Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia. What do these three words have in common? They're all diagnosable learning disorders. That said, these "disorders" are also learning differences. What does that mean? It means that children who are struggling to read, write, and calculate math equations can indeed learn – just differently. Having a learning disability doesn't mean that the child isn't smart or won't do well in school. Instead, it means that educators need to use different strategies to help the child master the content at hand. How can teachers account for learning differences in the classroom?
Start with Small Steps
A full-length lesson can be overwhelming to any student. Add on a diagnosed learning disability, and it becomes more than a challenge. In order to combat information overload, teachers often break learning down into small steps. This strategy gives the child the chance to explore and understand the lesson, concept, or idea piece-by-piece. The structured, incremental process is less threatening and may even reduce frustration.
Scaffold the Student
Scaffolding is a strategy that teachers use with all kinds of students. The basic idea here is to start out with close individual support, based on the child's needs and what the teacher knows the child can achieve. As the student begins to understand or master the material, the teacher slowly pulls away. That doesn't mean the teacher leaves and lets the child learn completely on their own. The teacher creates a scaffold (a supportive framework) for the student to learn in. This allows the child to grow and develop, pushing themselves forward when it comes to learning the material at hand. Children who have learning differences can benefit from the individualized instruction that this offers.
Creating a Plan
Not only is direct instruction necessary, but students also need a plan for learning. Giving children with learning differences a plan for tasks such as reading and comprehension can help them to figure out the material, without a teacher telling them. This might mean providing the student with a specific strategy for finding patterns in words while reading. There are countless strategies that teachers use to help students decipher material and better understand it. The specific strategy or plan that a teacher gives each student depends on the child's individual needs and abilities. With any strategy, the teacher may need to remind or prompt the student to use the plan. Doing so can help the child take over and problem-solve without the teacher doing it for them.
Whether a child is struggling to read written words (dyslexia), is having issues writing (dysgraphia), is struggling with math calculations (dyscalculia), or has another diagnosed learning disorder, it's more than likely that the child can do well scholastically. Learning differences are exactly as they sound – differences. Instead of looking at them as problems, teachers view them as challenges that require different educational methods. With a few savvy strategies and research-based techniques, educators are capable of helping kids who are struggling with disabilities to overcome their learning issues and succeed.
After I graduated from high school, I went straight to college, even though I was very unsure of what career field I wanted to enter. I completed my four years and earned a degree that helped me secure a job relatively quickly. However, I soon learned that the career I chose was unfulfilling for me, but the thought of going back to learn something new just seemed too overwhelming. I wanted to enter the field of healthcare, and one day I got a flyer in the mail from a local nursing school that offered certificate programs that only took a year to complete. I felt like it was "fate," and I was soon enrolled in evening classes. I really like helping others, so I want to help others make good educational decisions. I plan to post tips for people of all ages on my new education blog!