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Acommodating Children with Special Learning Needs

Originally appears in the Winter 2013-2014 issue

Whether 6 to 16 years old, Danny is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. He never follows instructions and seems to forget what you just asked him to do. He is in trouble all the time. You want to reprimand, punish, give consequences and time-outs, (or maybe just lose him in the woods), but you sense there is more behind this.

It sure seems as if he has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or maybe he has family problems. But… if his brain is unable to efficiently process what he hears, he does not absorb what is being said, even if he can physically hear it. This is a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAP) – a Learning Disability, not ADD.

Danny’s parents and instructors are simply unaware because of his superficial ability to hear and high IQ. As instructors, you can become familiar with the symptoms and implications of these disorders – and the accommodations you can make are similar to those for a more obvious hearing impairment.

Green Teacher readers are likely familiar with mounting evidence that outdoor education provides enhanced learning experiences for all students. But when those with special learning needs − who need this alternative approach the most − are sidelined, or miss significant portions of the experience, it becomes urgent that instructors become better informed about how to create greater accessibility and involvement.

You can do so much to help!

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Carol A. McMullen is specialist who works with children, youth, and adults with a wide range of learning issues. She is the author of a comprehensive manual for both families and professionals: Saving Your Child, Saving Yourself: Navigating Roadblocks in Managing ADHD, Asperger’s and Learning Disabilities. Learn more about her work at