Teaching and Identifying Learning Disabilities in Students

teaching methods

Being able to identify and effectively diagnose learning problems in students can benefit both the child and the teacher. As an educator, if you know what modifications you can make in your teaching to ensure the child learns in a way that he or she is able, you will be able to bridge a gap that others may not be able to. Additionally, by tailoring your lesson plan, you might help other children, who don’t display difficulties, learn in new and innovative ways.

How Common are Learning Disabilities?

“The National Institute of Health of the United States has stated that fifteen percent of the American population has some form of learning disability. Looking at this another way, for every class of approximately twenty students, three of the children are learning disabled,” an article on Essortment.com said.

Disability vs. Difficulty

Identifying the type of struggle a child may have with learning is also imperative to future success.

“First, there is a distinction between a learning disability and a difficulty. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between the two. Everyone experiences difficulty when learning something. We are not adept at every skill. A learning disability on the other hand, refers to a disorder manifested by significant difficulties in acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities,” Essortment.com said.

Types of Learning Disabilities

  1. Dyslexia: “is a reading disability resulting from the inability to process graphic symbols,” Google Health said.
  2. Dyscalculia: is “a lesser-known learning disability that affects mathematical calculations. It is derived from the generic name “mathematics difficulty,” according to West Virginia University.
  3. Dysgraphia: is “a learning disability resulting from the difficulty in expressing thoughts in writing and graphing. It generally refers to extremely poor handwriting,” West Virginia University said.

Indications of a Learning Disability

From “Strategies for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities” from West Virginia University:

  • Difficulty learning new skills, relying on memorization
  • Trouble learning about time
  • Difficulty remembering facts
  • Confusing basic words (dog, cat, run)
  • Poor coordination, ‘accident prone’, unaware of physical surroundings
  • Having a hard time learning the connection between letters and sounds (Phonetics)
  • Spelling and reading errors such as substitutions (house/home), letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w) and transpositions (felt/left)
  • Problems with planning
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs

Strategies in the Classroom

There are many ideas you can use to connect with children in your classroom who may have trouble learning some subject matter. You may have to implement several different ways of education to make an impact on every student, regardless of a learning disability.

A few tips from LD Online, a leading Web site for teaching students with learning disabilities and ADHD:

  • Move around in the classroom to maintain your visibility.
  • Teach thematically whenever possible, allowing for integration of ideas/concepts and connections to be made.
  • Present at a lively, brisk pace.
  • Be prepared and avoid lag time in instruction.
  • Use pictures, diagrams, gestures, manipulatives, and high interest materials.
  • Use higher-level questioning techniques. Ask questions that are open-ended, require reasoning, and stimulate critical thinking and discussion.
  • Decrease the amount of time you are doing the talking. Make all efforts to greatly increase student responses (saying and doing something with the information being taught).
  • Use direct instruction techniques and other methods of questioning that allow for high response opportunities (i.e., unison responses, partner/buddy responses).
  • Structure the lesson so that it can be done in pairs or small groups for maximum student involvement and attention.
  • Alter the way students are called on to avoid calling on students one at a time. Instead, have students respond by “telling their partner,” writing down or drawing their response, or other alternative way.

More Information for Educators

LD Online offers many checklists for teachers, concerning getting students’ attention and how to move effectively around the classroom. You can find the entire list here.

About the author -

Kelly McLendon

Kelly McLendon is studying Environmental Policy and Journalism. She can be reached via email

2 Responses to Teaching and Identifying Learning Disabilities in Students

  1. Lynn Dion says:

    To me, brain research, the way the brain processes information and how that is related to learning is so fascinating! I hope to pursue more education in this area. This website was a great starting point.

  2. Polly says:

    I do not live with invisible ilenlss/disability. I un/exist…I have been dealing with an invisible ilenlss/disability since 2002. My masters thesis is about women invisible ilenlss/disability and I affectionately refer to it as “the most expensive suicide prevention strategy ever”! My life has been destroyed both by disability and the bludgeoning I have taken from government student loans programs who, despite all the requested medical information, refused to place my loans on interest-free disability status. I am unable to even rent an apartment now without a cosigner, which I do not have. And I cannot afford a lawyer, so I cannot fight them legally either. Two years ago a provincial MP office attempted to help me for a few months, but they were directed by the government to cease assistance to me. I learned also that revenue Canada was also directed by student loans to seize any income tax monies to which I should be entitled. I was supposed to receive over $1500 of medical refund monies from a medical trip to Seattle in 2005, and they stole every penny. I also do not receive my GST. (they seized a bank account and I was forced to close the other because they continued to steal from that one also, despite the measure taken to prevent this).My doctors asked me what exactly the government wanted from me, as we have provided them with all the information possible. At one point we figured it was my blood they wanted, but I was quite anemic and had none! lol I do have some now, so perhaps they still want it? My prescriptions are once again being held hostage by unfair pharmacare as the deductible has been raised to $10,000! So I can’t afford the cost of any prescriptions I need.It has become so embarrassing that I pray for either a windfall lottery win or death I don’t and never did use drugs, i barely drink and i was a very physically active person. i was a cowgirl and a jock. My son is now a young man, and this has devastated him also, because he watches me suffer in so many inhumane and mortifying ways. I waited over 6 years for surgery to save my life, was refused treatment out of province, and my primary health insurance through my employer refused to authorize payment for treatment back in 2005 so I was forced to wait 4 more years in BC for surgery that I finally received a year and a half ago. But the internal damage was so extensive, doctors advised me that I will never fully recover; and in fact, the symptoms have already begun to recur. Because my employer only has to pay the extended health premium, while I remain on long-term disability, there is no incentive for them to sponsor a return-to-work program for me. (They would then be responsible for a portion of my wages). I continue to meet the criteria qualifying me for this program, but I am not an invalid. But this doesn’t seem to make a difference. I am a victim of misfortunate, catch-22 politics. I need to earn my full wages to afford accommodations and living expenses (mostly toilet paper, since that is where most of my days are spent). .I am effectively homeless due to my situation as I have to pay accommodations in the 3 communities (10 hours apart) that I must travel between for my doctor, psychiatrist, and counselor appointments. (I have been unable to find a new doctor in any other community over the past 10 years of dealing with all the medical stuff, which leaves me no other choice). And I must starve myself in order to make these medical trips, which is not so unusual, as eating is a privilege that I am frequently unable to enjoy. All of this contributes to my overwhelming and increasing sadness and escalating depression; all part of my un/existence and the invisibility of my disability.jorge mai kelly

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