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Center for Alternative Learning

6 E. Eagle Road

Havertown, PA 19083 


Serving Those Who Learn Differently 


Learning disAbilities Newsletter


Vol. 15 No.4                       July 1998


 Center for Alternative Learning

6 East Eagle Road

Havertown, PA 19083




New Newsletter Format

We are pleased to bring you the Learning disAbilities Newsletter in its new format and hope that you like the change. The new format has been made possible with the up-grading of the printing equipment at the Center. As you can see, we can now print 11" by 17" paper in three colors. The new press is also used to produce the many handouts that Dr. Cooper distributes at the training sessions he conducts.



As was announced in the last Newsletter, the Center has a web site. The address is www.learningdifferences.com. The web site already contains this newsletter and past newsletters. To download the newsletter, go to the newsletter section of the website and either print it or save it into a file. Dr. Cooper’s training catalog and Learning disAbilities Resources catalog are also available on our web site.

The number of hits on our web site continues to increase. As of July 1st the number of hits exceeded 500. We plan to up-date the web site once a week with Dr. Cooper’s speaking and training schedule and announcements about the Center and more detailed information about the products listed in the Learning disAbilities Resources Catalog. If there is information you would like to see on the web site or ways that you believe we can use it more effectively, we would like to hear from you.


Accommodating Adults with Disabilities

The researchers at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University have published the results of the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research project which researched Accommodating Adults with Disabilities in Adult Education Programs. They have produced a resource guide for adult educators and for adult students. The guide lists the rights and responsibilities of both teachers and students. In addition, there is a manual which contains much information about accommodations for different disabilities. Adult educators can obtain a copy of the resource guide on accommodations from the University of Kansas. The cost for the guide is $24.00 plus $4.00 for shipping. For more information contact, Dr. Daryl Mellard, at 785-864-4780.


Training Modules on Learning Differences.

Dr. Cooper is finishing up work on two training modules for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The two training, Characteristics of Learning Differences, and Assessing Adults who Learn Differently, will be used to provide training on adults with learning differences to adult educators throughout the state. Adult educators can participate in one or both of these training before taking Dr. Cooper’s training offered through the Statewide Staff Development Project.


Center For Alternative Learning

Because of the popularity of operating the adult education classes through the summer months last year, we plan to do so again this summer. We have found that many adult students want to continue to work on their basic academic skills and do not like to take the summer off from practicing their skills. Volunteer tutors and the teachers will be available at the Center during the following hours.

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - 1:00 to 3:00  -  Adult Basic Skills

Monday and Wednesday Evenings -   6:00 to 8:00  -  Adult Basic Skills

Tuesday and Thursday Mornings -   10:00 to 11:30 -  English as a Second Language


Summer Course

Dr. Cooper will conduct a course for the teachers through the Delaware County Intermediate Unit at the Upper Darby School District. The 15 hour, one credit course for elementary and secondary teachers will be held in Upper Darby on August 3rd and 5th. The title of the course is Teaching Reading and Writing to Children with Learning Problems. School districts which would like to offer this or other courses for their teachers, should contact, the Center’s staff at 800-869-8336.


National Association for Adults

with Special Learning Needs

NAASLN The members of the association and professionals in the fields of adult education and disabilities were saddened to learn of the death of William R. Langner on June 18. Bill was co-founder and current president of NAASLN. The following article appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on June 26, the day of his funeral which Dr. Cooper and Anne Louise attended.

Champion For Disabled Dies at 66

Despite his credentials and a willingness to work, William R. Langner found it difficult to find an employer in the 1960’s, when few companies wanted to hire a person in a wheelchair.

After several years of bouncing from job to job, he found his calling as an educator and a national advocate for adult learners.

A funeral for Mr. Langner will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 1214 Wilmer Ave., in Richmond. He will be buried in the church cemetery.

His body was found in his Washington home Sunday. He apparently had died of a heart attack during the weekend. He was 66.

Mr. Langner retired in 1995 from the U.S. Department of Education, where he had worked for 15 years providing national leadership in education programs for adults with disabilities and for adults seeking secondary education. A founding member and president of the National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs, he also helped found the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education. He was president of the Langner Foundation, an international adult education organization, and coordinated the First Congress for Adult Learners with Disabilities.

Mr. Langner was 18 and a freshman at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg when he was in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed below the waist.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia in 1957, he had planned to enter the import/export industry. His disability hindered those prospects, and he later worked several different jobs, including a year as a private school teacher.

When a friend asked Mr. Langner to tutor a disabled child, he finally found a position that suited him.

He began the former Langner Learning Center in the early 1970’s on Adams and Franklin streets in Richmond, helping residents find tutors in a variety of subjects and supplying a meeting place for tutoring sessions.

From 1971 to 1975, he was a member of the Virginia State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation and spent two years as an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Appointed by President Nixon, Mr. Langner served on the National Advisory Council on Adult Education from 1973 to 1976.

With the Department of Education, he implemented the National Adult Literacy and Learning Disability Center. And he was instrumental in organizing the Clearing House on Adult Education and Literacy.

Mr. Langner was vigilant in educating educators on accommodating people with disabilities and worked with the GED Testing Service to train test administrators. He was a member of the National GED Advisory Committee from 1981 to 1987.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the American Heart Association, 4323 Cox Rd. Glen Allen, VA 23060 or the William R. Langner Memorial Fund to Advance Lifelong Learning Opportunities for Adults with Special Learning Needs, c/o NAASLN, 1444 I St., NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005.

        Preparations for the 1998 NAASLN Conference are under way. The conference will be held at the King Henry VIII Hotel located near the St. Louis Mission Airport. The conference will again feature a Symposium on Accommodating Adults with Disabilities in Adult Education Programs. The first Symposium was held at the NAASLN conference in New Orleans in 1996. The conference will also feature presenters from around the country speaking about issues involving adults with special learning needs and, as always, a number of presentations about instructional techniques. For information about registration contact Diane Glass 785-296-7159.


Training Catalog

A list of Dr. Cooper’s training sessions and courses, including descriptions of each topic, is included in the 1998 International Learning Differences Training Catalog. Anyone considering having Dr. Cooper make a presentation at their school, group or conference should contact our office to obtain a copy of the catalog or download it from the web site. Call toll free 800-869-8336 to have a copy sent by mail.


Parts of Speech Poster

As many of our readers know, Dr. Cooper developed Tic Tac Toe Math, a method for doing math for those who cannot remember the times tables. He has observed (over the 12 years since he developed Tic Tac Toe Math) that students who are good with visual patterns learn Tic Tac Toe Math the quickest. Some students seem to learn and remember information when they can see patterns. On the following page is a reduced size copy of the Parts of Speech Poster which Dr. Cooper designed to help students see the patterns in the structure of language. Seeing the structure of language as patterns makes it easy for some students to learn and understand parts of speech. When a student sees that a sentence is most often formed by going left to right (noun to verb, pronoun to verb), the structure of language becomes concrete. The sentence can start with an article. Adjectives are added to modify nouns, adverbs are added to describe verbs. Prepositional phrases go from the bottom right to the top left. In the next Learning disAbilities Resources Catalog a laminated copy of this page will be available. Students will be able to use an erasable marker to trace the patterns of different sentences.

LDR-7NL98.jpg (9666 bytes)



Borders Books - Bryn Mawr Aids Center for Alternative Learning

Borders Books and Music has a special project, The Open Books for Children Project, a program supporting literacy for children. Borders Books and Music in Bryn Mawr, PA has selected the Center for Alternative Learning as its local partner for this quarter of the year. Borders’ customers are encouraged to make a donation to the project for childrens’ literacy, half will go to the national partner, Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and the other half will go to our Center. If you live in the Philadelphia area, please consider participating in this project. If you don’t live in this area, you can make a donation directly to the Center for Alternative Learning.


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National Speaking Schedule

Dr. Cooper added two states to the locations were he has done training on learning differences, problems and disabilities. He conduced training for two technical institutes in Georgia during May and conducted six days of training at the Technical College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June. This brings the total of states in which he has conducted training to 32. Closer to home, he made a presentation on Attention Deficit Disorder (the Racing Mind) to a chapter of Tough Love in King of Prussia.

Along the way sometimes the road gets rough. As Dr. Cooper and Anne-Louise, his wife, headed to a Literacy Conference in North Carolina, someone stole their car. They rented a car and continued on to the conference. On the way back they found that the police in Stafford and Prince George Counties, Virginia, had traced the car and retrieved it. Unfortunately Dr. Cooper’s laptop computer was in the car. It was also stolen but not retrieved. That is the reason that this newsletter is late because it was on the computer and the backup disk was with the computer.


Vocabulary Development

    Many individuals with learning differences, problems and disabilities have weak language skills which directly impact their vocabulary development. A limited vocabulary often equals a limited education and a limited career.

    John came to the Center for Alternative Learning for an assessment of his reading skills. John had just completed one semester of college but had received only average grades despite great effort on his part. The assessment revealed that John’s vocabulary was far below what would be expected for his age and high school grades. His ambiguous understanding of many words and his complete misunderstanding of other words not only reduced his reading comprehension but also his ability to fully understand the content of his classes. John needed to increase his vocabulary to be successful in college. He needed to engage in a systematic and regular study of vocabulary.

    Most of us take vocabulary for granted since we learn words and their meaning as we grow. By the time we are in our teens, we usually know enough words to function in school and society. Most individuals who can read and have at least a high school education would consider their vocabulary adequate. Adequate meaning that the person can understand oral communication, express one’s thoughts in speech and is able to comprehend common reading material. But many individuals with learning differences have weak vocabularies.

    The reasons why these individuals have weak vocabularies are often complex and overlapping, but here are a few of the common reasons for weak vocabularies. The person 1) lives in an environment where higher level vocabularies are not used, 2) has a lower education level because the person either did not complete school or the education was of poor quality, 3) attended special education classes in which lower level vocabulary was used in class and in textbooks, 4) does not read much or has a reading problem, 5) does not pay attention to words, 6) has an auditory perception problem which makes it difficult to hear the subtle differences in words, 7) does not have a good understanding of the structure of language including parts of speech and word parts, prefixes, suffixes and word roots.

    During the course of a year, most of the adults who are not enrolled in formal education do not add many words to their active vocabularies. They might learn the names of new things they encounter but not learn many new adjectives, adverbs or verbs. Yes, when reading many people encounter new words and understand the meaning in context, but they do not use those word in conversation or in writing. Usually not. It takes more than understanding the meaning of a word in context to fully add it to your vocabulary. It is easy to add a word to your receptive vocabulary (listening and reading), but it takes more work or study to add a word to your expressive vocabulary (speaking and writing).    

To understand vocabulary development, note the following diagram. The two columns represent the amount of words two individuals know. There are more words in the English language than we need to know. Just think of the words professionals, e.g. physicians, lawyers, engineers, anthropologists, etc., use in their areas of specialties; the combination of all those areas of specialties equal lots of words. We can compare the column of words that an average person would have to the column of words of a person who has a weak vocabulary. It includes many words which are fully known, other words which are ambiguous (not fully or precisely understood) and a large number of words which are unknown. Voc Dev Dgm.tif (27348 bytes)

    Systematic Regular Study: A person’s vocabulary can be increased by the systematic and regular study of words. The systematic study of words requires that a person has a system that works for that person. Regular means different things to different people; it might mean daily to one person, while to another it means weekly. It is obvious that the more frequent the regular study is, the more effective the vocabulary development will be. However, if a person tries to have the regular study of words five times a day but cannot maintain it, then it is less effective than once a day if that regularity can be maintained. Some individuals need help to engage in regular study. That assistance can come from a tutor, family member or a friend, but it should be noted that unsolicited assistance is often rejected.

Setting Up A System A system of vocabulary development should have at least the following components: a method for word collection, a place for the words that are collected and space for definitions. Additional components for a vocabulary study system would include: identification of parts of speech, space for writing a sentence for each of the definitions of the words, space for synonyms and antonyms, a space for spelling and pronunciation clues, space for mnemonics, illustrations or diagrams and a space for related words. Individuals can set up a system themselves or the person can use a system that has been set up by someone else. The Vocabulary Workbook which I have developed is an example of a complex system which is designed to include all of the items listed above.

    Working The System Once the system is in place it has to be worked. On a regular basis, the person needs to collect words, review those words, and use the words in speech and writing. This is where the regular part of vocabulary development comes in. Each day the person should review the words and definitions. This is the only way that I know that will help to increase one’s vocabulary. As a person, who has a weakness in language because of a learning difference, working on learning a third language, I can personally attest to the fact that only the systematic and regular study of words has enabled me to become bilingual and encouraged me to attempt a third language.


Pennsylvania Statewide Staff Development Project

        Now that the academic year has come to an end, the activities of the Statewide Staff Development Project turn to completing a final report and planning for the up-coming year. An anecdote from one of the training sessions exemplify the types of comments made by many adult educators and tutors around the state about the alternative instructional techniques presented in the training.

During an April training session in Western Pennsylvania, Dr. Cooper passed out WordNets to each of the participants and explained how students with weak language skills can use the WordNets to improve their reading, writing and increase their vocabulary. One of the teachers stated that he had been introduced to the WordNets at a previous training in October and tried them with his students. He reported that not only did his students find the WordNets effective, but he also found that his vocabulary increased significantly with the use of WordNets in casual reading. He said, "I was amazed that such a simple, low cost item could be so effective in helping my students improve their language skills and it worked for me because it provided me with a system for vocabulary development."

        During this project year the evaluation forms completed by project participants frequently referred to the usefulness of this and many other instructional tools Dr. Cooper distributed and discussed at the training sessions.

New Topics of 1998/99 Four new training topics will be added to the topics available through the statewide staff development project and to Dr. Cooper’s training catalog. These training sessions are being developed in response to requests from teachers around the country who have attended Dr. Cooper’s training on learning differences.

Teaching GED Math and Science to Adults with Learning Differences This training will focus on the problems which teachers encounter when giving GED instruction in math and science to students who learn differently. There will be ample time allotted for specific questions about learning problems and instructional techniques.

Teaching GED Language and Social Studies to Adults with Learning Differences This training will focus on the problems which teachers encounter when giving instruction in language and social skills to individuals which learning difference who are preparing for the GED. There will be ample time allotted for specific questions about learning problems and instructional techniques.

Helping Parents Understand and Work with Children Who Have Learning Differences This training can be directed either to professionals working with parents or it can be directed to the parents. The training will briefly describe common problems or the "red flags" associated with learning differences, discuss what parents can do to help children improve their basic skills and deal with inappropriate behavior.

Using Mnemonics to Help Students who Learn Differently This training will provide participants with information about how to use mnemonics to assist students with learn material in a variety of subjects, such as math, reading, writing, spelling and subject content areas. Besides learning how to make mnemonics, participants will practice developing mnemonics

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