Students Who Learn Differently Overseas
LD SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS WORLDWIDE
Because most mainstream teachers throughout the world receive little or no practical guidance on how to help LD students in their classrooms, and because most mainstream teachers are very busy people who work many uncompensated hours, we have researched a very simple, one-page guide of strategies. These should be easy for teachers to implement in classrooms with relatively small changes to their current teaching style. This project does not give a detailed explanation of learning difficulties. The resource section contains references for teachers who would like to pursue this topic. It is suggested that teachers keep this sheet together with their class register for easy access.
These suggestions have been collected and refined over a two-year period by special-needs specialists from all over the world. The FAWCO member clubs that are located in non-English-speaking countries have been asked to translate the document into their host country languages. In addition to disseminating the information within their clubs, they have been asked to make it available to persons involved in education in their host countries. A copy of the final project paper and the translations done to date are available free of charge in the following section.
The project began in September 2001 with an invitation to FAWCO clubs to participate, and continued by inviting support groups and other organizations concerned with educating LD students to submit suggestions for these guidelines. An initial evaluation form, which listed 203 strategies, was compiled, and participants were asked to rate each strategy according to its importance on a scale of 0-3. This first phase of the project was completed in August 2002.
The second phase took the top 102 suggestions that were selected from the first list. Participants were then asked to select the 20 that they considered the most important. This phase was completed in January 2003.
Phase three took the responses to the phase two evaluation form, and after consultation with the participants, produced a single page of strategies for teachers. It is this last, single page of suggestions that is the final project paper. The American Women's Club of Sweden completed the first translation, and it was presented to Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden during the 2003 FAWCO Stockholm Conference.
In the final phase of this project, FAWCO member clubs were asked to disseminate this information within their communities, making it available to members, local schools (both international and host country), and to their ministries or departments of education. A copy was hand-delivered to the United States Department of Education in Washington, D.C.
The questionnaires detailing Phase 1 and Phase 2 of this project can be found in the Appendix, along with the sources from which the questionnaires were taken and the resources that the project participants recommended. Below is the final project paper that resulted from this investigation.
In Stockholm, Sweden, on March 31, 2003, the then Educational Support Committee (ESC) of the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) announced the distribution of a new one-page guide of techniques and strategies aimed at mainstream teachers at all levels all over the world. The purpose of the paper is to help them work better with students who have difficulty learning via traditional teaching techniques. These students are often referred to as "learning differently", "learning disabled", or "LD" students.
"As many as 1 out of every 5 people in the United States has a learning disability according to the 22nd Annual Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Education," said Susan van Alsenoy, then chair of the FAWCO Educational Support Committee that managed the two-year project and created the guidelines document. "There is very little help available for the LD student or his or her teacher in most countries outside of the U.S and the U.K. Many of the teaching techniques in practice today are not suitable for all types of learners, and too many students are mislabeled, mistaught and dismissed as being stupid, lazy or inattentive."
"LD" is described by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, based in the U.S., as being a neurological disorder that interferes with a person's ability to store, process, or produce information, thus creating a gap between one's ability and performance. Van Alsenoy added that problems can be multiplied ten- or a hundred-fold when the student is facing a foreign culture and an unfamiliar language.
The guidelines the ESC team created include strategies such as breaking down learning into small, sequential tasks and using lots of visual aids. Some strategies are more difficult, such as teaching LD students how to ask questions to be sure of understanding and/or how to get the help they need.
"There is help out there, but often the students and teachers who need it most don't even know where to look. A teacher with 20 or 30 other children to work with may not have the knowledge or skills needed to serve LD students properly," said van Alsenoy. She added, "The Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas is a grassroots organization and as such is able to get help directly to these students and teachers through its member clubs all over the world."
Working with parents, support groups and other educational organizations, van Alsenoy's committee started with more than 200 suggestions for teachers that they determinedly narrowed down to fit a single-page format for ease of use. FAWCO member clubs in each respective host country have been asked to translate the guide into the local language.
The American Women's Club of Sweden made the first foreign translation, which was presented to Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden during FAWCO's 2008 conference in Stockholm.
"This is the type of project that FAWCO is honored to support," said Pamela Dahlgren, then FAWCO's president. "This project reaches beyond our member club boundaries and into their host communities in a way that benefits everyone involved."
A free copy of the guide is now available on the FAWCO website under the Global Issues tab, Education, Students Who Learn Differently Overseas. FAWCO will also distribute the guide to international public and private schools and their ministries or departments of education throughout the world through its member clubs.
This project was begun to investigate facilities, services and options for students with special challenges, and to exchange information pertinent to their problems. More information about learning differences and resources for parents and teachers is listed in the public section of the FAWCO website under Global Issues/Education, and it is available to any interested person. It has been speech-enabled for those with reading difficulties.
FAWCO is an umbrella organization of currently 75 independent American Women's Clubs in 39 countries, representing more than 17,000 women worldwide. It is a non-partisan, not-for-profit corporation, and is recognized as a non-governmental organization (NGO) with special consultative status to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. More information about FAWCO can be found on its website at www.fawco.org.
"If dyslexic children do not learn the way you teach,
can you teach them the way they learn?
These are children who can and do learn, but learn differently." These words were
written by Dr. Harry Chasty, an international consultant on learning abilities
His question presents a daunting challenge to teachers, parents, and employers - anyone who comes in contact with persons who learn differently. They present a daunting challenge to you. For some experts are now estimating that between 15 and 30% of any population, anywhere, is comprised of LD persons. Many go undiagnosed their whole lives, but often carry marks inflicted by poor self-esteem. All too often these marks are made visible in misbehavior, depression and/or substance abuse problems.
One study has shown that 53% of a prison population were LD learners. Another showed that 92% of alcoholics studied also learned differently.
In order to get an LD diagnosis, you must be of normal or above normal intelligence. Given your more than adequate IQ, how must it feel to be required by law to be forced into an environment for 16 to 18 years, 5 days a week, where because of the "rules," you cannot begin to reach your true potential? Where you are unable to achieve the grades you feel you deserve. Ask most LD students. They know.
If they can't learn the way we teach them, then we have to change the way we teach.
Working as an in-class, learning support assistant, I have seen these students struggle daily. But perhaps even more important, I have seen dedicated, caring teachers also struggling to meet the many and various demands placed upon them by administrative as well as teaching tasks. Most have not had the opportunity to learn fully about the recommended methods for teaching LD students. Many do not have the disposable income to take the extra courses they need to adequately address the needs of the LD learner. Most simply do not have the time.
There is exciting research going on in the field of human brain function. New, improved methods of viewing the living brain, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, are allowing us to see what parts of the brain are activated when different tasks, like reading, are performed. Learning differently is not a disease. It is just a way of looking at the same things with different parts of the brain.
Conventional education is set up to teach what I call the CL - the conventional learner. And nine times out of ten, the CL will succeed in the conventional classroom. But as many women have learned, one-size-fits-all panty hose do not fit all. Nor does one-size-fits-all education fit all students.
The following is written on a plaque in the hall of Churchill College at Cambridge University:
"Happy is he that can understand the causes of things." We just are beginning to understand the causes. The rest is sure to follow.
But what about now? What about the LD learner who sits in the mainstream classroom, as we sit here today? That person can't wait. And I think that the student's teachers don't want to wait either. It must be extremely frustrating to try so hard to teach some students, who despite your best efforts, continue to underachieve. So what can we do to help the teacher help the learner?
The idea presented itself of attempting a project to help support these overworked and underpaid people. Why not take a look at what the LD experts around the world consider to be best practice for mainstream teachers?
Why not then, with the help of some of these experts, attempt to reduce this list to the minimum, so that the teachers we are trying to support might have the time to take it on board?
Time does not permit me to give voice to all my many "thank yous." Therefore, they appear before you in written form, and I urge you to read them. Time also does not permit me to detail how we would like you and your club to carry this project out into your local international and host country communities. So this information is on the other side of the thank you note.
The project has already received an enthusiastic reception from its LD specialist participants. The Ph.D. participant from Slovenia has asked and received permission to translate it into Slovenian for distribution to the teachers in her country.
Many thanks to AWC Stockholm for providing the first FAWCO club translation of this project. Not only will it be posted on the FAWCO website, it will also be presented to Queen Silvia of Sweden during her visit on Monday.
Be inspired! Take this project with you into your clubs and communities and be an inspiration to others.
I would like to end with two of my favorite quotes, and I would like you all to reflect on their implications for they are, in large part, what this project is all about. First, from American psychologist Karl Menninger:
What you do to children, they will do to society.
And from social anthropologist Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
If you are living in a non-English speaking country, please volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org to provide a translation of the final project page into your host-country language, if one does not already exist. This does not have to be an official translation, but should be an accurate one. Perhaps there is a host-county national in your club who would be willing to take on this task. The American Women's Club of Sweden completed the first translation, which was presented to Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden during the FAWCO 2003 conference. A copy of all the translations will be made available for free on the FAWCO website, Global Issues/Education/Students Who Learn Differently Overseas.
Translations are still being accepted. They do not necessarily have to be in the language of a country where FAWCO has a member club, although in the first instance it was hoped to cover these areas. But we would like to make this information available throughout the world.
We are now in the final phase of this project, and that phase depends entirely on you. We are asking you to disseminate this information within your communities, making it available to your members and to your local schools, both international and host-country. And to send copies to the ministry or department of education in your host country. The following letter may be used if desired:
email/phone number of club
The Ministry/Department of Education
Dear Minister/Head of Department of Education,
The (your AWC) has been in existence here in (. . .) since (. . .) helping American and other international women adjust to a new way of life while joining with local women and organizations in philanthropic, cultural and educational endeavors.
In addition, our club is a member of a larger organization known as The Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO). Founded in 1931, FAWCO is a non-partisan, not-for-profit corporation that serves as an umbrella network, linking over 75 independent American and international volunteer organizations for citizens living overseas.
FAWCO serves as a resource and channel of information for its member clubs, contributes actively to the global community and represents the interests of Americans abroad. With a combined membership of over 15,000 individuals in more than 35 countries, FAWCO is represented in Africa, Asia, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East as well as North America and South America.
A recognized Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) since 1995, FAWCO was granted special consultative status to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 1997.
In the field of education, the FAWCO Education Task Force undertook a two-year research project to help support all mainstream teachers worldwide in their efforts to help students who learn differently (students with challenges like dyslexia, autism, and dyspraxia) become educated more effectively. A detailed description of this project can be found at http://www.fawco.org under the tab Global Issues/ Education/Students Who Learn Differently Overseas/ Project to Support Mainstream Teachers. One of the goals of this project has been to make its results available not only to FAWCO club members, but also to our host country educational professionals. The final project paper has already been translated into more than 25 languages.
This educational research initiative was hand-delivered to Dr. Wendy Tada of the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, in 2004. In the event that you find this information of value to the members of your educational community, we have included a copy of the final project paper translated into (your host country language).
Please feel free to copy and disseminate it. In one country, Slovenia, they found a sponsor for this project and were able to send a copy to all their teachers. FAWCO only requests that proper credit be given.
(Your phone number and/or email)
The success of this project now lies in your hands. The research work has been done, and we need you to see that it reaches the people who can most benefit from it. LD is an invisible difference, and therefore often goes unnoticed or disregarded. You now have the opportunity not only to raise awareness on an international scale, but also to bring positive help to those who might most benefit from it.
Students Who Learn Differently Overseas
by Susan van Alsenoy, AWC Antwerp
Page created 10/29/99 EvE. Last updated 03/01/11 SvA.
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