WIA Community Conversations Transcripts - Learning Disabilities

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Learning Disabilities

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Learning Disabilities Questions

  • What do you see as some of our greatest challenges in serving adults with learning disabilities?
  • What are some innovative solutions to those challenges?
  • How might WIA reauthorization support improving services to adults with learning disabilities?
  • What qualified support services do adults with Learning Disabilities need to help them be successful in the classroom?

Responses to the above 4 questions:

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4511] Re: OVAE Discussion
From: Glenn Young
Date: Mon Jan 11 13:05:28 EST 2010

Under the current system, there are so many challenges, that a full response to this question would require volumes. However to just list three:

1) The on-going failure of the field, or at least the state entities, to recognize the extent that LD exists in the Adult literacy systems.

  • Since the field has neither the funds nor the expertise to pay for diagnostics, nor do they have the connections with the K-12 systems to obtain previous diagnostics, the system basically operates under a relative “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to LD. If someone can’t prove they have a disability, leave it at that. If they do have proof, basically keep the person uninformed of what that proof means.
  • The existing National Reporting System (NRS) was designed to continue to underreport the rates of LD and other disabilities since it only accepts rates for “diagnosed” LD populations. Since most adults either have never been properly identified (and can not afford the costs of testing), have records that are considered “too old,” or have records that will not be released by schools, the NRS continues to report LD rates in the low single digits, while speculation puts LD rates for Non-ELL (English Language learners) adult learners at more then 50%.
    • This disconnect between the requirements of the NRS and the other reports implies a systematic approach by States and the NRS to artificially keep the numbers of LD reported as very low and therefore have it seen as a relatively unimportant matter.
  • This failure to recognize the disability greatly impacts the approaches and service of the students in classrooms, but also denies the students the civil rights protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since they can not “prove” they have a disability.
    • In the classrooms, teachers can not provide appropriate accommodations and assistive technology, based on recognized disability teaching models, since the student is not officially “disabled.” Students can not gain accommodations on the GED or other evaluation since they can not prove the disability. The GED testing accommodation rates over the years have been less then ½ of one percent. All efforts to try to make the GED comply with the ADA that would require states to be more flexible in recognizing past history of disability has been met with sharp resistance (based mainly on cost issues, which are mainly unfounded.)

2) The ongoing concept that Learning Disabilities is a “teaching disorder” rather then a disability. This issue also plays out in the classroom and the civil right venues

  • In the classroom, despite decades of work, and effort on the part of some staff at NIFL and OVAE, most people in the adult literacy system still act like they consider Learning Disabilities as a failure in teaching, as opposed to what it really is by definition, a disability or a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more of the daily living activities of the person (as Defined by the ADA). Therefore, the system still assumes that most adults with low literacy skills can still be “taught to read” with proper teaching approaches, and approaches issues of literacy training for persons with LD from an “educational point of view” rather than from a disability point of view. This concept of “everyone can learn to read” is fundamentally not true, but remains as the cornerstone of adult literacy approaches (or as the old slogan goes, all adult literacy providers need is a degree in caring). LD by definition as a disability means that there is an “impairment” that prevents persons from learning to read or read well enough, despite the efforts of teachers.

The Disability point of view looks to ensure that the person can gain skills and knowledge despite the impact of the disability (or in the case of learning disabilities, reading skills) The disability point of view would focus far greater on assistive technology and accommodations to enable the learner to far quicker gain access to the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the modern economy.

What we have seen through the “educational approach” is for the adult populations with LD in adult literacy systems, people being stuck in early literacy programs for years with limited advancement, and frequently dropping out as a result of the frustration in progress, and a greater sense of failure on the part of the learner (now an adult literacy dropout.)

The educational point of view model clearly has failed the vast majority of persons with LD in the system. Clearly it is time to focus on addressing the needs of persons with LD as persons with disabilities and use a model of intervention that is designed for such populations.

  • From the Civil Rights perspective, the failure to address LD as a disability issue as anything but as a teaching issue, helps to keep the person with LD unable to create the means to access the protections of the ADA, since they are not provided proper information about the nature to the disability nor the rights associated with the disability through adults literacy systems. By maintaining, the ideas that this is a teaching issue rather than a disability issue, the adult learner is not prepared to:
    • Better understand their disability and to advocate for themselves based on the disability in work and other educational settings
    • Learn about the civil rights protections that enable them to use accommodations in work and other education settings
    • Learn how assistive technology can help them compensate for the impact of their disability (limited literacy skills)

Based on reports from the Office for Disability and Policy (ODAP), of the US Dept of Labor, these three areas, (self awareness/self advocacy, accommodations and assistive technology) are the key areas that enable success for persons with disabilities.

  • The current approach of the adult literacy system for persons with learning disabilities deemphasizes all three of these approaches, and continues to operate as if LD is not a disability.

The ongoing failure to work with other state agencies to develop a more global approach to LD.

  • Adult literacy systems tend to work in isolation (smokestacks) within states, therefore there is little effort by state literacy agencies to make work with these agencies to better ensure that persons with LD are able to obtain services that could enhance their experience in Adult Education, and enable them to better transition from adult education programs to other training and education programs or to workplace settings.
  • This issue goes far beyond the role of adult literacy in the state workforce system (which has shown to be a major problem). Here the specific problem lays in that failure of the adult literacy system to work together with existing services in other agencies and programs that could better enable persons with LD to be successful in the literacy efforts.
  • Some of the more logical alliances that could be made but seemingly rarely happen, are connections with:
    • The K-12 systems for both student records and technical support on educational approaches
    • The Vocational Rehabilitation Services programs for testing of students, and for technical assistance on assistive technology
    • The Services for the Blind for technical assistance on assistive technology
    • State offices of civil rights for development of adult literacy program service delivery systems that comply with the ADA and state civil rights laws
    • Workforce development systems for requirement on documentation for disability in workforce training programs, and guidance on how to prepare the adult literacy student approaches for accommodations in these systems
    • State Higher Education system for similar issues
    • County Mental Health programs, for resources on diagnostic services to State Welfare agencies to gain funding for testing and assistive technology for TANF clients in adults literacy systems.

The obvious reason for this failure by the states to actively seek out these services, is that to do so would require the states to acknowledge there are high rates of LD in their adult literacy populations, which is something they simple do not want to do; and their lack of willingness is supported by the false figures created by the faulty approach of the NRS.

The most important innovation that could be addressed is moving the whole field towards the concept of Universal Design (design everything making it work for persons with disabilities and all persons benefit). This would both allow more use of accommodations and reduce the pressure on systems to find ways to pay for LD diagnostic testing.

In addition, as part of a Universal Design model, the system would move away from a “teacher” focused top-down approach” to a “learner focused” bottoms up approach. And what is clear is that most learners (with or without disability) can not afford to wait for years to become better able to gain knowledge through the teacher focused model currently offered. Included in this bottoms up approach would be a focus on how new technologies (the new cell phones, e-books, etc) can make people “virtually literate” quickly, and get them learning very quickly. By using technology we can enable people to access and “read” almost any items in weeks rather than years.

Therefore, as part of the state resource centers (or perhaps in replacement of these centers) we need to have “virtual literacy” technology centers where low literate learners can be provide with and trained in the use of these modern tools and enable them to quickly gain access to information and knowledge (through the internet and other means) needed to become far more competitive in the current employment market.

Through the use of virtual literacy technology and some ongoing support, we can get people out of the “learn to read” phase to “reading to learn” phase in a matter of weeks (or months) rather then the current teacher centered, standard classroom, low tech model that results in an average stay of some 3-5 years stay in an adult literacy program (0ften with limited literacy gains). This new approach would also create a whole new source of much needed jobs (the technical trainers and support) and allow teachers to actually teach far more subject matter rather then rote literacy skill development.

To put it simply, we need to start using 21st century tools and technology to get people successful. This approach would work well for those with limited literacy skills but in fact is essential for those with LD, and perhaps even legally required for the LD population, under ADA.

This is the major innovation that needs to occur in the adult literacy system; we need to join the 21st century. However, there are other innovations needed; including (but no way limited to):

1) End the Controversy on Rate of LD - Fund an independent, random selection study of adult learners in the adult literacy system, (independent of the adult literacy system for conduct, overview or administration). And in these studies use “adult” LD definitions (Voc Rehab) and gender, race, and class-adjusted diagnostic protocols (that include such items as regression scales). Such a study was funded in or around 2005 with USED money ($6 million) not part of OVAE’s Budget, and was killed at the last minute by DAEL.

NIH could be a candidate for program administration, but using non-governmental university based research teams could be better. Actually running simultaneous independent studies, with each unaware of the others work, would be best.

Similarly designed research has been conducted looking at LD rates in Welfare populations, and found far higher rates then expected. As a result of these studies several CBO reports now state that up to half of the remaining TANF populations have undiagnosed disabilities.

2) End the conflict in Approach to Education Issue

OVAE needs to clearly state that LD is in fact a disability and needs to be addressed as such, in national and state policies and approaches.

3) Hold states accountable for addressing issues

While OVAE/DAEL several years ago did require states to create state plans on how to address the LD issues in their state literacy populations; states mainly reported that they would pretty much do nothing new.

OVAE needs to revisit this requirement for LD plans and ask states to update these plans to address Learning Disabilities specifically from a disability point of view, (with a statement from OVAE which defines LD as such). States would therefore be required to create plans that would address the need for:

  • Policies on disability determination that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Provision of disability awareness and self-advocacy training for the learners
  • Policies on accommodations and assistive technology that allow for, among other things,
  • Active use of these things in the classroom
  • Far greater allowance for use in GED testing and other programs
  • Using accommodations and technology while measuring “gains”
  • Requirements for partnering with other agencies to develop a more seamless system for students with LD in being successful in the systems and transitioning to other programs.
  • OVAE/DAEL needs to attach consequences for failure to create plans that meet ADA and OVAE requirements.

4) Fund a new national center on LD and adult literacy that is more centered on LD as a disability then the one created in 1996 and is more focused on using assistive technology as a means to created “virtual literacy solutions” for adult learners with learning disabilities.

5) Issues specific directive to the national GED (Testing Service) that they must create a new approach to “proof of disability” and provision of accommodations in their program. State that the new approach must be far less restrictive and in compliance with the concepts provide in Title II of the ADA. Again, attach consequences for failure to do so.

Two years ago, such an approach was undertaken by GED internally, which met harsh resistance from states. The result was a top GED official was fired and the effort stopped. There was no support from OVAE/DAEL for the internal GED effort and no pressure put on states to go along with the reforms.

The current language of the bill almost ignores the issues of disabilities. We need to infuse this final law with language that includes such issues as fully recognizing LD as a disability, and the rights of these persons under Title II of the ADA for equal opportunity to participate and equal opportunity to benefit from adult literacy services (and the right to accommodations and assistive technology). We need this language through the act, including the new adult focused NIFL, the proposed new research, new technology centers, and other places. The bill can also include language on holding states accountable for disability plans, and requiring the GED to develop policies that are more in line with ADA. In addition, the bill should include more about a universal design model, and a “virtual literacy” approach.

Persons with LD need to be treated as persons with disabilities, using the ADA approaches (not the IDEA model). Therefore, the support services they need in classrooms include:

  • Training on disabilities, and the ADA, etc.
  • Provision and training on assistive technology and accommodations
  • A Universal Design approach, that deemphasizes the need to “prove” the disability, and provided with needed disability support based on “performance,” rather then “documentation.”

Most important, the person with LD needs to be in a system that is open and supportive of having a disability, not a “hostile environment” within the classroom. The current hostility, whether overt or covert, intended or not, comes from both teachers and administrators.

Some of this hostility comes from lack of understanding of “disability” and clinging to the “teacher centered” models. However, much of the hostility comes from the current systems preference not to recognize the disability, for fear of cost obligations and civil rights issues. Therefore, most people with LD are in classrooms that are in fact “hostile” to them, their disability, and their needs.

Teachers are mostly required to approach the LD issues through trying “teaching techniques” and not through the approaches based on a disability (more accommodations and assistive technology).

Teachers are often not allowed to provide information on potential accommodations for training in testing in the classroom, or in helping the student gain existing records (since that would provide “proof of the disability” which would require the systems to act differently). Sometimes teachers are just not informed of options, but other times teachers are mandated by administrators not to provide this information.

Teachers often do not prepare the learner to take the GED in the accommodated fashion, since the GED resists providing large numbers of person tests in an accommodated fashion. The GED retains a very costly and out of date “proof of disability” system that is very slow in response, to help limit the numbers of persons who can obtain accommodations. Most students can not afford the testing required, or can’t wait for the slow reply.

Therefore, the current system:

  • fails to provide appropriate recognition of the disability,
  • fails to provide recognized appropriate intervention tools (accommodations and assistive technology) and,
  • fails to support the student in transition out of Adult Ed (through the GED)

This combination, with many other factors not listed, results in what would be considered a “hostile work environment” for persons with LD, if they were involved in a work situation, and covered under Title I of the ADA. Despite the concept of the adult literacy class being open and supported and with great friendly teacher, the fact that LD is not allowed to be fully recognized or supported, makes that image a falsehood for those with LD.

And on an individual basis, the person with LD has no apparent redress available to them. Therefore it is the role of OVAE/DAEL to require the states to make their systems, overtly and covertly, intended or unintended, a place that is far less hostile for persons with learning disabilities.

Glenn Young

Consulting Services on Learning Disabilities (CSLD)

Buffalo, NY

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4512] Learning Disabilities
From: Kathleen Ross-Kidder, Ph.D.
Date: Mon Jan 11 19:39:14 EST 2010

Adults with learning disabilities often struggle. Five critical issues impede their progress:

  • Recognition of the disability;
  • Training on how to accommodate those with learning disabilities in both work and post secondary education programs;
  • Relevant research on effective strategies or accommodations, on training those who work with adults with learning disabilities, and on the nature and impact of the disabilities in adults;
  • Better focus on the use of technologies that can offer multimodal instructional models to students and to staff with limited training;
  • Lack of recognition of successes as potential building blocks for future success.

For example, let’s consider Glenn Young’s GED* concerns. Glenn cites data suggesting that the GED model did not increase accommodations. Statistical data at the time of the national GED training of state directors of adult education suggested otherwise. GED statistical reports in the past reported the number of candidates requesting accommodations due to learning disabilities. This information seems to be missing from current reports. Data now available seems to be on accommodations for vision and hearing impairment as indicated by the “special testings requested” category. Even if that data alone is considered, review of the 2006 report shows a significant increase in requests for special editions beginning in 1999 and going forward until 2001, the years in which significant training occurred. (Figure 11, 2006 GED Testing Service Data.) Move forward.

Review subsequent information in a training booklet developed on GED accommodations written by a program in Florida. This manual moves understanding and services forward. It is written clearly. It is written in a manner adult educators can use to make certain accommodations are requested and provided. Data on the effectiveness of this program would be informative.

*The point? Articulated policies can provide a basis for awareness and improvement, as in the case of Florida. Another excellent example is NIFL. They had a training program in place, Bridges to Practice. Many also suggested this program was not effective. NIFL researched that program to develop a program that will better train and meet the needs of adults with learning disabilities. Moving forward is essential. Thus, awareness is important. Training works. Research validates and provides strategies to improve and move forward. All require funding!

*I find the most significant problem is the lack of understanding of how to accommodate both educational and work settings to the needs of adults with LD. Effective accommodations are derived from good assessments. Obtaining assessments can be difficult to be certain. Good assessments provide the key to appropriate planning focusing on a client’s strengths. The issue should not be one of simply does the person have the disability. The real question is “How does the disability impact learning and employment?” Knowing that, “How can I best accommodate?”

How might WIA reauthorization support improving services to adults with learning disabilities?
Training and research

What qualified support services do adults with Learning Disabilities need to help them be successful in the classroom? Adequate assessment of cognitive strengths and weaknesses to understand how the learning disability impacts their learning and employment. Staff trained to understand what the assessment means so that appropriate accommodations or strategies can be implemented.

*As some know I was part of the team that worked to develop an awareness of learning disabilities, ADHD and emotional disabilities for the GED. Part of that program included and extensive three-day training program for state directors of education at GED expense. I was also the former director of LD Online, a Website that focused on review of current research information and that kept in touch with the pulse of constituent concerns via the Ask LD Online button. I also worked as a consultant evaluating the NIFL train-the-trainer model, Bridges to Practice, and for the past several years I have been training vocational rehabilitation counselors about learning disabilities and/or ADHD.

Kathleen Ross-Kidder, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology

The George Washington University

Washington, DC

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4513] Re: OVAE Discussion
From: Lucille Cuttler
Date: Mon Jan 11 22:17:22
EST 2010

Glenn, the
response to Question 2 is precisely the right answer. What harm is there to use
a method that will specifically meet the needs of the 20% of the population
that are dyslexic? Every day educational specialists dyslexics benefit from a
method that specifically meets their needs. Children with unmet needs become
illiterate adults.


Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4534] Re: Learning Disabilities
From: Lucille Cuttler
Date: Mon Jan 11 22:28:03
EST 2010

indeed are expensive. However, by applying methods appropriate for dyslexics,
may we ask if that would do any harm? Clearly, no. That's exactly the policy of
Project Literacy/Outreach, Inc., (a non-profit) that I founded in 1986.


Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4514] Re: Learning Disabilities Questions
From: Linda Dishman
Date: Tue Jan 12 08:14:24
EST 2010

I believe that
the best WIA reauthorization support would be to reinstate endorsement of and
training on PowerPath. In addition, I would like to see more onsite,
face-to-face trainings available from our AEL PD staff in the area of reading
and math manipulatives and dyslexia.


Education and Literacy Director
Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction and Lamar School Districts

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4515] Re: Learning Disabilities Questions

From: Robin I. Matusow

Date: Tue Jan 12 10:35:29
EST 2010

I agree with
Glenn and feel that LD issues in education are additionally civil rights
issues. Below are my thoughts on the questions. I am trying to bullet so as not
to be repetitive.

Lack of consistent national, state, and local policies and enforcement in

Lack of
professional development (PD) for teachers. PD has been traditionally based, as
Glenn put it on the "teaching disorder" theory.
"Disability" based PD would be helpful.

Department of Justice is doing a lot of good work in the general area of
disability compliance, they could dedicate time and study to look at disability
compliance in the adult education system.

Although I
am not directly involved in WIA anymore, it does not seem to have changed much
in terms of LD or any disability. The services are pretty non-existent.
Difficulties seem to be:

  • Lack
    of adequate funding for those specifically serving adults with LD or any
  • Lack
    of One Stop staff understanding and intention to serve adults with LD.

Frankly, portion off an appropriate amount of dollars for services and give it
to Vocational Rehabilitation for services. They may be able to alter part of
their program to meet WIA standards and be better at serving the population.

qualified support services do adults with learning disabilities need to help
them be successful in the classroom?

  • Teachers
    with appropriate training.
  • Counseling
    staff trained specially to assist in educational accommodations.
  • Specific
    credentialing in the adult education field in disabilities.


Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4516] Re: OVAE Discussion

From: Hugo Kerr

Date: Tue Jan 12 10:42:18
EST 2010

Sorry, but
we must never stop assuming that people can learn. Low literacy skills is not
the same as 'disability' (and being unable to learn, however taught, is a
disability). The assumption that 'most adults with low literacy skills can
still be taught to read' is fundamental to, for example, my own practice. I
never met one who couldn't. To assume they can't is, by definition, learned
helplessness and will, to the exact extent it is accepted by its victim, be a
self-fulfilling prophecy.

Hugo Kerr

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4517] FW: Learning Disabilities -- GED and WIA

From: Glenn Young

Date: Tue Jan 12 11:45:56
EST 2010

It would
seem that Dr Ross-Kidder and I are in agreement on the key areas of need.
However, I am not clear on what she is saying about the GED. Let me try and
make my point a little clearer. Despite years of pressure on the GED, and
repeated efforts to get them to change their current approaches we have seen
from their own data that the limited changes they have made has had no real
“significant” impact on the numbers and from what we can tell no more then one
half of one percent (0.5) of those taking the test has received accommodations
in a given year ½ of one percent is not a good or reasonable figure. And about
three years ago or so GED stopped reporting the data on accommodations for LD
since they continued to be so low so they simple stopped reporting them so no
one can point to the annual lack of progress.

Now Dr.
Ross-Kidder said the there was significant increases in a time frame here we
may disagree for moving from less then one tenth of one percent or what it was
in the early 1990’s to half of one percent, or what it was reported in the mid
2000’s may be significant on some scales, but it clearly does not meet the
reasonableness test. Even in special education the rates for LD are 5% and
therefore the GED would have to increase their current rate tenfold to get to
the Special Ed rate, and it would appear based on reason that the population
trying to get GED would actually have LD at a far higher rate then the general
public but just lets say that Dr. Kidder-Ross’s comment on “significant increases
in GED accommodation rates” is not compete in explaining what was the initial
baseline and how few continue to get accommodated in caparison to the great
overall need.

The Florida
training manual and NIFL trainings on the rights of persons to have accommodations
under the ADA and such have not moved the numbers because there is extensive
resistance to the issue on the state and local levels of GED because of the
great fear of the added cost to the testing process if the GED was real held
accountable for providing accommodations.

So, in
recognizing state concerns, there needs to be a reasonable approach that will
both allow for the proper number of persons obtaining accommodations while not
destroying the system and actually these approaches were offered in previous
efforts. I can provide these options to OVAE upon request.

I do think,
however, that with OVAE’s support and perhaps some dedicated funding through
WIA to address state needs on accommodations we can finally get some progress
in this area and allow so many who could pass the GED with accommodations to
get these accommodations and get on with their lives.

Glenn Young
Services on Learning Disabilities (CSLD)
Buffalo, NY

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4520] Re: Learning Disabilities - forgotten populations
From: Glenn Young

Date: Tue Jan 12 12:44:14
EST 2010

There are a
great many "forgotten populations" that appear to have LD at similar
rates to the "general populations" and for the most part OVAE/DAEL
has not focused much attention on the impact of the disability on these groups.
Perhaps it's not the general groups that are "forgotten," but the
subgroups within these groups who have LD that are "forgotten." When
LD is addressed at all in the Adult Literacy System it seems to be look at it
as a separate subgroup of learners, rather than what it truly is, a disability
that cross cuts all other groups of those in adult literacy programs. In
addition, if systems do attempt to recognize the crosscutting nature of LD,
agencies tend to look at LD as a minor issue for the group of learners, rather
then perhaps a key element that prevents success.

Included in
these forgotten LD populations those with LD who are also:

  • Correctional
    education students
  • ELL
    (English Language Learner)
  • TANF
    (welfare) clients
  • Displaced
    workers/workers in need of retraining, and on and on.

proportions of all of these groups have LD and in many cases, the unidentified
LD could be the root cause of on-going problems.

And there is
a great deal of cross cutting within these groups. For example you could have
an ex-con female on TANF, who is primarily Spanish speaking, and just
"teched out" of a job, and that person also has (unidentified) LD. It
is most likely that none of the multiple groups "helping her" would,
1) consider that she does have LD, and 2) even if they found LD, they would
think that it was of little matter compared with all the other barriers she was
facing. Yet, research has clearly shown that LD could be the root cause of her
failures in school, her impulse issues that led to both teen pregnancy and
criminal activities, and her inability to both master language skills and
technology needed to compete in the new economy. And the failure to recognize
the underlying disability or to give it much credence could lead to ongoing
failure in work, TANF requirements, and language and literacy skill

Yet there is
currently only limited effort to identify and address the disability in these
groups, and even when identified we continue to basically provide standard
"teaching" approaches, when in fact many of those with LD in these
groups would benefit greatly though identification of the disability, and the
use of "disability” approaches that include accommodations and
technological supports to enhance outcomes.

For example;
one of the prime noted accepted educational issues for those English speaking
populations with LD is extensive trouble with second language acquisition. And
waiver of second language learning requirements is the second or third most
common waiver offered those English speaking students with LD in colleges.
However, what if an immigrant in need of learning English has unidentified LD
and has some of the same second language acquisition issues?
"Waivers" are not an option for this person (and much of their future
rights and citizenship is based on learning English). However, if the LD was
identified, "waivers" actually do become an option, as well as a
justification of teaching language in other means then the present offering.
But we have almost no tools available to identify LD in non-English speaking
populations. We can bring up and attempt to address this issue through WIA

group that needs a focus for LD is the correctional populations. One of the key
issues under your office, and under WIA II is the issue of correctional
education run through state agencies in state prisons. From a wide range of
sources, it appears that most persons in these prison systems have very limited
literacy skills and it has been projected that a great many of them actually
have learning disabilities (as well as other "shadow disabilities"
including ADHD.

However, few
have the current documentation to prove this disability and few, therefore, are
able to obtain some critical supports in their literacy development that would
enable them to take the GED in an accommodated fashion. And few prisons offer
evaluations of the prisoners that would enable them to obtain this status.

Again, this
failure has major impacts on the prisoner, in some cases parole is linked to
GEDs, and if they can't get the GED for lack of accommodation, they can not get
parole. Another example is that few if any of the new efforts aimed as
reintegration of prison populations back into society look at the potential of
disability and therefore do not include disability awareness and support
services in these training programs. The very high rate of recidivism could be
linked to this lack of connection.

I feel that
OVAE/DAEL’s responsibility for correctional education efforts should make you
responsible to bring this learning disability/correctional issue to the fore,
help states find services for recognition and accommodations for those
prisoners with LD, (and of course, any change would require that security issues
always be paramount). I have suggested that through WIA, a national taskforce
be established to develop guidelines for states on how to address LD issues
within correctional education settings. Without a mandate through WIA, such
action will not be taken.

I also hope
that through WIA reauthorization, OVAE could develop means to attempt to
address all the cross-cutting issues of LD. There are no quick fixes for these
issues, but I hope that injected into WIA could be funding and a directive to
address the cross-cutting nature of LD, and not treat it as a stand-alone
isolated limited issue.

Glenn Young
Services on Learning Disabilities (CSLD)
Buffalo, NY

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4525] Re: OVAE Discussion

From: Joyce Kahn
Date: Tue Jan 12 13:09:37
EST 2010

Glenn, I do
not read most of the emails that come across my computer, but I happened to
read yours, and it left me speechless. "Wow!" is all I can say.
Working at an adult ed. center, I have often questioned many of the premises
about teaching everyone to read. I also have a colleague who has told me that
my expectations are too high to teach people quickly since many of our students
will be here for years trying to "catch up." I feel for people whose
economic prospects would be greater if they had a GED. And I feel as if I am
leading them on because I don't indicate how long it might be before they are
able to take and pass the GED. So my first question is, What is this technology
and how does it work so that people with learning disabilities can access
information within a shorter timeframe? How available is the technology and how

I recently
have received a number of calls from students who by virtue of remaining in
high school have received diplomas. Many of those with learning issues do not
have the requisite skills to pass the Accuplacer to enter community college;
and since our community colleges charge for remedial classes to bring students
up to snuff, the potential college students call here, where our services are free.
Am I politically incorrect in thinking that not everyone is "college
material," and perhaps there are other careers or meaningful jobs people
could pursue? The idea that everyone should be able to go to college is
pervasive in our society, and I'm not sure this is valid. So my next question
is, Do you think college should be available for all, and if you do, how can
students with learning disabilities access the material? Restructuring adult
education based on the "disability point of view" is a radical notion
here, one I doubt would be embraced.

My final
question is, What percentage of adult ed facilities have embraced this model,
and what is the contact information for a few of the more prominent ones in the

Joyce Kahn,
Adult Basic Education
Barre, Vermont

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4518] WIA Reauthorization Response
From: Becca Loli

Date: Tue Jan 12 14:19:24
EST 2010

students in our adult education program struggle with reading and math. Most of
them are economically disadvantaged, and many did not graduate from high
school. While the majority of our students seem to have at least an average
intelligence, many feel they are stupid and are discouraged about their
academic future. Most of these students, I believe, have an undiagnosed
learning disability. They do not understand their disability, how it influences
their learning, and the services for which they may qualify.

Adults with
learning disabilities need access to affordable and professional screening
services. They need to be taught about their learning disability and how to
succeed with it. This lack of assessment, and lack of understanding,
contributes to added frustration and lack of persistence in adult students with
LD. WIA reauthorization may help channel funding towards scholarships for
assessments, and/or classes and counseling for students to educate them about
their learning difficulties.

with different learning disabilities will need different support services. The
students in my program receive one-on-one individualized instruction, so there
is no larger classroom per se. However, many of my students are also dually
enrolled in GED prep classes, vocational training classes, etc. at other
institutions and share their struggles with their tutors. The adult education
students at the Literacy Council of Buncombe County could benefit from the

  • Less
    auditory distraction in the classroom - a quiet, calm, learning space where
    they can focus
  • More
    time on tests
  • Someone
    reading the test to him/her
  • Ability
    to give answers to a test orally
  • Carefully
    scaffolded instruction
  • More
    kinesthetic/tactile hands-on opportunities to learn material
  • Frequent

Becca Loli
Education Coordinator
Council of Buncombe County
Asheville, NC

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4521] Re: Learning Disabilities WIA changes

From: Michael Tate

Date: Tue Jan 12 22:35:05
EST 2010

I encourage
you to re-draft WIA, Title II, so that state and local basic skills providers
are allowed to change their programs as needed: curricula, design, modes, etc.
to respond to the unparalleled educational technology development that is
predicted by organizations such as Educause and KnowledgeWorks to take place
over the next decade, much of it coming in the next five years.

Perhaps a
"just-in-time change certification" process could be added that would
sanction state, regional or local entities to adapt to these changes while
still keeping faith with the intent of the law. The intent of the law would
need to change as well. While the population remains the same, I think we need
to find new ways of describing them that relate the technology that they
generally cannot easily or fully access, rather than to the basic skills they
need to improve.

I would also
recommend that WIA allow for other kinds of instruction beyond remediation. It
is critical that students have access to compensatory education approaches that
make use of the robust assistive technologies that are now available, or soon
will be. I think it is time to have classes like "Calculator Math,"
"Screen Reader Mastery," and "Speech to Text Mastery" that
would allow any basic skills student, but especially students with a learning
disability to learn to compensate for their deficits/disabilities. This would
allow them to learn something that will make an immediate difference in their
lives in the short time they can invest in our classes. Certainly, they should
also be able to access more basic skills instruction, but only if it is
provided thru approaches that are research-based. For students with LD, we need
to make much more use of Strategy Instruction, so that they can learn how to

I would also
make a plea that WIA encourages all programs to adopt Universal Design (UD).
Universal Design is not just for students with disabilities. It's for all
students. We can already personalize our coffee, our cars; it's time to
personalize our educations, and our students’ educations. As CAST puts it,
there should be multiple ways of representation, expression, and engagement. I
like the UDL Guidelines that CAST has created, and I think it would be easy
enough to scale them to our students and their situations. UD doesn't start and
end with teachers. It needs to be implemented in registration, counseling, in
every part of the program.

while standardization has been the word in education for the last century, I
would say that personalization is the word for the 21st century. There is a
prediction that we are on the first step of the most profound social change
that humans have ever encountered. Education is going to need to be nimble,
flexible, and forward-looking if it is going to serve anyone's needs. After
centuries of passing on the old ways, we now need education to lead us to new
ways. To do that, WIA and other enabling legislation need to allow for

Michael Tate

Subject: [LearningDisabilities 4522] Learning Disabilities
From: Valerie J. Fischer

Date: Wed Jan 13 13:26:04
EST 2010

Many adult
students with learning disabilities know nothing of their disability or how to
explain their academic needs, nor how to accommodate for it in the classroom,
while studying and test taking. So it becomes more than just providing them an
education; they must understand their disability and its implications in the
classroom and work place - that often takes time beyond instructional time.
Their common long-term absences from the classroom can make learning and
academic gains slow - students often get frustrated so we must get them to buy
into the process and see the short/long term possibilities. There are hundreds
of successful strategies for doing so.

reauthorization needs to allow for more instructional time, increased
technology and curricular supports, specialized instruction (special
education), counseling, and a method of acknowledging gain not necessarily
noted via the current NRS system.

Director of
Adult Education
Department of Public Instruction
Bismarck, ND

Subject: None

From: Anonymous

Sent: 1/12/2010 2:23:32
P.M. Eastern Standard Time

I have
taught, coordinated and directed adult education programs in Arizona and Alaska. I am not a SPED teacher, but many adult clients in the programs where I have worked
have learning disabilities and the opposition to education that was instilled
in them from their earliest encounters with education in schools.


Challenge: Client motivation.
They have had little success in the educational area and are not happy for a

Solution: CBI programs that
take small steps and give lots of congratulations online; MSN live discussions
with webcams so we can talk anytime a client has a question. I often begin
chats with them at first so that they become familiar with the computer
process. Tutors, when I have them, are also a great help here to encourage LD
clients in the use of the computer and all its possibilities.

Challenge: Diagnoses. Diagnoses
are expensive.

Solution: Some VR programs
will assess; some will not. This is a serious problem.

Challenge: Professional
teaching staff. The requirement for an instructor in ABE/ASE is a high school
diploma or GED. They do not know how to teach LD clients.

Solution: CBI (computer based
instruction) Please see answer 1. CBI and adaptive technology really do work.
Most times, it helps clients become motivated.

Challenge: NRS levels are
difficult for LD clients to complete by June 30. Classes in post-secondary
institutions are based on semester, not self-paced and LD clients do not succeed
in such a pressure environment.

Solution: I use CBI as the
main instructor. All clients are self-paced and compete with no one except
themselves. No solutions for competing NRS levels by June 30 or the semester
based institutions.


Allow a
slower learning curve without penalizing the program. Fund more research for
training and transitioning LD adults into the workforce with jobs that earn a
living wage. Funds for employers who hire LD clients. Many LD clients get the
lowest paying jobs and never are promoted.


need to help them be successful in the classroom? CBI programs with adaptive
technology; self-paced; a trained SPED instructor for consultation with
programs. Local instructors who are trained to recognize when a client is not
learning so they can ask the SPED instructor for assistance. Plato online
maintains an administrator record of time on task, how many times a client
repeats a single module, lesson and test scores. When a client takes too long
or repeats a module, I intervene and we work together to accomplish the task at
hand before the client gets discouraged and quits. NRS levels modified for
learning disabled adults so that the program is not penalized for working with
them. Lighten up on the official definition of learning disabled adults for
this area so that we don't need an expensive diagnostic tool in adult education
programs to give help and assistance. Presently, if an adult cannot move up one
NRS level by June 30 - the person has failed and the ABE program has failed.