New clinic serves children with learning disorders

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

10 April 2001 | When she has a chance to catch her breath, Rasjidah Franklin will tell you she’s delighted to be opening a new educational therapy clinic in San Francisco.

She doesn’t get that chance often. Since word of its inception, she has been swamped with calls and applications, not just from those who want to staff the clinic but from those seeking treatment for learning disorders.

“This is the first clinic of its kind to offer clinical training to students in an educational therapy certificate program while, at the same time, meeting a tremendous need for those services in the community,” said Franklin, chair of UC Berkeley Extension’s Education Department. “I’ve had calls as far away as Texas asking if I could help them set up a clinic modeled on this one.”

The new clinic, to open its doors April 17, is part of extension’s educational therapy certificate program and will be a fully self-supporting enterprise to meet the widespread demand in California for assessment and remediation of learning disorders.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in five children experiences learning problems that may impede his or her success in school. Attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and reading, writing and math problems are among the most common disorders; for many children, such problems are compounded by poor school performance, frustration and low self-esteem. By some estimates, a whopping 50 percent of students in large urban school districts have significant learning, behavior and emotional problems, Franklin noted.

“Few teachers have the training they would need to diagnose such problems, much less to provide the individual remediation often required,” Franklin said. “With fewer credentialed teachers than needed simply to staff California’s classrooms, the emerging field of educational therapy is trying to meet the need.”

Educational therapists are trained to assess and evaluate learning disorders and provide individualized remediation to address specific problems. Most educational therapists come from the ranks of teachers, resource specialists, speech therapists or other professionals who have some familiarity with individual differences in learning styles and abilities.

But most educational therapists are found in private practice, consulting with school districts and providing services to parents whose children’s needs are not met in school, Franklin pointed out.

Many Bay Area educational therapists report that the demand is overwhelming: waiting lists of 50 or more are not uncommon, and it can take up to 18 months to be seen by the busiest practitioners.

According to Nancy Cushen White, academic coordinator for the new learning clinic, an initial assessment of prospective patients ages 5 and up will consist of comprehensive educational testing and evaluation. Depending on the age of the child and areas of emphasis, individual assessments may take up to six or eight hours.

The assessment will be followed by a written report on the child’s strengths and weaknesses and a recommendation of the best types of remediation. All testing will be done under the on-site supervision of a professional educational therapist, Franklin said. Applicants will be free to pursue treatment at a low cost at the clinic or find help elsewhere.

“We will try to establish where the children are academically, testing their reading, writing, vocabulary, math concepts and computation skills,” White said. “Then we will look for information-processing deficits to find out where the learning deficiency is occurring.”

The clinic is located at extension’s San Francisco Center, at 55 Laguna Street, just off Market Street. The clinic will begin this spring. By the fall, remediation and treatment will be offered. A satellite lab will offer services in Berkeley.


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