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Ways to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn

Ignacio Estrada

Children learn a lot of skills throughout their lives— reading, writing, listening, comprehending, calculating, and communicating. Some skills are more difficult to master than others. Every kid is unique and has varied needs. When some kids learn these skills really quickly, others struggle to keep up with their peers.

Surprisingly, learning disabilities or special learning abilities are rather prevalent, yet often misunderstood with academic failure. Kids with special needs fail to develop the knowledge, competence, motivation, and self-control needed to excel in important academic areas. They often drop out of school and end up being vulnerable to precarious employment prospects.

However, various research studies have proved that we can teach kids with learning disabilities to “learn how to learn”.

There are multiple institutions and support groups all around the world that are committed to helping these kids overcome the challenges including the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Council for Learning Disabilities, Mencap – The Voice of Learning Disabilities, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, and more.

In this blog, we will discuss the various ways we can teach students with learning disabilities.  Let’s dive in.

What are Learning Disabilities?

Learning disability is a phrase that refers to a variety of learning and thinking differences that can alter how the brain receives, processes, stores, and transmits data. The disabilities impair one’s use of spoken or written language, comprehend, perform mathematical computations, coordinate movements, or focus attention.

Children with learning impairments are just as smart as their peers, if not smarter. However, they may have difficulties writing, reading, spelling, reasoning, recalling and organizing if left to their own devices or taught in traditional ways.

According to Healthline, Dyslexia is the most prevalent learning disorder, accounting for 80 to 90% of all learning disabilities.

The most common Learning Disabilities or Special Learning Abilities include:

  1. Dyslexia – It is a learning disorder that impairs the kid’s ability to read, spell and speak.
  2. Dyscalculia – It refers to the difficulty in understanding numbers, retaining simple mathematical facts, or reasoning through word problems.
  3. Dysgraphia- The disorder impairs the individual’s ability to express themselves in writing. They may take hours to write a few sentences or have poor spelling problems.

Ways to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities

Homeschooling, tutoring and special schools can help children with a learning disability to learn at their own pace. Teachers can use a variety of strategies to assist students with learning disabilities.

Teaching Kids with Dyslexia or Reading Disabilities

  1. Do not ask the kids to read aloud.
  2. Give them quiet space to read.
  3. Use audiobooks or textbooks with large prints.
  4. When reading, encourage children to engage both their visual and auditory senses.
  5. Provide chapter outlines or study aids to students that emphasize important points in their reading.
  6. Ask students to reread the old stories to develop fluency.
  7. Encourage students to read the topics of their interests.
  8. Concentrate on exercises that incorporate the sound of words rather than letters or spellings.
  9. Demonstrate and teach your students to break down the short phrases into distinct words.
  10. Ask the kids to clap out syllables and try to generate rhymes.

Teaching kids with Dysgraphia or Writing Disabilities

  1. Provide printouts to the kids with Dysgraphia so there’s less to copy from the board.
  2. Be patient! Allow kids extra time to copy from the board or take notes.
  3. Allow your students to use laptops or computers for writing assignments.
  4. To aid in the formation of letters in the correct space, provide paper with different-coloured or raised lines.
  5. Teach students to proofread their assignments or allow them to use proofreaders to look for errors.
  6. If required, use speech-to-text or scribe so that students can dictate their answers.
  7. Give the student a partially finished outline to fill in the information beneath the key categories.
  8. Permit the use of tape recorders in the classroom.
  9. Provide them with a quiet area to write their tests.

Teaching Students with Dyscalculia or Calculation Disabilities

  1. Teach your students to draw diagrams and sketches to solve word problems.
  2. Show your students how to apply math in real life.
  3. Create tailored worksheets including word problems and number problems.
  4. Provide your students with graphical charts of formulas or multiplication tables.
  5. Allow the students to use calculators if required.
  6. You can use puzzles, coins and block to teach the math concepts.
  7. Use graph papers to align numbers and problems.
  8. Teach students how to comprehend the problem, devise a strategy to address it, follow out the plan, and check their work to ensure that the solution solves the problem.

To increase students’ grasp of assignments and the quality of their work, you can employ the following methods:

  1. Humiliating the kids with learning disabilities is a big no. Never display their work to their peers as an example of poor work. Rather, provide them with opportunities and praise them for every achievement.
  2. Explain the lessons and include step-to-step instructions, so that these children can understand the lessons.  
  3. Break down the learning tasks into smaller assignments.
  4. You can also use graphic organizers to present the information in a more understandable manner.
  5. Set specific expectations and communicate them clearly.
  6. Probe regularly to check progress and provide quality feedback.

Summing Up

Learning disabilities are surprisingly common around the world. In fact, difficulties with reading, writing or comprehending during the school years are the signs and symptoms of learning disorder.

However, the disorder doesn’t make the students less intelligent or lazy. They just learn differently.  In fact, students with learning disabilities possess average or above-average intelligence. However, there’s a gap between their potential learning and actual achievement. That is why learning disabilities are also referred to as “Hidden Disabilities”.

It is extremely crucial for the teachers to implement the strategies that are tailored according to the needs of these children. Moreover, kids with learning disabilities learn slow pace. So, you need to be patient and consistently work with them.

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