Characteristics and Accommodation of Leaning Disabilities of Nursing Students In Nursing Education

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Leaning Disabilities of Nursing Students In Nursing Education and Their Characteristics and Accommodation

Characteristics and Accommodation of Leaning Disabilities of Nursing Students In Nursing Education

 Nursing Student with a Learning Disability In Nursing Education, Characteristics of Learning Disabilities In Nursing Students, Accommodating Learning Disabilities In Nursing Education for Students.

Nursing Student with a Learning Disability In Nursing Education

    Learning disabilities are the most common type of student disability found on college campuses (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011), with approximately 2% of undergraduates having some form of learning disability (Vickers, 2010). A learning disability is an incurable neurological disorder that interferes with learning in a variety of ways (LD Online, 2015b). 

    Dyslexia, or reading difficulties, is one common form of learning disabilities. Frequently students begin college with undetected learning disabilities. In nursing education learning disabilities are commonly uncovered when faculty notice striking differences between a student's classroom performance and clinical performance. 

    The student may display an adequate knowledge base and competent skills during clinical experiences but be unable to demonstrate the same degree of knowledge when taking tests in the classroom. Such disparities in performance lead to much frustration and stress for the student and, not uncommonly, academic failure. 

    Faculty should have an understanding of the characteristics of learning disabilities so they can refer students to the university or college office that works with students with various disabilities.

Characteristics of Learning Disabilities In Nursing Students

    Learning disabilities may manifest as a number of characteristics, each requiring different treatment and accommodation. Students with learning disabilities may have difficulty following verbal instructions and difficulty organizing ideas in writing, or may be unable to articulate ideas orally but be able to articulate them in writing. 

    Students may also have auditory processing deficits that affect their ability to recite from memory (Kamhi, 2011). Time management may also be a problem for these students (Child & Langford, 2011). Learning disabilities are highly individualized and each student manifests a different grouping of characteristics. 

    Some students without learning disabilities may experience the same difficulties as those with learning disabilities. In one study, Wray, Aspland, Taghzouit , Pace, and Harrison (2012) screened 242 British preregistration students using the Adult Dyslexia Checklist. Results showed that 28.5% of the sample achieved a score possibly indicative of a learning disability. 

    Of those students who underwent further evaluation, six students were shown not to have a learning disability. Being accurately diagnosed with a learning disability means students can make adjustments in their study habits and receive support. Using a semi-structured questionnaire, Ridley (2011) interviewed seven British students who were diagnosed with dyslexia. 

    Students stated that once diagnosed, they could take action to cope with the diagnosis. They also recognized the need to make sure they didn't make errors and took steps to overcome their limitations and be successful in the clinical environment. 

    Students expressed some anxiety about disclosing their dyslexia to others. Support, which was sometimes difficult to get, was critical to their successfully meeting the academic standards.

    In another study, Sanderson-Mann, Wharrad , and McCandless (2012) compared the clinical experiences of students with dyslexia to those without. Students with dyslexia rated reading and writing on patients' charts, using care plans, and following a set of instructions more difficult than those without dyslexia. 

    However, such tasks as changing shift reports, drug calculations, and time management were difficult for all students (Sanderson-Mann et al., 2012).Evans (2014a) investigated how nursing students with dyslexia construct their identities. Twelve students enrolled in Irish nursing programs were interviewed. 

    Students reported varying feelings regarding their dyslexia, including embracing their identity or having conflicting feelings. Some stated they had experienced being considered stupid by others. Students didn't want their dyslexia to be used as an excuse for poor performance and recognized the need to uphold standards. 

    In another study, Evans (2014b) interviewed 19 nursing educators (lecturers) from two schools in Ireland using vignettes depicting students with various learning disabilities. Themes emerged related to faculty perceptions of students with learning disabilities. Lecturers stated that if students needed support in getting the work done, the students might be viewed as less capable. 

    One lecturer acknowledged that “babysitting” students was problematic and some appeared reluctant to provide accommodations. Evans interpreted these and other similar quotes as indicative of the need for faculty development, to help them understand the need and legal obligation to support students.

Accommodating Learning Disabilities In Nursing Education for Students

    When faculty believe that a student may have a previously undiagnosed learning disability, the initial action is to refer the student to the campus office that assists students with special needs. Once the diagnosis has been made, a plan for accommodation of the disability can be developed. 

    Counseling may also help a student with learning disabilities gain self-confidence in the learning environment. As stated earlier, if the student chooses, the faculty can be made aware of the disability and what accommodations are required. 

    Faculty members who are made aware of a student's disability are not allowed to discuss that information with other faculty members unless the student gives permission.

    Depending on the type of learning disability, a variety of accommodations may be appropriate for the student. Once diagnosed, some students may need some accommodation, such as permission to take tests in an alternate setting or more time to complete assignments. 

    The use of color overlays to read text, and written contracts for completing assignments may also be appropriate accommodations (Job Accommodation Network, 2013). McPheat (2014) outlined other strategies that could be useful in both the clinical and classroom settings. 

    For example, printing paperwork on colored paper and using 12- or 14-point Arial font can be easier to read. Audio recordings of lectures also facilitate understanding of complex materials. Helping students understand their own learning styles helps them discover strategies that promote success. 

    The use of simulation is another strategy that can help students to build self-confidence in the ability to develop clinical competence (Azzopardi et al., 2014).Students may also benefit from the assistance of an in-class note taker, which is a generally accepted accommodation according to ADA. 

    This allows students to concentrate on classroom discussion without the distraction of trying to take notes. Some students have difficulty processing multiple stimuli at once. Students who have difficulty reading, and as a result read slowly, often find this disability to be the greatest barrier to their academic success. 

    Faculty can help students overcome this difficulty by providing an audio recording of textbooks and other readings and providing them with the required reading assignments early in the semester, or helping them identify the key sections of reading assignments. 

    Findings from a research study by Tee et al. (2010) suggested that reading aloud to students and using simple words to describe medical terms may help students to learn better.

    Students with learning disabilities may also need accommodations for testing because slow reading skills can affect the student's ability to complete a test within the time allowed. 

    Questions that are grammatically complex or contain double negatives, although difficult for all students, can be particularly challenging for students with learning disabilities and should be avoided. 

    Providing the student with an extended testing time and a quiet room free of distractions may also be necessary accommodations . A test proctor who either reads the test to the student or writes and records the student's dictated answers to the test questions may also be helpful.

    An additional strategy that faculty can use to assist students with learning disabilities is to incorporate a multimedia approach, such as computer-assisted instruction. Again, use of universal design principles can help students with learning disabilities, as well as the student body at large. 

    These include providing copies of ancillary learning materials before class and placing visual cues within class notes. The use of smartphones with appropriate applications may also be helpful for all students, but particularly those with learning disabilities. 

    Another strategy that benefits all students, including those with learning disabilities, is to meet with students on a regular basis to ensure that learning goals are being set appropriately and are being achieved.

    Accommodation does not mean that academic standards are lowered but that multiple ways to achieve those standards are provided for all students, including those with learning disabilities. All classrooms contain students with multiple learning styles. 

    By structuring classes to account for different learning styles and providing a variety of learning aids, nurse educators also help accommodate those with diagnosed learning disabilities (Tobin, 2013). 

    When faculty consider that students have different ways of learning, they will design learning experiences that accommodate these diverse learning needs.

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