You observe that two of your adult basic education (ABE) students continually have difficulty understanding lessons and retaining information. Assuming that your teaching style is not the issue and that the lessons are skill-level appropriate, it is likely that the students have a learning disability (LD).
There are several different LDs and indications, so how can you know for sure? Sometimes, the program where you volunteer or work will have that information about particular ABE students. Often, the student will tell you that she or he has an LD. However, some adults have never been evaluated for LDs, and have no idea why “learning is hard.”
Student J starts talking the moment she enters the room, and fidgets throughout the class. J often does not pay attention, loses her place during lessons, and asks the same question multiple times. She blurts out statements as other students attempt to read or answer questions.
Student M cannot remember the words he reads although the same words are repeated in a sentence or list that he may have read three seconds earlier. M has difficulty processing basic directions (“Write your first name at the top of the page.”), looks to see what other students are doing, and copies them. Even after practicing the b sound “buh,” M will say “water” when he sees the word “big.”
As a volunteer tutor or instructor, LD diagnostics is beyond your scope, but you are still in a prime position to help. Encourage students to get professional evaluations and specialized assistance.
Fortunately, throughout the five boroughs, there are professional evaluation centers that assess adults for LDs. In Manhattan, the Learning Disabilities Association of New York City is a nonprofit organization that provides referrals for assessments through its Helpline (212-645-6730).
In the Bronx, the Fisher Landau Center for the Treatment of Learning Disabilities (718-430-3900) is a specialized program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Its “Adult Literacy Program provides diagnostic and consultation services to adults with suspected LDs and attention deficit disorders.”
There are usually costs for evaluations, so students should have health insurance or Medicaid. Often, fees are based on a sliding scale.