Students with Learning Disabilities
Learning disability is the term for a variety of specific perceptual disabilities. These include dyslexia, a reading impairment; dysphasia, difficulty articulating ideas and comprehending spoken words; and dysgraphia, a writing impairment. A learning disability affects the manner in which individuals with normal or above average intelligence take in, retain, or express information. It is also important to note that disabilities will vary from individual to individual and that some people have a combination of learning disabilities. Learning disabilities are invisible and therefore, extensive communication between the instructor and the LD student is crucial. A learning disability is not a form of mental retardation or an emotional disorder.
ISSUES TO CONSIDER:
Outgoing or incoming information may become scrambled in one of the following areas: reading comprehension, written expression, spelling, math computation and problem-solving, organizational ability, time management, social interaction, visual, auditory and/or tactile perception, or spoken language.
A student with learning characteristics such as these may also exhibit a variety of behaviors, such as appearing easily distracted, restless, disorganized, forgetful, confused, and self-conscious. The behaviors are not a confirmation of a learning disability, but are possible clues that the student may have a special learning need.
Students with learning disabilities may or may not have an understanding or an acceptance of their situation. While some students have had their learning needs identified through previous evaluations and are unaware of accommodations needed, others may hide and cover their disabilities and simply feel that they "aren't very smart". Some may know of their learning problems, but have not learned to advocate for themselves and express their needs. The students who inform their instructors of their needs are exceptions to the rule. Testing best determines strengths and weaknesses. Please refer students with suspected disabilities to the Disability Services office in ESB for evaluation and support services.
■ The student who has difficulty with printed symbols may need to use tape recorders or tape-recordings of texts. The major benefit of this is that the student can read and listen simultaneously.
■ Due to the time needed to schedule an accessibility reader or writer, "pop quizzes" in class create tremendous difficulty. The students must have prior notice of a quiz or test, or the instructor needs to make prior arrangements. For those students who benefit from enlarged print, there is a copy machine available for enlarging class work. If handouts are word processed, DS has a printer which will enlarge text to appropriate size.
■ Some students with learning disabilities are unable to communicate effectively through writing. Their work may appear careless and they often write quite slowly. Such individuals should be encouraged to print, type or word-process assignments. In addition, oral examinations and reports might well be valid indications of what these students have learned. Another solution is for the student to dictate information to a scribe hired by the DS.
■ Sequential memory tasks such as spelling, math, and step-by-step instructions may be more easily understood by breaking up the task into smaller ones, or by giving the student directions for one step at a time.
■ Students with learning disabilities will have greater success at learning if all sense modalities can be used in the teaching-learning process (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic). Such students should be encouraged to study in a multisensory mode.
■ Extra time may be necessary for reading assignments.
■ The tape recording of lectures will be necessary at times.
■ Write technical vocabulary or vocabulary unique to a particular course on the board during the lecture so that the student can become familiar with the correct spelling of each word.
■ Since cursive writing is confusing for students with reading and/or perceptual problems, it will help immensely if tests and handouts are typed whenever possible.
▸ Keep physical transferring of information to a minimum by allowing students to write answers on the test rather than having a separate sheet upon which to record answers. Circling or checking answers is the best alternative.
▸ Ask direct, concise questions. Vocabulary used should have been presented in class.
■ Oral testing guidelines:
▸ Allow the students and test reader to work in a room where they will not disturb or be disturbed by others. This is often done in ESB Media sound proof booth. It is the student's responsibility to make the arrangements for this service through DS.
▸ When reading the test, repeat test items as many times as needed for comprehension. Long questions and answers on multiple choice tests may be particularly confusing and the repetition may help reduce confusion.
● Large display word processor
● Tape Recorders for dictation for scribes and taping lectures, etc.
● Braintrain - a computerized program which strengthens and remediates cognitive skills in memory, attention, concentration, sequencing, visual perception, spatial orientation, problem-solving, organizational skills, scanning and tracking, visual-motor coordination, processing speed, and other related areas.
● Text Scanner & Screen Reader
If you have tried the various suggestions and have not found a solution to the problem, contact Disability Services, Danielle Haskett 440-7655.