Learning Disabilities. Martha Van Leeuwen University of Kansas Resources for Paraeducators Website. Learning Disabilities.
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What is a learning disability?IDEA defines learning disabilities as the followingPart A defines the terms used in the law."Specific learning disability" is defined as follows:The term "specific learning disability" means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
What are the laws about students with learning disabilities?
Students with learning disabilities have specific rights to special education under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities are legally entitled to special services to help them overcome and accommodate their learning problems. Such services include education programs designed to meet the needs of these students. The Acts also protect people with dyslexia against unfair and illegal discrimination.
Dyslexia is a common reading disability that affects some students in the areas of decoding and automatic word recognition. Dyslexia can refer to a variety of different symptoms. Many students with dyslexia also have difficulties with language skills, specifically reading. Students with dyslexia can also have other difficulties with skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.
A student may have a Fluency Disability in which the student has difficulty reading fluently. Students with a fluency disability ready with a lot of effort and with little expression. They are also inconsistent (usually slow) in their reading speed and use inappropriate pauses. Lastly, a student may be able to read words in isolation but struggle when reading the same words in a text.
Students may also struggle with Comprehension Difficulties after reading a text. The student may be able to recall specific facts of the story but will have difficulty understanding and identifying main themes or conclusions of the text. Students with comprehension difficulties have a limited vocabulary and may have difficulty using various strategies to help them understand what they are reading.
Use already acquired knowledge Try bringing to the students attention similar words they are able to pronounce. This can help them recognize how a letter or letter pattern sounds and should be spoken.
Example: If a student is able the say the /o/ in sock, you can then apply this to working on learning the word clock.
Use music and rhythms in language instruction The majority of students enjoy music and rhyme and this can help reinforce word and sounds meanings.
Example: When studying vowel sounds, work with songs that reinforce the long and short vowel sounds.
Provide visual cues and tools to help reinforce language instruction Try posting new or difficult words in a place in the classroom the student will look at often.
Example: If working on /-at/ words, create a bulletin board display that specifically has those words and can be accompanied by pictures to go along with the words.
Pair reading and vocabulary instruction with images Provide pictures from books, magazines, and other sources to help the student have a concrete image to associate the word
Example: Ask student to visualize a word as you provide them with a visual representation
Provide repeated practice in oral reading and unison reading. Having the student repeat the same text multiple times will increase their fluently especially when given feedback.
Example: Use a test that contains words the student knows so that word recognition problems aren’t interfering
Model Fluent Reading Practices Read aloud frequently to students and encourage student to practice reading out loud with an adult.
Example: Specifically teach student how to read smoothly and with expression such as raising your voice at the end of a question or when there is a question mark.
Use kinesthetic learning methods Incorporate multiple sense can help in memorization
Example: Ask a student to say a new word and trace it using your fingers on your arm or desk.
Students with writing disabilities may have a combination of various problems and usually do not enjoy writing. Students with writing disabilities not only suffer from the act of writing, but can also struggle when they are required to elaborate on content in essays or compositions. Due to their disability, the student takes so much time concentrating on how to write, it is difficult to take the time for focusing on the content.
Dysgraphia is a writing disability that causes children to have difficulty with legibility of handwriting. Students with dysgraphia have illegible or very poor writing and have an awkward pencil grip or wrist position. Students may also suffer from hand fatigue and form their letters and punctuation very slowly, with great effort.
Disorder of Written Expression is when students have difficulty expressing their ideas. Students may have poor grammar, spelling difficulty, and unable to use punctuation correctly. Also students may omit letters from various words or entire words from sentences. Sentences will be incomplete or be written as a run on sentence using minimal punctuation. Lastly, students will have difficulty organizing their thoughts into paragraphs or writing compositions.
Model and Reinforce proper pencil grips and positions when students are learning to write
Use multi-sensory techniques to teach letters and numbers
Allow students to show what they know in ways they work best - allow them to demonstrate their knowledge without having to write
Avoid criticizing a students written language skills
Be cautious when asking students to write on the board or in front of other students
Allow the students to have a copy of the notes rather than copying from the board
Encourage print rather than cursive
Trying using various types of paper
Encourage to use different types of technology such as typing and using spelling and grammar checks.
Break down the writing process into one or two step processes
Allow students to have extended time on written assignments
Teach strategies for pre-writing to help courage ideas for writing
Use and teach how to use diagrams as strategies or other visual tools to encourage students to organize their thoughts and information
Students with math disabilities can have a variety of difficulties ranging from being unable to recognize numbers to having difficulties with word problems and understanding patterns or relationships. Math disabilities are usually seen to be caused by a variety of cognitive difficulties. These may be memory, attention, and visual-spatial abilities. Math also relies on language such as reading and writing, which causes child with difficulties in reading to also struggle with math.
Students struggling with math can have a problem with memory. When trying to memorize math facts, students need to learn them and store in their memory or they will not be able to recall. Memory may look different such as being able to learn and store the facts initially, but struggle when they must retrieve the facts quickly. Another area of memory that can be affected is remembering sequences for solving calculation problems. This is called working memory which is the ability to hold information in the memory while performing a different task. If a student has difficulty with their working memory or any other area of memory, it will affect their ability to solve math problems successfully.
There are other factors that can cause a student to struggle with math. Organization is one of them as it can interfere with the student’s ability to solve a problem on paper in a way that the teacher and the student can understand. Students who have attention issues or are impulsive will struggle with accuracy of math it will lead to hurried responses or not taking the time to solve a problem accurately. Lastly, student who exhibits a very slow pace in retrieving facts or procedures will struggle with math as they will have difficulty completing work in a timely manner.
Model step-by-step problem solving methods for students
Teach students to estimate answers prior to answering
Use real-world problems to demonstrate math concepts
Ask students to teach the solution to you
Monitor student’s progress on math assignments
Use concrete examples to introduce new skills
Allow students to quietly “self-verbalize” at their desks
Give students extra time for tests and assignments
Encourage students to check answers
Teach students to use graph paper
Allow student’s to arrive at the answers using alternate methods
Break up the problems into smaller parts
Emphasize the importance of sequence
Cooley, M. L., (2007). Teaching Kids with Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom. Minneapolis; Free Spirit Publishing Inc.