Early identification of learning disabilities among standard three pupils of public primary schools in Butere district, Kenya
Wafula, Robert Wekesa
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The enigma of children experiencing extra-ordinary learning difficulties is not new. Learning disabilities occur in all cultures, nations and language groups. Nearly half of all children receiving special education services in the U.S. have learning disabilities. Studies reviewed have shown that about thirty percent of children in standard one experience learning difficulties. Even though the children look 'normal', they are unable to perform commensurate with their age and ability. These children become disenfranchised because their educational needs are not met adequately. Many develop low self esteem and eventually drop out of school. Studies reviewed indicate that early identification leading to early intervention causes a seventy percent recovery. The purpose of this study therefore, was to investigate if there was early identification of learning disabilities amongst standard three pupils of Butere District, Kenya and selective factors that influenced or hindered early identification of learning disabilities. The study also sought to establish the criteria used to determine eligibility of learning disability as well as the number of children with learning disabilities enrolled in the standard three classes of the public primary schools of Butere District. The study employed the ex-post facto design to analyze and understand relationships among variables. The socio-cultural theory formed the theoretical foundation of the study. The independent variables of this study were; teachers level of training in Special Needs Education, Teacher-Pupil ratio and Teacher-Parent Interaction over the child's academic work. The dependent variable of the study was Early Identification of Learning Disabilities. The study was delimited to the standard three pupils of public primary schools only. This is because successful early identification and intervention occurs at the age of 9 years and below (standard three and below). A sample of twenty five (25) public primary schools was drawn from the total population of one hundred and twenty six (126) public schools spread across the four educational zones of Butere District. Both stratified and systematic sampling methods were used to select the sample. Thirty seven (37) standard three teachers and twenty five (25) head teachers from the twenty five sampled schools formed the sample population. Questionnaire and interview schedules were used to collect data. Both qualitative and quantitative data methods were used. Data was prepared for analysis using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). Descriptive statistics calculated were; frequencies, means, modes and standard deviations. Inferential statistics such as The chi-square (X2) and Pearson Product Moment Correlation were used to test the hypotheses of the study. The study revealed that about 24% of children in the regular sampled schools were learning disabled. Most teachers were not trained in special needs education and handled very large classes of above sixty (60) pupils. There was a significant relationship between teacher-pupil ratio and early identification of learning disabilities but not between teacher level of training in Special Needs Education and teacher-parent interactions with early identification of learning disabilities. To enhance early identification of learning disabilities there is need to train more teachers in Special Needs Education, encourage trained teachers to use their skills in early identification of learning disabilities, employ more teachers to reduce the high teacher-pupil ratio and sensitize the community on the importance of early identification of learning disabilities for successful early intervention and subsequent success in education.