Learning Styles: Children with Learning Disabilities
by Karen Kleinwort
Many children with learning disabilities can do as well as others if they receive enough support from their teachers and parents. Both parents and teachers need to change their perspective and look at a child with a learning disability as someone who processes information differently from what we consider “normal” or “conventional” information processing.
A Few Helpful Tips:
When working with any child, we need to remember that each child is unique; therefore, how he or she learns will be unique as well. But there are a few approaches that can be viewed as general and taken to be tweaked to meet each unique child’s learning experience. Teachers working with such special children may find the following tips useful.
Give clear and specific instructions to children. Tell them exactly what you expect from them. For instance, for a language assignment, let them know that you want correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. As easy as this seems or as obvious of a tip as it might be to you, you will be surprised when we begin to review how we are providing our expectations to children how unclear or precise they are, therefore leaving the instructions or expectations open to interpretation.
Part of human nature is to observe differences in outcomes with children. You may observe, but try your very best not to openly differentiate between children based on their performance—and certainly reprimand or correcting a child in private and not in front of their peers.
If you notice your students’ attention wandering or if you think they may not clearly understand your instructions, have your students repeat the instructions back to you so that they are clear about what you expect them to do. Encourage them to request your support if they need any clarification while completing their work.
Understanding there are differences in learning, take the time to break down your lessons into sequential or step-by-step instructions. Make diagrams and flow charts to explain the logic and concept behind what you are teaching. Give examples from everyday life to explain theoretical concepts to children.
Teaching children with learning challenges or any child really does not occur just at school or from nine to five; parents play a huge role in their child’s academic development by helping him/her in schoolwork with teaching strategies based on his/her learning style. Parents really are the primary teacher of their children.
A Few Suggestions for Parents:
A child with dyslexia experiences problems comprehending logic and sequence. He may be able to learn better if he is taught using strategies involving visuals, pictures, and paintings. If the child has an interest in music or responds well to oral teaching, techniques involving word association and poetry might just be the supportive element for the new information to be absorbed.
Hyperactive children tend to respond better to academic lessons if they are taught using kinesthetic teaching techniques; i.e., teaching methods involving the use of their hands or in which they are taught practical applications of every theoretical concept. For instance, they can be taught math concepts with the help of an abacus, language by converting lessons into little skits or word games, and science concepts with the help of practical experiments.
Children with impaired verbal skills tend to respond well to visual teaching methods; i.e., those involving the use of pictures, animation and/or graphics.
Hearing impaired children can be taught using kinesthetic or visual teaching techniques based on their learning preferences.
The above-mentioned tips are written from a general perspective; adjusting the teaching methodology to meet your child or student to where he is at the moment will greatly improve his educational experience and scores. Additionally, you will encourage his love of learning, which will last a lifetime.
The moment we as teachers and parents start looking at learning disabilities as nothing more than different ways of learning, we take the first step in making a differently-abled child’s life enjoyable and more fulfilling.
Until next time, embrace your inner wisdom.