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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.
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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.


Teresa Coppens (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 04, 2013:

torrilynn and old albion, thank-you so much for the wonderful compliments. I've been teaching children with learning disabilities both diagnosed and undiagnosed since I began my teaching career. Many of these students became my undisclosed favorites due to their spunk and learning differences. When my son presented signs of a learning disability early on I put the techniques I gained those early years along with things I had learned along the way from wise colleagues. He is having strong success in school and has recently received his first offer to university. A lot of the same techniques I have used with my son and seen used by his various teachers I have included in this hub. Glad you both enjoyed it.

Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on March 03, 2013:

Hi Teresa. A first class hub, in both content and presentation. Well written from someone who knows what she is talking about. Well done.

Voted up and all.


torrilynn on March 01, 2013:

@Teresa Coppens wow you are truly a wonderful person. I've never worked with or even taught learning disabled children, but I have worked with elderly people that have been disabled and had a hard time learning. thanks for this great read. voted up.

Teresa Coppens (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2013:

I also have children at home with learning differences and the success they are experiencing would not have been possible without the partnership between home and school. My eldest who had extreme difficulty learning how to read has just received his first university offer! I am so glad your partnership with the school is allowing your kids to blossom. Keep up the great work and keep communicating with their classrooms. It is the best road to success for any child!

Cheryl from South on February 28, 2013:

My children have different types of learning problems, and all have accomodations in class like preferential seating, extra time on tests, small group test taking etc. I always reinforce school lessons at home because they do not "get" everything they need in class--whether it is concentration issues with autism, information processing delays, or a problem focusing on the lesson because of background noise. I use a rubric (especially with ELA) at home so that they know exactly what is expected. I typically tie the concept into an item they are interested in (tv show or character), we do the work based on that character, and they finally move on to regular school material once they truly understand the process. This year, I have also started requesting copies of Power Points the teachers use in the classroom; moreover, it is a great reinforcement of what has been taught in class, it is fun for the children, I learn what they are expected to know for the test, and it helps me learn which items the children need to work on. Since I began using the Power Points this year, my children understand the material, they are eager to learn, and their grades have improved dramatically (I even have one with a 4.0).

Teresa Coppens (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2013:

Having worked together with my son and taken off time from full time teaching I know it is essential that what happens at school also be reinforced at home. A child's chances of success are severely diminished if one element is missing. Both the school and the home must be fully committed to providing the resources necessary for success especially with kids facing learning challenges! Thanks for stopping by billy. I hope to be more active in my hubpages once the summer returns. I have finally returned to more full time teaching. All the best!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 27, 2013:

Eighteen years, Teresa, and I never taught a severely disabled child. One young lady with Spina Bifeda and that was it. I admire anyone who has faced this challenge. Excellent strategies!

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