It is estimated that 1 in 5 children in the United States has some form of a learning disability. That means that in every classroom, several students with LDs are likely sitting amongst their peers. While every child with an LD is unique and therefore requires an individualized approach, some general strategies can be employed to help all kids with LDs succeed in the classroom.
1. Provide Structure and Routines
For kids with LDs, having a set routine can provide a much-needed sense of stability and predictability. Try to start and end each day with the same activities when possible. This could mean having a brief morning meeting to go over the day’s schedule or doing a quick check-in at the end of the day to debrief.
Having regular times for activities such as art, recess, and lunch can also help kids with LDs feel more comfortable and in control throughout the day. You might even consider creating a visual schedule that your students can reference throughout the day.
2. Use Visual Aids
Many kids with LDs are visual learners, so incorporating visual aids into your lessons can be extremely helpful. This could mean using pictures, diagrams, charts, or graphs to supplement your instruction. You might also consider using color coding or other visual cues to help kids organize information.
For example, teaching grammar rules could assign different colors to different parts of speech. This would then allow students to quickly identify and correct errors in their own writing. No matter what type of visual aids you use, be sure to introduce them ahead of time and explain how they will be used.
3. Give Frequent breaks
It’s important to remember that kids with LDs often have difficulty sustaining attention for long periods of time. As such, it’s important to provide frequent breaks throughout the day. This could mean allowing for a few minutes of movement after every 20 minutes of seated work or allowing students to step out of the room for a brief break when needed.
You might also consider providing brain breaks during long stretches of work. These simple exercises or activities could help kids take a mental break and refocus when needed. No matter what type of breaks you provide, be sure to let your students know when they can expect them.
4. Encourage Therapy
Many types of therapy can be beneficial for kids with LDs. For example, speech therapy can help kids with language processing and articulation difficulties. Occupational therapy can help with fine motor skills and sensory processing issues. And social skills groups can help kids with social anxiety or impulsivity issues.
If you suspect that your student might benefit from therapy, be sure to talk to their parents about the possibility of pursuing treatment. Every learning disability is different, so it’s important to find a therapy that is tailored to your student’s specific needs. For example, treatment for language processing disorder can consist of different activities like verbal imitation, listening to stories, and practicing conversation skills. So, if your students have difficulty with expressive language, they might benefit from therapy emphasizing verbal imitation and conversation skills.
5. Provide Choice Whenever Possible
Giving kids choices whenever possible can help them feel more in control of their learning experience—and may even increase their motivation to participate. When crafting assignments or activities, try to offer different options whenever possible.
For example, if you’re asking students to read a book, allow them to choose which book they want to read from a list of options. When giving instructions for an activity, provide multiple ways that students can complete it based on their interests and abilities.
6. Encourage Self-Advocacy
Self-advocacy skills are critical for kids with LDs—and will serve them well throughout their lives. As such, it’s important to encourage students to speak up for themselves starting at a young age. One way to do this is by modeling self-advocacy skills yourself—for example, by explaining why you need certain accommodations to do your job effectively.
You might also teach specific self-advocacy strategies, such as how to ask for help or how to communicate needs to adults. While it’s important to provide support, it’s also crucial to encourage kids to advocate for themselves as much as possible.
While every child with an LD is unique and requires an individualized approach, some general strategies can be employed to help all kids with LDs succeed in the classroom. So, if you have a student with an LD in your class, be sure to keep these tips in mind.