What are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disabilities (LD) are neurological disorders that can make it difficult to acquire certain academic and social skills. This group of disabilities has the ability to affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, store, respond to and communicate information to others. Types of LD consist but are not limited to Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Dyspraxia.
Examples of Learning Disabilities:
- Associated with reading, students with Dyslexia may have poor reading, spelling, and comprehension skills such as reading aloud or assessing word problems.
- Associated with math, students with Dyscalculia may experience language processing difficulties (trouble processing what is heard) and visual-spatial difficulties (trouble processing what the eye sees).
- Associated with writing, students with Dysgraphia may also experience language processing difficulties (trouble processing what is heard) and visual-spatial difficulties (trouble processing what the eye sees) when attempting to write or type notes.
- Associated with motor skills, students with Dyspraxia may experience difficulties from the simplest to the most difficult of physical motion such as waving, grooming, driving, etc.
What Learning Disabilities are NOT?
Students with LD should not be classified as students who are of poor intelligence or lazy.
How Common are Learning Disabilities?
There are approximately 2.4 million students in the K-12 system with a LD. The most common is Dyslexia.
Tips for Professionals to Work with Students with Learning Disabilities:
Present instruction material verbally and through diagrams, graphics and pictures. Depending on the accommodations provided to the student, clarity in verbal instruction will be essential for student comprehension.
Long explanations are also areas of concern for professionals who work with students with LD. Break the process into smaller explanations in order to ensure comprehension of the student.
Lastly, it will prove beneficial for students to have the professional facilitate learning through conversations to allow processing and critical thinking by the student.
Whenever possible, provide printed materials in accessible, electronic format. Many students, including those with learning disabilities, find it beneficial to use software that can read the textbook and other text-based materials aloud.
Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information. Presenting classroom material in a variety of formats better addresses a variety of learning styles and strengths (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic). Provide important information in both oral and written formats.
When teaching a lesson, state objectives, review previous lessons, and summarize periodically.
Read aloud what you write on the board or present on an overhead visual.
Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
Design distance learning courses with accessibility in mind. For example, avoid real-time chat sessions, because not all students can type quickly or accurately enough to fully participate.
Provide study guides or review sheets.
Have multiple methods for course assessment, such as allowing students to take an exam or writing a paper; work alone or in a group; or deliver an oral, written, or videotaped project presentation.
Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments and assessments.