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Learning Disabilities Strategies

Introduction Most people know, or are taught, at an early age, how to process information and develop an organized plan or strategy when confronted with a problem, whether that problem is social, academic, or job related. Others find such cognitive processes quite difficult. Learning disabilities have only recently been recognized as disabilities. This neurological disorder causes difficulty in organizing information received, remembering them, and expressing information and therefore affects a person's basic function such as reading, writing, comprehension, and reasoning. However, these students with learning disabilities can be taught effective learning strategies that will help them approach tasks more effectively. (From: Learning Strategies for Problem Learners, by Thomas Lombardi).

General Information

Bring to the student's attention science role models with disabilities with a similar disability to that of the student. Point out that this individual got ahead by a combination of effort and by asking for help when needed. There are many types of learning disabilities as one person vary from another. Some of the situations commonly found are dyslexia (inability to read), dyscalcula (inability in math reasoning), dysgraphia (difficulty with syntax), visual, and audio difficulties. Generally, a person with learning disabilities experience difficulties in study skills, writing skills, oral skills, reading skills, math skills, and social skills.

In studying, students experience inability to organize time therefore unable to finish assignments on time, and they have trouble taking notes and following instructions. They often have difficulty spelling correctly and have frequent grammatical errors which results in poor sentence stucture and poor penmanship. If the lecturer speaks too fast, they will have difficulty understanding the lecture and recalling the words. They are usually slow readers and sometimes hae incorrect comprehension and poor retention. Confusion with math symbols are common, as well as difficulty with concepts of time and money. Realizing their inabilities result in low self-esteem which greatly affects their social skills. They might have impulsive behavior and disorientated in time.

Dealing with students with learning disabilities takes patience. The following are some suggestions and guidelines for a teacher with students with learning disabilities.

General Courtesy

Don't assume that the person is not listening just because you are getting no verbal or visual feedback.
Don't assume that you have to explain everything to students with learning disabilities. They do not necessarily have a problem with general comprehension.
Consult with the special education specialist to obtain help in understanding the specific nature of the learning disability for each student.
Never assess a student's capabilities based solely on their IQ or other standardized test scores.
Give student with learning disabilities priority in registration for classes.
Allow course substitution for nonessential course requirements in their major studies.
A student may have documented intelligence with test scores in the average to superior range with adequate sensory and motor systems and still have a learning disability. Learning disabilities often go undiagnosed, hence teacher observation can be a major source of identification.
Bring to the student's attention science role model with a similar disability to that of the student. Point out that this individual got ahead by a combination of effort and by asking for help when needed.

Teacher Presentation

Always ask questions in a clarifying manner, then have the students with learning disabilities describe his or her understanding of the questions.
Use an overhead projector with an outline of the lesson or unit of the day.
Reduce course load for student with learning disabilities.
Provide clear photocopies of your notes and overhead transparencies, if the student benefits from such strategies.
Provide students with chapter outlines or study guides that cue them to key points in their readings.
Provide a detailed course syllabus before class begins. Ask questions in a way that helps the student gain confidence.
Keep oral instructions logical and concise. Reinforce them with a brief cue words. Repeat or re-word complicated directions.
Frequently verbalize what is being written on the chalkboard.
Eliminate classroom distractions such as, excessive noise, flickering lights, etc.
Outline class presentations on the chalkboard or on an overhead transparency. Outline material to be covered during each class period unit. (At the end of class, summarize the important segments of each presentation.)
Establish the clarity of understanding that the student has about class assignments.
Give assignments both in written and oral form.
Have more complex lessons recorded and available to the students with learning disabilities.
Have practice exercises available for lessons, in case the student has problems.
Have students with learning disabilities underline key words or directions on activity sheets (then review the sheets with them).
Have complex homework assignments due in two or three days rather than on the next day.
Pace instruction carefully to ensure clarity.
Present new and or technical vocabulary on the chalkboard or overhead.
Provide and teach memory associations (mnemonic strategies).
Support one modality of presentation by following it with instruction and then use another modality.
Talk distinctly and at a rate that the student with a learning disability can be follow.
Technical content should be presented in small incremental steps.
Use plenty of examples, oral or otherwise, in order to make topics more applied.
Use straight forward instructions with step-by-step unambiguous terms. (Preferably, presented one at a time).
Write legibly, use large type; do not clutter the blackboard with non-current / non-relevant information.
Use props to make narrative situations more vivid and clear.
Assist the student, if necessary, in borrowing classmates' notes.
Consider cross-age or peer tutoring if the student appears unable to keep up with the class pace or with complex subject matter. The more capable reader can help in summarizing the essential points of the reading or in establishing the main idea of the reading.

Laboratory

Clearly label equipment, tools, and materials. Color code them for enhanced visual recognition.
Consider alternate activities/exercises that can be utilized with less difficulty for the student, but has the same or similar learning objectives.
Provide clear photocopies of your notes and overhead transparencies.
For students with learning disabilities, make available cue cards or labels designating the steps of a procedure to expedite the mastering.
Use an overhead projector with an outline of the lesson or unit of the day.
Allow extended time for responses and the preparation and delivery of reports.
In dealing with abstract concepts, use visual tools such as charts and graphs. Also, paraphrase and present them in specific terms, and sequence and illustrate them with concrete examples, personal experiences, or hands-on exercises.
To minimize student anxiety, provide an individual orientation to the laboratory and equipment and give extra practice with tasks and equipment.
Find areas of strength in the student's lab experiences and emphasize those as much as possible.
Allow the students with learning disabilities the use of computers and spell checking programs on assignments.

Reading

Announce readings as well as assignments well in advance.
Find materials paralleling the textbook, but written at a lower reading level. (Also, include activities that make the reading assignment more relevant.)
Introduce simulations to make abstract content more concrete.
Make lists of required readings available early and arrange to obtain texts on tape from Recording for the Blind or a Reading/Typing Service.
Offer to read written material aloud, when necessary.
Read aloud material that is written on the chalkboard and on the overhead transparencies.
Review relevant material, preview the material to be presented, present the new material then summarize the material just presented.
Suggest that the students use both visual and auditory senses when reading the text.
Rely less on textbooks. Reading for students with learning disabilities may be slow and deliberate, and comprehension may be impaired for the student , particularly when dealing with large quantities of material. Comprehension and speed usually dramatically increase with the addition of auditory input.
Spend more time on building background for the reading selections and creating a mental scheme for the organization of the text.
Encourage students to practice using technical words in exchanges among peers.
Choose books with a reduced number of difficult words, direct non convoluted syntax, and passages that deliver clear meaning. Also, select readings that are organized by subheads because this aids in the flow of ideas.
When writing materials for reading by students with learning disabilities, some of the strategies referred to in the reading section of the hearing impaired presentation will be appropriate.
Allow the student to use a tape recorder.

Group Interaction and Discussion

Always ask questions in a clarifying manner, then have the students with learning disabilities describe his or her understanding of the questions.
Assist the student, if necessary, in borrowing classmates discussion notes.
Encourage questions during or after class to ensure that materials are understood by students with learning disabilities.
Give individual conferences to guide students with learning disabilities to monitor progress and understanding of the assignment and of the course content.
Give plenty of reinforcement when it is evident that the student with a learning disability is trying things that are made difficult by the disability.
Have frequent question-and-answer sessions for students with learning disabilities.

Field Experiences

Allow the students with learning disabilities the use of computers and spell checking programs on field notes and reports.
Consider alternate activities/exercises that can be utilized with less difficulty for the student, but has the same or similar learning objectives.

Research

Review and discuss with the student the steps involved in a research activity. Think about which step(s) may be difficult for the student's specific functional limitations and jointly devise accommodations for that student.
Use appropriate laboratory and field strategies.

Testing Avoid overly complicated language in exam questions and clearly separate items when spacing them on the exam sheet. (Refer to writing for students with hearing impairments in the reading section.)
Consider other forms of testing (oral, hands-on demonstration, open-book etc.). Some students with learning disabilities find that large print helps their processing ability.
Consider the use of illustrations by the students with learning disabilities as an acceptable form of response to questions in lieu of written responses.
Eliminate distractions while students are taking exams.
For students with perceptual problems, for whom transferring answers is especially difficult, avoid answer sheets, especially computer forms. Allow them to write answers (check or circle) on the test (or try to have them dictate their responses on a tape recorder.)
For students who have reading difficulties, have a proctor read the test to the student.
For students with writing difficulties, have someone scibe the answers for them or use a tape recorder to take down the answers.
Gradually increase expectations as the students with learning disabilities gains confidence.
Grant time extensions on exams and written assignments when there are significant demands on reading and writing skills.
If distractions are excessive, permit the students with learning disabilities to take examinations in a separate quiet room with a proctor.
Provide study questions for exams that demonstrate the format along with the content of the exam.
Review with the student how to proofread assignments and tests.
Do not test material just presented or outcomes just produced, since for the students with learning disabilities, additional time is generally required to assimilate new knowledge and concepts.
Permit the students with learning disabilities the use of a dictionary, thesaurus, or a calculator during tests.

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