learns best). Also, if the regular education teacher does not have training or experience with students with LD, he or she may need more help from a special educator in order to teach your daughter in the appropriate manner. Another explanation is that your daughter is slowly but surely making the difficult adjustment from a self-contained special program to the environment of the regular class. The regular class might simply be more challenging than the SLD program. The fact that your daughter's grades have improved a bit is a good sign. I hope this trend continues.

You should be aware that having a learning disability should not impair your daughter's chances to get into a good college. Many colleges have excellent programs for students with learning disabilities. Descriptions in a college guide book will include this information, or your daughter's college counselor can help you.

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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.


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