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How Teachers Can Help Students with Learning Disabilities in Class
  • Classroom Teaching

This blog is from one of COBIS’ Supporting Associates.

Written by Pierre de Mirman, Deputy Global CEO at Pacific Prime

Students with learning disabilities such as ADHD or dyslexia will require extra attention and support in-class activities. In most cases, they have normal intelligence but they may have some difficulties developing skills in reading, writing, or maths.

For instance, some of the students may experience some difficulties understanding certain content taught in class, resulting in delayed classwork or homework completion.

While learning disability is a huge hurdle for certain students, teachers can step in and lend them a helping hand. Join me in understanding learning disabilities in students and how teachers can effectively help them in class in this article.

What Are Learning Disabilities?

Learning disabilities (or disorders) are umbrella terms for various learning problems including ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, learning disabilities do not define a student’s intelligence, motivation, or diligence.

Rather, students with learning disabilities possess as much intelligence as every other student but they may have some difficulties understanding information taught in class.

The Signs and Symptoms of Learning Disabilities in Students

While students in general may have trouble with homework occasionally, consistent difficulties in a particular area of learning could be an indication of learning disabilities. Some key symptoms of learning disabilities in students could include slowed reading, difficulties in writing and reading aloud, problems understanding what was just read, trouble following directions, or problematic calculations.

Ways Teachers Can Help Students with Learning Disabilities

While there is no true way to completely cure students of their learning disabilities, there are ways teachers can help manage and address these issues for the affected students. By implementing methods such as allowing extra time or using sensory aids, teachers can ensure that no students feel left out.

Allow Extra Time for Classwork Completion

Let’s say on average, the default time allowed for students in class to complete a classwork is 40-45 minutes. For students with learning disabilities, however, at least an additional 30 minutes can make a world of a difference. This is especially true for students with dyslexia, which makes it difficult for them to read or spell.

If it’s not possible to give them extra time within the class due to students’ schedules, you can instead allow the student to come back in for additional help and tutoring during the lunch break or after school.

By allowing a little bit more extra time to complete assignments, students with learning disabilities will be able to work their way through assignments, tests, or other written activities at their own pace until they finish.

Use Sensory Aids

Using sensory aids ranging from vision to touch will help students focus and pay attention in class. Below are the types of sensory aids you can use to help students with learning disabilities.

●      Visual: You can incorporate visual cues in class such as posters, videos, graphs and diagrams, or charts. You also have the option of using colour-coded whiteboard markers to distinguish certain topics.

●      Audio: Try to incorporate discussions, rhymes, or songs wherever it’s applicable. This will allow students to practise their pronunciation skills.

●      Touch: Physical items will aid students with learning disabilities in understanding class content better. For instance, if they’re doing maths, you can incorporate physical items such as plastic or wooden blocks for counting, toy clocks with adjustable hands, fake banknotes and coins for money, or plastic pizza or cake toys for fractions.

Assign Them a Buddy

As a teacher, it can be difficult having to constantly devote your attention to a particular student with learning disabilities while also having to do the same to the rest of the class. However, not all hope is lost as you can have one of the other students in your class volunteer and assign them as the other student’s “buddy”.

By assigning the affected student a buddy in class, you ensure the affected student gets the learning assistance they need without requiring you to juggle your priorities as a teacher.

Foster a School-Wide Culture of Kindness

There’s nothing  students with learning disabilities need more than kindness and support from their teachers. By giving them extra time to complete assignments, using additional material, or assigning them in-class support, students know they have someone to trust along their academic journey.

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