Signs, Symptoms, Strategies from Learning Disabilities Association of America
A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language. The disability may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations.
Every individual with a learning disability is unique and shows a different combination and degree of difficulties. A common characteristic among people with learning disabilities is uneven areas of ability, “a weakness within a sea of strengths.” For instance, a child with dyslexia who struggles with reading, writing and spelling may be very capable in math and science.
Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages.
Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities:” the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.
A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.
In Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term is “specific learning disability,” one of 13 categories of disability under that law.
“Learning Disabilities” is an “umbrella” term describing a number of other, more specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. Find the signs and symptoms of each, plus strategies to help:
Recent research confirms that we can teach students with learning disabilities how to learn. We can put them into a position to compete! Here are the strategies that work:
Lee Swanson (1999) and his colleagues found two major intervention practices that produced large outcomes. One is direct instruction. The other is learning strategy instruction.
Teachers who were applying those kinds of intervention:
Something else that seems to make a real difference is the practice of scaffolding. Start out with heavily teacher-mediated instruction -- explicit instruction – then as students begin to acquire the skill, moving down the continuum to more student-mediated instruction.
Whether the student is learning in a general education classroom or pulled out into a special education resource setting, be sure that activities are focused on assessing individual students to monitor their progress through the curriculum. Concerns for the individual must take precedence over concerns for the group, and over concerns about the organization and management of the general education classroom. Success for the student with learning disabilities requires a focus on individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning. This requires specific, directed, individualized, intensive remedial instruction of students who are struggling.
"How to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities" from UC Berkeley DSP
Students with learning disabilities have normal or better intelligence, but they also have severe "information-processing deficits" that make them perform significantly worse in one or more academic areas (reading, writing, math) than might be expected, given their intelligence and performance in other academic areas. Though all learning disabilities are different, students with learning disabilities report some common problems, including slow and inefficient reading; slow essay-writing, with problems in organization and the mechanics of writing; and frequent errors in math calculation.
The following suggestions may be helpful in working with students who have learning disabilities, and also those who have head injuries.