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Support for All Learning

Every student is a unique individual who learns, thinks, and acts differently from others. Sometimes children learn differently from their peers in ways that can make school more difficult than expected. Children who are gifted with abilities like being able to visualize objects in space or remembering details about events may need extra practice in these areas before they can skillfully perform classroom activities like memorizing multiplication tables or reading maps. Other children have trouble paying attention or following instructions because they are easily distracted by sounds or sights around them. These kids may need help finding ways to stay focused on the task at hand.  It can be common for many students to face these challenges periodically, but persistent struggles with a specific set of skills over time could potentially be a sign of a learning or attention disorder.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, learning disability is “a term used to describe a range of learning and thinking differences that can affect the way the brain takes in, uses, stores, and sends out information.”  Students may have specific learning disabilities (LDs), including Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia - difficulty with reading, math, and writing respectively.  Other students may have conditions that impact their behavior and learning like ADHD or Dyspraxia.  Oftentimes, students with learning differences and difficulties have more than one disability or condition that affects their learning.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 children have learning or attention issues, but only a small percentage receive specialized school instruction or accommodations.  Research shows that 1 in 16 public school students have IEPs for specific learning disorders or other health impairments that affect learning and even more troubling, evidence suggests that millions of kids aren’t even appropriately identified as having a learning difference.  Unfortunately, many misconceptions exist around learning and attention disorders and symptoms can be overlooked or misconstrued as laziness or lack of intelligence. But with the appropriate support, targeted interventions, and implementation of accommodations aligned with each student’s strengths and needs, students with learning and attention disorders can fully thrive in school.

The coordination of care and support for students who learn differently is critical in the school setting, as behavioral, educational, and healthcare needs must be concurrently addressed.  School nurses can offer invaluable leadership to interdisciplinary student support teams that provide students with necessary accommodations, advocacy, and evidence-based interventions.  Moreover, school nurses are often the primary connector between families, teachers, and outside providers, weaving together the various aspects of a student’s health and functioning that are affected by these disorders.  Ultimately, school nurses are essential to the positive educational experience of students with learning and attention disorders. There are important relationships to foster within the school building and across agencies that can help students who learn differently be successful today and into their future. School nurses offer a uniquely collaborative service delivery model and framework within which those relationships, and thus their students, can fully flourish.

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