How to Teach a Child With Learning Disabilities

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Learning disabilities are surprisingly common. They are a result of differences in brain structure but do not relate to intelligence, behavior, or focus. In short, they are differences that make it difficult to succeed in a typical American school, though they may have relatively little impact on tasks of daily living.

What Are Learning Disabilities?

According to the website LDOnline, the most common learning disabilities include:

  • Auditory and visual processing disorders: "Sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision."
  • Dyscalculia: A mathematical disability
  • Dysgraphia: A writing disability
  • Dyslexia: A reading disorder
  • Nonverbal learning disabilities: A neurological disorder that causes problems with "visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions."

Learning disabilities affect one in five American children.

Often, students with learning disabilities will have an Individualized Educational Program or 504 Plan which details teaching accommodations. These are usually similar to the general suggestions offered below.

Helping Children Succeed in School

Most instruction at home or in school can be adapted to accommodate the needs of students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or other learning problems. These strategies can be used to modify instruction in most subject areas to improve students' comprehension of tasks and the quality of their work.

These approaches, incidentally, can also be helpful for most students who prefer a clear, structured educational program.

  • Ask for a scoring guide. Teachers should develop a scoring guide, share it with students, and provide models of examples of each level of performance.
  • Never use a student's work as a public example of poor work for the class to see. This is humiliation, and it has no place in any classroom or home.
  • Clearly outline the instructions. Lessons should include specific, step-by-step instructions that are explicitly stated by the teacher and modeled for the student.
  • Create models of quality work that students can see and analyze. Include both spoken and written explanations of how the work fulfills academic expectations.
  • Define classroom expectations for work and behavior. Post them, and use them as a basis of all interactions and class projects. Making your requirements a part of the classroom or homework routine will help the student meet expectations.
  • Have the student repeat back the instructions. Correct any miscommunication before he begins the actual work. Check back on the student as he works to ensure he is doing the work correctly. Prompt him as necessary to ensure that he corrects any mistakes before he finishes.
  • Set the stage for learning. Tell children why the material is important, what the learning goals are, and what the expectations are for quality performance.
  • Use graphic organizers. Help students understand the relationships between ideas.
  • Use specific language. Instead of saying, "do quality work," state the specific expectations. For instance, if the teacher is grading based on correct punctuation, spelling, and the inclusion of specific points, communicate with the teacher and your child to work on meeting these expectations.
2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Learning Disabilities Association of America. Types of Learning Disabilities.

  2. LDOnline. What is a Learning Disability?

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.