Same Difference: Embracing a Diversity of Learning Styles

frustrated young studentDid you know there is a classroom at your child’s public school called the SDC? You may have wondered what that stands for and what that means, why certain kids are placed in that classroom.

SDC stands for special day classroom. It is set up specifically for children who have learning challenges, such as dyslexia, visual/auditory processing, autism, and other educational challenges. Typically, an SDC has a much lower students-to-teacher ratio. Children with learning challenges require less distraction and small group/individualized attention to follow through with the demands of the school day. They may also have speech therapy, occupational therapy, and visits with a school psychologist. As much as possible, children in an SDC are included with the mainstream population for school-wide activities and assemblies, lunches, and recess. Some children spend limited time in regular classrooms for subjects they excel in. Others with learning challenges may be based in a regular classroom but then be pulled for small-group instruction with a resource teacher who may help with, for example, multisensory learning for visual processing to assist with reading.

The bottom line is that an SDC is a gift to the student who has a learning challenge and who needs the educational and emotional support of caring and highly trained staff to help them to thrive in the school setting. In the best-case scenario, the student will have close relationships with their peers in the SDC, while also making friends in neurotypical classrooms.

What is of prime concern to parents of special needs children is the fear of their child being bullied and/or isolated by peers. So many youngsters with learning challenges have what is called an “invisible disability” in which the child may appear behaviorally like a neurotypical child, but neurologically the child is hard-wired differently. The student may have high-functioning autism in which reading social cues is difficult, and interactions are at times awkward.

Children with special needs are often the targets of bullies during less structured times, such as recess. What parents of all children can do is educate their children about the diversity of learning styles of students. Having a learning challenge does not make a child stupid or a nerd/geek/fill-in-the-blank. In fact, studies show that that the vast majority of children with challenges like attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), dyslexia, or high-functioning autism are often superior intellectually to their neurotypical peers.

Furthermore, a number of famous or successful people have endured such challenges and become shining examples of individuals who harness their strengths and succeed in their endeavors. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson, Daryl Hannah, and Dan Aykroyd, for example, were/are considered to have experienced high-functioning autism.

As a culture and a community, we need to embrace different learning styles and not judge, criticize, or condemn someone who looks, acts, or learns differently than the next person. A child with a learning challenge isn’t dumb. They just have different hard-wiring, and they must utilize outside-the-box learning techniques (such as multisensory learning strategies for children with dyslexia).

As the parent of a special needs child, I implore you to teach your children tolerance for differences. Teach them to befriend others with such differences. No one wants their child bullied, their self-esteem shattered because of a cruel comment made by an intolerant peer. Remember that kindness and tolerance are what create peace on this planet, beginning in the home, the school, and the community. And keep in mind, that child who has a learning challenge may just be the next Bill Gates or Leonardo da Vinci.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrea Schneider, LCSW, Learning Difficulties Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • fallon

    August 13th, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Don’t you feel that in some ways these “special” classrooms make the children feel a little ostracized?
    Why not have teachers develop more of a teaching style that actually reaches children of all abilities and learning styles?
    I know that people will say impossible, too much on the teacher. But I say that if you bring the classroom size back down to more manageable numbers there would be a lot of teachers who are willing to try this just so that they can feel like once again they are eraching out to and actually making a difference in learning for every single kid in there.

  • Andrea Schneider, LCSW

    August 13th, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    @ Fallon–I know what you mean…maybe you are referring to more of a Montessori approach? For some children, that works well. For others with learning challenges, they need the structure, low ratio of teacher-students,and specialized multi-sensory learning that only certain teachers are trained in…I think the trend is mainstreaming…some kids just do better with less distraction and are also partially mainstreamed…all SDC classrooms join mainstream at lunch and recess and participate in activities like other classrooms….hope that helps.

  • Allie

    August 13th, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    It is a whole lot easier said than done to actually embrace all of the different styles of learning when your back is against the wall and you are being told to teach to the standards, teach to the tests, and the best kids will find a way to keep up.

    I know that sounds like a terrible mantra for the classroom but I think that you will find a lot of educators who confess that this is the stricture that they feel within the current school system.

    Is it right? Of course not, but performance is quite honestly the way that most districts continue to get their money so there is going to be a whole lot of pressure on teachers to measure up and make the funding happen.

  • Andrea Schneider

    August 14th, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    @allie — I agree — way too much pressure on teachers — great teachers are unnecessarily stressed (as well as their students) when too much pressure re:testing/funding comes down…thank you for making a difference as a teacher, one of the most important professions on the planet…Andrea

  • Laura G

    August 14th, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Can you imagine how ostracized these kids already feel in the traditional classroom setting where nothing feels like it is even touching them or breaking through or making sense? I have two young children for whom I already know that this will be an issue but I also know that I am going to have to look for alternative schooling options for them because the traditional method is never going to be quite up to what they need out of education.
    They are definitely the types who need a little more freedom to explore and move, and I think that in a regular school they will be told that they are being hyper and they will feel challenged because of their different learning style and could come to think of it ias a detriment rather than the opportunity that it could be.

  • Maude

    August 15th, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    I am sure that there are certain criteris that has to be met for a child to place into a setting like this. Do you have any thoughts as to whether this should be handled within the school system or would you recommend someone a little more objective like an outside therapist to handle the testing and placeemnt?

  • Evie

    August 16th, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Curious to know whether this is something that has to legally be provided at each school if the need is htere or if I would have to specifically seek out a school with a SDC for my child.

  • Andrea Schneider, LCSW

    August 16th, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    @Evie…yes, if a public school there need to be provisions to acomodate to those with learning challenges. Private schools generally are not set up for special needs kids, unless they specialize in helping those with learning challenges.

    @Maude–If a public school, your child can be evaluated by the school psychologist assigned to the school. You can always get a second opinion from a private practitioner outside of the school district (always recommended) which can also generate more recommendations that might be helpful for your child, like for example, children with dyslexia need multi-sensory learning and in some cases, vision therapy and O.T. So you can have a private practitioner in addition to the school psychologist, come up with recommendations. Some of those interventions can and should be provided through the school district (speech therapy, O.T., multi-sensory learning), but some services will need to take place outside of the academic setting. Always good to get multiple opinions. Ultimately the IEP team works with the parent to help place the child in the best setting for him/her, in the public setting.

  • Bennett

    August 18th, 2014 at 5:21 AM

    For a number of years there seems to have been a real push for my inclusion into the mainstream setting for any and all children with any sort of learning differences and disabilities abut now it seems that there is a little bit of moving away from that direction and becoming a little more exclusionary again. I would like to hear some thoughts on that because I personally think that it is all about finding that perfect fit for each individual child, but is that really feasible in today’s public school setting? Is the money there and are the educators who are involved and already so overworked and underpaid willing or able to give all of this individual attention to each child in thsi setting?

  • sarah

    October 9th, 2017 at 4:30 AM

    Please i need help, i forget things easily as in forgetting or not even having clue of what i just studied in a moment. And it affecting my education and self esteem or even speak in public, which sometimes makes me wanna put everything to stop. And scared of not pleasing my Dad, cause he is looking up to it.

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