Folks, what is your take on the problem of the so-called "learning disabilities?"
As a college instructor, I am sometimes lost and confused, not being sure how to deal with some of my students who show signs of these "learning disabilities." I mean, I certainly do realize that young people (and older people, for that matter) may have psychological, behavioral disorders, like attention deficit disorder and other. But what about young people who are either unable or unwilling to follow the most basic directions?
This especially bugs me in laboratory science classes. Just yesterday, I was teaching a microbiology lab where we poured warm agar in Petri plates, thus suspending bacterial cells in this agar. Before we started, I, of course, told the class, that when you are pouring agar, the Petri dish must stand on your bench, and AFTER you finished pouring, it should also remain standing on your bench - do not disturb it until the agar solidified (~20-25 minutes). So, the class begins to carry out the procedure, and here is this guy holding the plate in his hand and pouring the agar with his other hand. I stopped him and explained one more time that the plate must be on the bench. He put it on the bench and poured the agar, but then moved it to the other side of the bench (of course splashing the agar all over, losing the cells that are supposed to form colonies so that he would COUNT them later!). I explained to him yet another time that the plates should not be disturbed (and explained why). So, he took two other plates and poured the agar in a correct way this time. But then, literally two or three minutes after (when the agar is still liquid), he took the plates in his hand, stacked them on top of each other, and put them on top of a tube rack (again, of course, splashing the agar and the precious cells all over).
I know, the "default advice" with kids like this one is just "fail them." But maybe there are some "inner strings" that I could "touch" in this young fellow and change him? He is not a bad person, actually. He does not even impress me as rebellious or angry. He is just totally not concentrated on anything. I am sure that he sincerely WANTS to do well in his classes and WANTS to follow simple directions of his teachers... but he can't. Maybe I still can do something for him?
Any practical hints? Thanks!