Metacognitive Strategies for Learning (LD) vs. Intellectual Disabilities (ID)
Summary. This article describes some metacognitive strategies to learner profiles and then evaluates those strategies for individuals of different ages with intellectual and learning disabilities. In order to do so, different variables that effect those with intellectual and learning disabilities are identified. Social and cultural implications, as well as life span stages and interpersonal communication are discussed.
Metacognitive strategies belong to the knowledge category that was by origin defined in the 1970s by Flavell as a regulatory knowledge about one’s learning . Metacognitive knowledge touches a broad range of learning and development theories and finds its common ground in the agreed goal of helping students to become better learners. Learning strategy knowledge enables for memorization and understanding of content from heard or read content through planning, controlling, and adjustment of one’s cognition and learning .
The role of metacognitive instruction for individuals with learning disabilities (LD)
Learning disabilities (LD) involve learning difficulties due to central nervous system malfunction resulting in weaknesses in specific areas like oral and written expression, reading, listening, and mathematics and are therefore also referred to as specific learning disabilities (SLD). Such learning difficulties result in gaps between capability potential and actual academic achievements . LD was therefore also used to be considered an unexpected underachievement compared to typically developing children . The five percent of children in school that suffer from a learning disability make around half of the students who need special education . More systematic multiple-assessment response to intervention (RTI) programs  can improve reading mastery, identify more accurately LD, and therefore reduce the number of children requiring special education . Besides low academic performance, attentional, social, or behavioral problems can accompany LD .
The development of metacognitive knowledge starts around the age of five and continues throughout the lifespan . Students with and without LD deploy the same metacognitive processes, albeit on different levels of depth. The ‘Matthew effect’ of accumulating spread of performance gap with increasing age could not be evidenced . However, the lack of metacognitive skills impedes the acquisition of knowledge and can persist into adulthood and negatively impact not only school but also career outcomes . Metacognitive strategies for reading were found to be lower in individuals with SLD than in those with typical learning development . There is extensive evidence that increased metacognitive skills can positively influence learning outcomes in addition to learning ability (i.e., intelligence) and therefore allows the compensation of cognitive disabilities  given one knows about the different strategies and how to apply them . Metacognitive training can also increase creative thinking in the long-term .
Example structure of a metacognitive instruction for adolescents with LD
Although LD should be addressed as early as possible, learning difficulties can remain throughout school time . Adolescents and young adults get confronted with career challenges like having to identify and choose suitable possibilities. For individuals with LD, due to their limited self-awareness and capacity to learn in a self-reflective way, these tasks are even more demanding . University counseling and transition support interventions that support metacognitive skills have shown positive results (; ).
Metacognitive instructions (as for a target group of students transferring to the post-secondary stage like mentioned above) should convey certain contents following suitable approaches. Individuals with LD typically poorly assess their level of ability which leads them to inappropriate learning regulation . Even more important is a professional assessment and feedback, whether with an online or offline questionnaire, an interview, or observations , that is enabling an individually tailored starting point and structure of intervention .
Knowing about a repertoire of learning strategies involving rehearsal (e.g., repeating), elaboration (e.g., summarizing, paraphrasing, etc.), and organization (e.g., mapping, note taking) represent general tools that can be applied to any domain. Also, techniques like working from end-states backward and the accurate estimation of task difficulty in a specific social and cultural context are strategies for problem-solving .
A critical success factor for teaching metacognition is to integrate it explicitly as such  and connect it to significant and relevant (according to the specific LD) tasks . Assistance for higher-order cognition (e.g., reading comprehension) activates metacognition . Play also provides an effective means to stimulate metacognitive functioning . Scientific approaches to education increasingly account for social aspects in the form of mediated learning, using emotions to transport shared interests between the student and educator, and mediating the significance of the learning . Family relationships as models for practicing with peers may be an essential factor too . Despite the need for mediators and models, metacognitive approaches can enable students to assume increasing control for their learning . Such self-governed behavior can be understood as self-regulated learning  that can be enabled through the use of, for example, portfolio maps documenting students’ draft works along the learning journey .
Metacognitive training for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID)
In contrast to SLD individuals who possess high general abilities while having difficulties in specific areas, children with intellectual disabilities (ID) have a general mental disability . Also, unlike ordinarily intelligent people with LD, those with ID suffer deficits in comprehension, memory capacity, and cognitive efficacy that language cannot efficiently mediate learning processes . ID reduces the ability to engage in metacognition consciously. The goal of improving the metacognitive skills in people with ID is less the improvement of academic achievements but rather a higher self-awareness, as in autism , to increase the quality of life .
Active and participating aging is to enhance quality of life in older age . It is crucial to instruct elderly with ID to remain active . Individuals with ID possess less self-regulation capability than individuals with LD . Instruction needs also to be adapted considering that intellectually disabled tend to require more social acceptance than learning disabled . Like in autism, which is a detail-focused cognitive bias , skills need first to be acquired step by step before applying and generalizing them to complex situations .
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