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Learning Disabled Children: Teaching Strategies
“Life is full of challenges. How you handle these challenges is what builds character. Never be afraid to be who you are.”
Erin Brockovich, activist, dyslexic
Children With Learning Differences
Children who have "learning disabilities" do not have a visible 'disability'. They are often very bright students who may fit well in a classroom until the workload exceeds their ability to keep up. These learning differences can make it truly difficult to succeed in the traditional classroom.
- Most classrooms today are designed to accommodate those students who can sit quietly in their desk for long periods of time and learn the lesson by listening and writing notes.
- Many teachers are incorporating more differentiated strategies meant to accommodate a wider range of learning styles; however, the learning styles of many students are still not adequately addressed.
- The child with learning disabilities is at an even greater disadvantage.
Much of this disparity revolves around financing and the resulting large class sizes which demand students sit for a large part of the day and complete much work quietly at desks. Boys in particular who are often kinesthetic learners find the traditional classroom setting onerous and uninspiring.
- Male or female, a child with a learning disability is at a distinct disadvantage unless the playing field is equaled.
“If you read to me I could tell you everything that was read. They didn’t know what it was. They knew I wasn’t lazy, but what was it?”
Whoopi Goldberg, actress, dyslexic
Teaching Strategies For Learning Disabled Children
1. All students, but particularly learning disabled children need concrete validation for their learning.
- Why is the material important?
- What are the learning goals?
- What will a successful final product look like?
2. Be very concrete when outlining expectations.
- In a writing assignment, outline on a marking rubric each aspect of the assignment that will be evaluated including expected length, perfect punctuation and grammar and include the ramifications of errors to the overall grade.
- For a diagram, indicating the medium to be used such as pencil only or the addition of color, and the use of straight lines for labeling should be clearly outlined.
3. Having a marking rubric for each assignment makes it much easier for all students but especially the learning disabled student to clearly understand the teacher's expectations and thus create a quality piece of work.
4. After instructions are explained for a task, ask the student to repeat back the instructions to ensure understanding.
5. For more complicated tasks or assignments, a checklist which the child can check off as components are completed is extremely useful.
6. Clearly define classroom expectations and post them in the classroom for daily reminders of appropriate behavior during work time and class projects.
7. The use of graphic organizers is helpful for all students but especially for the child with learning disabilities.
- Organization is often a key weakness with the learning disabled child and these graphic organizers help tremendously with that skill.
- Monthly board calendars used to organize homework due dates and other classroom activities also provide graphic reminders of upcoming expectations.
8. Provide these students with models of good quality work so they can visually see what to aspire to.
- These models allow them a frame of reference of what they should be including in their own work.
- Along with the marking rubric, they provide a frame of reference and provide for a greater chance for success.
9. For students with visual processing issues and dyslexia, reading aloud novels and/or providing an audio copy can greatly improve their comprehension.
10. For students with audio processing issues, having visual cues which spell out instructions and next steps can be invaluable.
11. Provide preferential seating for the learning disabled children in your class.
- Front row seating can make it easier for them to hear or see instructions.
- It makes it much easier for the teacher to provide extra help as needed and notice when extra help is indeed required.
12. Provide extra time for these students to finish assignments and when writing tests and quizzes.
Small Group Reading Can Be Very Helpful To The Learning Disabled Child
Accomodation And Success For The Learning Disabled Child
Most children with learning disabilities are very bright children. Most often adverse behaviors seen in these children are a result of their frustration at not being able to keep up with their peers.
- They feel stupid in class and as their frustration and anxiety levels increase, their negative behaviors increase including fidgeting and angry outbursts.
- Sometimes, their behavior escalates into truancy and dropping out of school.
Modifications and accomodations in the classroom can make a huge impact on the success of the learning disabled child. With care, ingenuity and in some cases some simple changes in the classroom, learning disabled and able students will benefit and show improved success.