Individuals with learning disabilities often have average to above average intelligence but may struggle to acquire and understand knowledge in speaking, listening, writing, reasoning or mathematical skills. This discrepancy between the specific area of learning achievement and the student’s actual intellectual ability generally signifies the presence of a learning disability. Depending on the individual, the severity of a learning disability can vary from mild to severe.
Main types of Learning Disabilities:
- Dyslexia/Reading Disorder: Dyslexia affects how a person processes language, often making reading, writing, and grammar difficult. The individual may use words or letters in reverse order when reading, may struggle reading information from left to right, and may also have difficulty comprehending all that they read.
- Dysgraphia/Written Expression Disorder: Dysgraphia affects an individual’s writing abilities. The individual may have poor handwriting, difficulty spelling, and trouble putting thoughts and ideas on paper.
- Dyscalculia/Math Disability: Dyscalculia affects an individual’s abilities in mathematics. The individual may struggle with counting numbers, understanding symbols, and learning new concepts.
- Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): Auditory processing disorder affects the way in which the brain processes incoming sounds, but this is not due to a hearing impairment. Individuals may struggle to understand information that is presented orally. They may hear a combination of sounds if they are not facing the person speaking, or have difficulty discriminating sounds and the meaning of those sounds.
- Visual Processing Disorder: Visual processing disorder affects an individual’s ability to interpret visual information. The individual may struggle with reading comprehension, deciphering between two similar objects, and may take longer to read text.
Considerations and instructional strategies:
- Include the approved disability accommodation statement in the course syllabus. Invite students to contact you if they need disability-related accommodations.
- Provide clear and concise instructions.
- Provide an outline for each class session including important "take-aways".
- Allow for time for clarification of essential information and/or directions.
- Incorporate visual aids and multiple teaching methods including visual, auditory, and hands-on approaches.
- Break large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments. Review pervious lessons and summarize periodically.
- Allow the use of spell-check and grammar assistance devices when appropriate.
- When in doubt about how best to assist your student, ask them. Remember that confidentiality is important; therefore, it is best to have the conversation in private (e.g. during your office hours).
Accommodations may include, but are not limited to:
- A written supplement to oral instructions, assignments, due dates and other directions
- Note-taking assistance
- Providing handouts or PowerPoints in advance
- Test accommodations may include: extended time, reader and/or scribe, use of a word-processor for grammar and spelling concerns, and/or use of a simple calculator
- Permission to use tape recorders and/or laptop computers for note-taking
- Course textbook and other materials provided in an alternative format for use with a screen reader
- Do-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) - DO-IT is an organization based at the University of Washington, Seattle that works to empower people with disabilities through technology and education.
- LDA (Learning Disabilities Association of America) - LDA works to create opportunities for success for people with learning disabilities.