Learning Differences: How Can Teachers Help?
What is a learning disability?
- A discrepancy that exists between a person’s potential for learning and what she actually learns.
- The learning problem is not due to:
- Mental retardation
- Lack of motivation
- Emotional issues
- Biological imbalances
What are the main types of learning issues?
The 3 main types are:
- Language processing, which includes auditory processing.
- Visual processing, which includes visual motor integration.
- Attention deficit disorder, ADHD.
Understanding the Symptoms of Learning Differences:
Jessica is in 2nd grade. Her parents see her as bright and friendly. Socially, she interacts well with peers and adults. Jessica’s mother became concerned when she observed her daughter in the classroom. Outside the classroom Jessica is active and outspoken, inside the classroom Jessica was withdrawn. Jessica stayed to herself and avoided interaction with teachers and peers. The teacher reported that Jessica could not learn her math facts or read. Jessica also had difficulty following simple directions and would not ask questions when she did not understand what she supposed to do. An auditory processing difficulty often means the student is unable to understand, or process auditory input at the rate it is spoken. Depending on the extent of the problem, students may miss anywhere from 5% to 50% of the information being given.
- Encourage participation
- Form small groups where she feels comfortable joining in.
- Call on her only when you know she knows the answer. Often this will be the 2nd or 3rd person to talk in the discussion as this will give her time to establish the context of the conversation.
- Praise her for her accomplishments.
- Have her work with a partner.
- Find out what she’s good at and have her share that skill with the class.
- Help her understand directions.
- Her low reading ability limits her understanding of written corrections and her auditory processing difficulties make it difficult for her to understand oral directions.
- Break both written and oral directions into short concise parts.
- Teach her to number each set of written directions and underline key words, which indicate actions needed to complete the assignment.
- Check with her directly after getting instruction is given to ensure she understands what she is to do.
- Seat her in the front of the class so she can gain as many visual and auditory clues as possible.
- Help her visualize what she’s reading or listening to.
- Concretely convey objectives.
- Provide context for new materials by building on familiar concepts.
- Answer questions by referring back to the main idea of the topic to help facilitate the understanding of the whole concept.
Visual Motor Integration
Kevin is in the 6th grade. He is extremely verbal and is an excellent reader. He is able to verbally demonstrate his knowledge of what he has read. He performs well on multiple-choice tests. However, when asked to write a paragraph Kevin uses simple sentences and gives only brief answers. His writing is messy. He ignores margins, indents haphazardly, and has trouble anchoring his letters on the line. Kevin also has difficulty in math. His writing is so sloppy he makes careless errors due to misreading what he’s working on. Additionally, Kevin’s class notes are incomplete and often so difficult to read even he doesn’t know what they say. Lastly, Kevin’s assignment book is never filled in completely causing him to miss assignments. A weakness in visual motor integration means the student has fine motor problems, which make it hard for him to write, combined with a visual problem, which makes it hard for him to manually reproduce visually presented information. Therefore, copying from a book or the board is extremely difficult. Anything that requires fine motor skills, like writing, is challenging for a child like this. Students with a visual motor integration weakness dislike writing. They generally turn in written work that is sloppy and inferior in quality. All written work is laborious and takes an exorbitant amount of time.
- Give handouts, or have a partner whose notes Kevin can photocopy, rather than requiring him to copy from the board.
- Assist in note-taking by providing an outline, which he can then fill in with the lecture information.
- Give him a template to write paragraphs and essays.
- The template has the indent markers and margins clearly noted.
- Use wide ruled paper.
- Allow the use of computer whenever possible.
- For long assignments, that cannot be done on the computer, either shorten the assignment or allow him extra time.
- Allow him to use graph paper for all math assignments.
- Once you’ve demonstrated mastery of math facts allow the use of the computer.
Katie is in 5th grade. She is bright and an evaluation of her skills indicates that she has superior verbal skills and average to superior performance skill. Katie was noted by teachers to exhibit tremendous anxiety, which inhibited her from demonstrating her ability. She is struggling in all subjects and has difficulty staying focused during lectures. She is observed to “daydream” during independent work times. Her attentional difficulties present a problem at home and at school. Katie is unable to stay on task and is easily distracted. She often leaves the books she needs for homework at school. She also forgets to turn in her homework. Amy is in 1st grade. She is unable to remain in her chair. She calls out answers before the teacher is finished asking the question. She has a difficult time lining up and often pushes other children around her. Her writing and drawing is hastily finished, resulting in sloppy work. ADHD students are unable to remain focused and therefore miss details and make careless mistakes. They often fail to follow through on assignments and have a difficult time organizing their thoughts, as well as their work. They forget things, lose things and are easily distracted. When attention deficit has the added component of hyperactivity it makes it difficult for students to remain physically calm. They squirm and fidget. They need to get up and move around, and often talk excessively. Waiting for turns is difficult because these students to jump into games and conversations.
- Seat her in the front of the room.
- Have “cue” words that you both agreed upon, these are intended to call her back when she’s daydreaming.
- Provide structure words in your lectures that enable her to refocus and know where she is. “1st point, 2nd point, 3rd point, moving to the next idea”.
- Provide weekly assignment sheets.
- Use visual organizers/calendars for long-term assignments.
- Check her assignment book, or have a partner check, to ensure she has all assigned work written down and knows which books need to be taken home.
- Remind her to turn in homework each day.
- If movement is a problem, discuss appropriate movements that can be done within the classroom system.
- A wiggle seat can be helpful.
- Timers can be very helpful, especially ones that count down.
- Checklists and charts that can be used in the classroom and at home can be very beneficial.
- Teach children to take control of their thinking with this mantra
|STOP: “What am I doing?”|
|THINK: “What do I need to do? Do I have a checklist I can use?”|
|PLAN: “ What are the steps needed to finish this task?”|
|DO: Now you can sit down and start working!|