Teaching Strategies To Help Learning Disabled Students

Easy Methods to Make Learning Easier

Students writing on chalkboard with teacher
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Learning disabilities are surprisingly common: they affect about one in seven Americans. They are a result of differences in brain structure but do not relate to intelligence, behavior, or focus. In short, they are differences that make it difficult to succeed in a typical American school, though they may have relatively little impact on tasks of daily living.

What Are Learning Disabilities?

According to the website LDOnline, the most common learning disabilities include:

  • Dyslexia – a reading disorder
  • Dyscalculia – a mathematical disability
  • Dysgraphia – a writing disability
  • Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders – "sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision."
  • Nonverbal Learning Disabilities – a neurological disorder which causes problems with "visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions."

Often, students with learning disabilities will have an Individualized Educational Program or 504 Plan which details teaching accommodations. These are usually similar to the general suggestions offered below.

Suggestions for Helping Children with Learning Disabilities to Succeed in School

Most instruction at home or in school can be adapted to accommodate the needs of students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or other learning problems. These strategies can be used to modify instruction in most subject areas to improve students' comprehension of tasks and the quality of their work.

These approaches, incidentally, can also be helpful for most students who prefer a clear, structured educational program.

  • Set the stage for learning by telling children why the material is important, what the learning goals are, and what the expectations are for quality performance.
  • Use specific language. Instead of saying, "do quality work," state the specific expectations. For example, in a writing assignment, a teacher might grade based on correct punctuation, spelling, and the inclusion of specific points. If your child does not understand what his teachers expect of him, contact the teacher and ask for details you need to help your child. Suggest the teacher may want to begin posting that information on a school website so others can use it as well.
  • Teachers should develop a scoring guide, share it with students, and provide models of examples of each level of performance.
  • Never use a student's work as a public example of poor work for the class to see. This is humiliation, and it has no place in any classroom or home.
  • Have the student repeat back the instructions for a task to ensure he understands. Correct any miscommunication before he begins the actual work. Check back on the student as he works to ensure he is doing the work correctly. Prompt him as necessary to ensure that he corrects any mistakes before he finishes.
  • Clearly define classroom expectations for work and behavior. Post them, and use them as a basis of all interactions and class projects. Making your requirements a part of the classroom or homework routine will help the student meet expectations.
  • Use graphic organizers to help students understand the relationships between ideas.
  • Instruction should include specific, step-by-step instructions that are explicitly stated by the teacher and modeled for the student.
  • Create models of quality work that students can see and analyze. Include both spoken and written explanations of how the work fulfills academic expectations.

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