Learning disabilities (LD) are nervous system (brain, nerves) processing problems.
These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing; as well as higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention. Learning disabilities have the ability to affect individual’s life beyond academics and even relationships with
Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, motor handicaps, mental retardation, emotional disturbance; environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages. People with learning disabilities are usually of average or above average intelligence. However, the gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement is wide. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly normal and intelligent but unable to
demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.
Learning disability cannot be cured or fixed but success can be achieved with appropriate support and intervention.
Types of Learning Disabilities
Dyslexia: This is characterized by spelling difficulties; inability to read quickly; inability to sound out words in the head and understanding what is read. Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a Language-Based Learning
Dyscalculia: This is characterized by the inability to understand numbers and learn math facts.
Dysgraphia: This is characterized by an inability to write eligibly; inconsistent
spacing, poor spatial ordering of letters on paper; poor spelling; difficulty in composing writing as well as thinking and writing at the same time.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): This is the inability to recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): this is characterized by difficulty in staying focused and paying attention.
Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit: THIS is characterized by the inability to understand information seen, or the inability to draw or copy.
Successful Teaching Strategies for Learning Disabilities
Helping a child struggling with a learning disability begins with recognizing signs of struggle, diagnosing and understanding the exact disability before proffering solution. Here are some of the successful strategies that have worked:
Use of Direct and Simple Instruction: It’s pertinent to understand that most children with a learning disability cannot comprehend complicated instructions. This is because the rate of processing is slower than average. So
the instruction should be as simple and direct as possible especially for children with Dyscalculia.
Read Aloud Every Day: Making children read aloud daily has been found to work on those with comprehension and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as the brain builds connections between the spoken and
Ecological Approach: This is involving all aspects of a child’s life in
teaching the child, such as day to day activities and experiences. It creates a link in the mind, turning abstract into concrete.
Repeat and Re-Phrase Complicated Directions: The power of repetition and re-phrasing cannot be overemphasized. This strategy has been found to be really effective on children with short-term memory and low retainability.
Board Management: Writing legibly, use of large font type, and not cluttering the board have a great impact in visual and handwriting coordination as children are automatically tuned to write the way they see.
Pictograms: Use of diagrams, graphics and pictures has successfully acted as reinforcement for oral statements. It’s a way of turning boring concepts into fun.
Breaking of Lessons: Breaking of lessons into small steps and letting the child move at his/her pace has really been a successful strategy for easy comprehension.
Eliminate Distractions: Eliminating classroom distractions (e.g. excessive noise, flickering lights, partner etc.) is a successful strategy to tackle ADHD.
Provision of a Peer Tutor: Providing a peer tutor or assigning the student to a study group is a very positive way of making a child relax while learning. This method is great as children sometimes learn better and faster from their peers whom they perceive as equal.
Provide Ample Independent, well-Designed Intensive Practice: This strategy is very effective as the child is exposed to several questions. It provides children with the opportunity to learn slowly.
In conclusion, Success for the student with learning disabilities requires individuality; a focus on individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning.