Helping Students with Learning Disabilities

Students can excel in spite of learning difficulties.  The first step is for a child with learning difficulties to be surrounded by a team of people, including family and educators, that believe the child the child can excel.  The second step is for the team to communicate this to the child.  Beyond these critical steps there are several factors that can help a child with learning difficulties to succeed. 

The team and the child need to understand the learning difficulties.

A clear diagnosis of what is included, and not included, in the challenges for this child can help everyone has reasonable expectations.  Reasonable does not refer to lower expectations.  It is important that when a learning difficulty is identified, that the entire team has a good understanding to avoid communicating negative messages such as that the child is lazy, or sloppy or not trying.  On the other hand, a clear diagnosis should also show the child’s strengths so that no one, including the child is always focused on the difficulties. 

Sometimes simple adaptations can help a child with learning difficulties excel.

Each child’s needs are different but some examples of adaptations that can make a difference for some children are things like extended time for test taking or larger scale graph paper for math.  For one child being able to use a keyboard may make a huge difference and for another being able to highlight key words in a question can be key.  A team need to research and brainstorm adaptations that will help the child with learning difficulties succeed and then ensure that these resources and options are available to the child.

Focusing on strengths can also help a child with learning difficulties excel.

Ideally, across the curriculum there will be a variety of modalities to demonstrate mastered concepts and skills.  A child that doesn’t express understanding well in test taking may excel in creating hands on projects that demonstrate understanding.  A child that is challenged by an oral book report may be successful in creating a computer slide show.  Children should be offered a variety of options for demonstrating learning by using their strengths.

Setting goals can also help a child with learning difficulties excel.

Everyone wants to be good at something and recognized for their efforts.  Not every child with learning difficulties, or even those without, is going to be honor roll students.  There are a variety of other places a child can set their sites on earning recognition.  For example, an elementary student may focus on reading the most Accelerated Reader books or saving the most metal tabs for a charity.  A middle school or high school student may student may focus on having the most volunteer hours.  Helping children identify goals that match their interest can help them build confidence and excel.

Excelling doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom or the report card.

There are areas outside of academics where children with learning difficulties can excel as well.  Sports, drama, music, chess, cooking, photography are just a few examples of things children can try until they find a passion for a hobby they can excel at.  Everything doesn’t have to be part of a team or a club either.  One student may love yoga or growing herbs, another may love rock climbing or bowling.  The idea is to allow opportunities to develop passions and enjoy success. 

Along with a supportive team, these tips can help children with learning difficulties excel inside and outside of the classroom.