Teaching Students With Learning Disabilities: Strategies & Resources

Teaching students with learning disabilities can be hard, Here's to strategies

As educators, we all want our students to succeed and retain information. The challenge is that students with learning disabilities learn differently. 

Luckily, EDU Passport is the educator’s hub for all things ‘education support’, including resources and strategies to help improve knowledge retention in students with  learning difficulties.

Before we delve into the classroom strategies we can use for teaching students with learning disabilities, let’s take a minute to understand.

What is a Learning Disability?

According to the U.S. National Center for Learning Disabilities, a learning disability is a “neurological disorder that affects a person’s ability to receive, process, store, and respond to information.”

This means students with disabilities have to learn in different ways so that they can “understand, organize, and output” the same educational information as their peers without disabilities. Some examples of it include dyslexia, ADHD, and dyscalculia.

Psychologists, speech language pathologists, school counselors, and other learning disability specialists can identify it by testing intelligence, academic achievement, classroom performance, and social interaction.

How do learning disabilities affect students?

For starters, it can make it difficult to focus, learn and recall information in a traditional classroom setting.

Learning disabilities create drawbacks in learning basic reading, writing and maths skills. There are also higher-level skills that can be affected by it. These include time management, organization, abstract reasoning, attention, and memory.

While students with it generally possess intelligence that is average or higher, learning difficulties may also build a gap between student potential and level of achievement. 

Non-verbal learning disabilities (NVLD) can cause difficulties with understanding social cues, visual-spatial and motor skills.

In addition, students with learning difficulties have to deal with stigmatizing labels and often struggle with social interactions amongst peers.

But there are accommodations for students with learning disabilities that can help. There has been a dramatic improvement in acceptance and support for students with learning disabilities in Japan, for instance. A lot of effort has been put into screening children for it, providing follow-up support, and connecting schools and specialists since the establishment of the Enrichment Project for the Support System for Students with Learning Disabilities in 2001.

Some examples of accommodation for students with learning disabilities that educators globally can implement include extended time for tests, note-taking assistance, and the use of assistive technology.

How to teach students with learning disabilities?

Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Here are some strategies and resources that can help improve knowledge retention for students with learning disabilities:

Use multi-sensory teaching methods

This means including visual, auditory, and physical learning techniques into lessons. For example, using videos, diagrams, virtual reality and hands-on activities. Feel free to include anything you think will help students with learning difficulties understand the lesson better.

Break down information into smaller parts

This can make it easier for students to understand and remember information. Use bullet points, graphic organizers, and summaries to help make bulky curricula more manageable. Remember to allow students with disabilities to take learning breaks to avoid overwhelming them.

Provide regular feedback and review

Be patient while giving regular feedback. This can help reinforce learning and provide opportunities for students to ask questions and clarify misunderstandings. Many students with learning disabilities struggle to see the connection between the lessons they learn and the improvements they need to make, so teachers are encouraged to provide them with immediate feedback on a regular basis.

Use assistive technology

There are many apps and tools that can help students with learning disabilities, such as text-to-speech software, speech-to-text software, and spelling and grammar checkers. Be sure to make provisions for these tools to help these students in your classroom

Use respectful language

Students who know about their disabilities often have low self-esteem, which can make them less motivated for school work. It is crucial that educators understand and use terms for students with learning disabilities that explain, not ridicule or humiliate. Using these terms, educators maintain student dignity while facilitating meaningful conversations about special needs. Beware of using terms like — disadvantaged, challenged, or impaired. They are no more disadvantaged than others unless treated that way.

Offer extra support

Some students may need extra support, such as tutoring or counseling, to help them succeed in the classroom. In 2012, Sarah Manchanda, a special needs teacher in Washington D.C started sharing stories of her own disability and  successful celebrities with learning disabilities. This was to encourage students with learning difficulties in her class.

This decision gave room for more open communication from disabled learners, improved class participation and peer support.

Encourage collaboration

Students with learning disabilities may benefit more from peer collaboration and group activities compared to independent study. Peer mentoring can help students with disabilities develop self-advocacy and communication skills. Besides, having peers who understand the challenges of living with a disability can provide a sense of belonging and emotional support to help disabled learners overcome learning obstacles.

Remember, everyone learns differently, so it’s important to find what works best for each student. By providing accommodation and using effective teaching methods, we can help them succeed in the classroom and beyond.

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