Students taking L1LPs are likely to be at an early stage of cognitive development. Consultation involving parents/guardians, schools and other professionals working with the student will determine the suitability of L1LPs for the student. Some students may also have an identification of a learning disability which falls in the range of low moderate to severe and profound from an educational or clinical psychologist.
The majority of students with this level of learning disability are enrolled in special schools, with smaller class numbers and a higher ratio of staff to student. Others are in special classes in mainstream post-primary schools and a small number are included with their peers for some of the time in classes in mainstream schools. Each student has their own Individual Education Plan (IEP) with specific and realistic goals set out by the teacher in conjunction with parents/guardians and the multi-disciplinary team that may be working with the student. The IEP, along with baseline assessments, will be used as the starting point for learning. Students need time to acquire, consolidate and apply skills that other young people take for granted. The first step for their teachers is to find their strengths and areas needing improvement in order to plan their learning journey.
Each student is an individual with a unique set of strengths which needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. Students in this target group may engage in and display a level of enthusiasm similar to others who are making discoveries of their world for the first time. They use their own unique skills and talents to the best of their abilities. They may experience difficulty understanding the world around them and their place within it. Students may also have challenges with expressive and receptive communication skills.
Many students will benefit from having more time to process information and transfer knowledge learned to different situations. They need to be given more time to reach a state of readiness to learn than their typically-developing peers. They may need support because of challenges presented by the spectrum of barriers to learning that face all learners—physical, health, social, learning-related or because they resist being challenged to do things for themselves. Extra provision may be needed to enable the students to fully access the environment around them.
The ways in which students in this target group learn may not follow the conventional linear path of development for their typically-developing peers. They may rely on their senses in different ways and, like all students, have great strengths in some areas and much fewer in others. Like their peers, they benefit from a range of learning, teaching and assessment approaches.
Students undertaking L1LPs require support from a range of educational and health professionals, who work collaboratively, sharing information about their therapeutic, medical and educational objectives in pursuit of maximising the potential of the student. Other students in this cohort may present as being more able because of their physical abilities. Clear guidelines with plenty of practice is needed for these students.