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Special Learners        < Previous        Next >



Remediation: Give Kids Learning Skills, Not Drugs


Q. It sounds vaguely familiar: educators are saying that kids who have trouble reading but who are medically normal must have a mental problem, so they put them on drugs. Oh, yeah, I remember now: that's what they did to Soviet dissidents in the gulag, to shut them up, make them placid, and make them work harder and longer! Why does it seem so fishy to be putting so many children on so many drugs these days?


Well, it's certainly not fair to relate the Soviet gulag - domestic prison camps - to the American public school, though smart-aleck American students probably would try. But it would sure be a lot easier to find nonmedical remedies for learning problems where possible, instead of trying to medicate the symptoms of nonmedical learning problems, which manifest as behavior problems.


Keep in mind that school special education programs are set up to control behavior, and NOT to teach or even minimize or fix teaching problems. School special ed is to learning the way our prisons are to good citizenship: there's no guarantee they'll help, but at least everybody is supposed to be kept safe while they're going on.


But it's wrong, and terribly unfair, for schools to be allowed to keep blaming the child, the parents, the home, TV, society as a whole, and everything else under the sun, for unmedical learning disabilities - when the finger of blame really should be pointed at the school itself. Maybe not at individual educators, but at the system itself - which has failed to identify the root of the "learning disabilities" problem - ineffective instructional strategies and programming.


School observers like author B.K. Eakman are calling for a new approach to learning problems in schools, rather than widespread prescriptions of Ritalin, antidepressants and the other drugs commonly given to kids who struggle in school. The statistics are clear, that being labeled "learning disabled" or "special ed" in school is associated with lots of problems on down the road - problems that should be avoided at all costs.


Since remediation programs in school are geared toward behavior modification, instead of focusing on the child's learning problems, no wonder so many bright kids who wind up in special ed through no fault of their own become beat-down, hate school, and feel like weirdos who don't fit in with their peers and can't be successful.


Instead, she urges new attention to the basics of instructional remediation, which can bring kids up to speed academically more quickly and effectively than years of special-ed therapy and drugs ever could.


Here are the learning skills Ms. Eakman and others call for, instead of special ed, for kids with "learning disabilities" who are often warehoused in inappropriate SPED programs and drugs:


  • visual and auditory memory


  • visual identification


  • spatial and abstract reasoning


  • mental stamina (i.e., concentration)


  • perceptual speed


  • hand-eye coordination


  • thought-expression synchronization


If grade-school teachers were trained on these skills, rather than mired in a swamp of "multiculturalism" and "self-esteem," and if children were precisely diagnosed upon entrance to school with any weaknesses in these areas, then hordes of them could be kept out of the dungeons of special-ed and off drugs, critics believe.


That would save taxpayers untold hundreds of millions of dollars in pointless special-education spending in our schools . . . not to mention that zeroing in on solving specific learning problems more efficiently would create hordes of more productive new graduates who feel better about themselves and are NOT hooked on drugs and suffering the consequences.

Homework: Read an on this point by B.K. Eakman, author of Walking Targets: How Our Psychologized Classrooms Are Producing a Nation of Sitting Ducks:


By Susan Darst Williams Special Learners 15 2008


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