Thursday, January 15, 2009

Immigrant community and those with learning differences

The best thing that ever happened to dyslexic kids was the increase in the immigrant population. Funding for suitable materials for dyslexic kids was practically non-existant. Rather than getting highly trained teachers, taking on a general learning disability or specific learning disability classroom was seen as a sacrifice one made to get back into the system after a long absence from teaching.
With immigration, there was suddenly funding freed up to get older immigrant students caught up as quickly as possible. There were enough middle school children needing interesting material in simple language to make it worthwhile to publish age appropriate learn-to-read materials.
The slower learners formed coalitions with the immigrant students. I'll tell you the words you don't understand if you help me figure out a new concept. Slower learners suddenly found themselves with high achieving, highly disciplined friends.
The government changed the rules on how to qualify for licences. Instead of having to read the questions and possibly failing to receive a licence because you misread a word - it became ok to ask for the testing questions to be provided oralling on a tape.
The status of being a teacher of second languages or a specialist in learning differences took an upswing. The teachers received more status, more respect. Teachers in the specialized classrooms were there because they had a passion for the work. They became consultants to the teachers who formerly had felt superior because they had the higher achieving classes.
Folk wisdom had predicted that lower achieving students and immigrant children would be natural enemies fighting over the same low skilled jobs. If they formed coalitions, they both increased their chances of rising higher in life. The threat was more to those students who thought they had an inherent right to be the best of the best. Suddenly they had competition from the students they had written off as being no match for themselves. And in the end, they all become more because of each other.

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