Learning Disabilities refer to the dysfunction of the central nervous system, resulting in the difficulties in one’s abilities of reading and writing, comprehension, memory, calculation, organization, reasoning or concentration etc., which lead to significant difficulties and limitations in one’s learning.
Features of Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities include attention deficit, learning difficulties, memory disorder, spelling and writing disabilities etc. Students with learning disabilities have the same intelligence as, some even higher than, ordinary people. Most students with learning disabilities have strong curiosity and remarkable perception and imagination. Their significant differences in learning mainly lie in the acquisition of knowledge and the difficulties in comprehension and articulation.
In fact even many successful people in the world have learning disabilities, for example, Michael Phelps, the American flying fish and eight Olympic swimming championships winner, have been diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); the Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, dyslexia; and other famous politicians, soldiers, businessmen, writers, artists, entertainers etc. also have learning disabilities.
Thus it proves that learning disabilities do not necessarily limit one’s learning and development, so long as one finds his/her own interests and expertise, further develops them, and will eventually succeed.
Students with learning disabilities may encounter difficulties such as:
- Because learning disabilities cannot be easily detected, students who have not been diagnosed definitely as having learning disabilities are often mistakenly regarded as “stupid” or “lazy” because of their poor performance;
- They are more vulnerable to other external factors which can reduce their learning abilities;
- They often have difficulties in keeping up with their peers and are prone to negative self-evaluation, which lead to other emotional distress;
- Their different thinking patterns tend to get them into difficulties in social interaction;
- The various learning obstacles cost them more time to achieve significant results, which often makes them feel frustrated, or even negated by the public.
How to Help Students with Learning Disabilities
Tips for teachers:
- Teachers should understand the special needs of students with learning disabilities, such as arrangements for sitting in the front seats, reducing the proportion of scores in spelling, allowing them to use dictionaries or calculators during examination;
- Teachers may distribute the course syllabus, schedule, and other materials to students in advance, so that students with learning disabilities can have enough time to prepare;
- Teachers may mark the key points in the notes and handouts;
- Teachers should ensure the quietness of the classroom during examinations so as to reduce the external disturbance;
- Teachers may instruct in various way so as to arouse the interests of the students and to enhance the learning abilities of students with learning disabilities;
- Teachers may try to integrate teaching with daily life so that students can apply their knowledge and increase their opportunities for practice;
- Teachers may provide multi-sensory learning through different means in order to pass on the knowledge repeatedly to learning disabled students, for example, to read out the supplementary information shown on the blackboard, whiteboard or projector screen, to write down or to use body language to express the orally spoken key points, etc.;
- Teachers may allow them to use other note-taking methods besides copying (such as a voice recorder);
- Teachers should meet their needs in considering extending the time of examination or the deadline for homework, or providing methods of evaluation other than a written one (for example an oral test);.
Tips for students:
- As the difficulties each student with learning disabilities face vary from person to person, please take the initiative to understand and care for them;
- Please encourage and help them to apply the knowledge and skills they have learnt into their daily lives;
- Explore with them various interesting learning methods when leaning with them;
- Do not disturb them when they are thinking, calculating, memorizing, reading and writing, so that they can focus on their work in hand;
- If their mistakes are found in the calculation, writing or spelling, please tell them frankly and politely when they are done, and help them to correct the mistakes;
- Please show your understanding and accept their differences in learning, meanwhile get to know their interests and expertise;
- Please be empathetic and try to experience their daily lives, their thoughts and feelings.