October might be Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, but it doesn’t mean that we should only direct our efforts of understanding diverse learners into this specific time of the year. If anything, as teachers and mentors, you should be making sure you’re supporting these students now more than ever.
The reason is because the switch to online learning can and will take a toll among students with learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities are those that alter brain functioning in a manner which affects one or more cognitive processes related to learning. Some of the types of learning disabilities are:
- Dyscalculia (affects the ability to understand numbers and learn math facts)
- Dysgraphia (affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills)
- Dyslexia (affects reading and or letter decoding skills)
Other related learning disabilities include ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Executive functioning, and language processing disorders. These learning disabilities can occur in many forms, and it’s up to instructors to support neurodivergent learners. Here are 7 ways to support students with learning disabilities:
1. Caption your video content
Video content will most probably be used frequently, especially now that virtual learning is encouraged. You need to make sure that the video content you will supply to your students is captioned. Captions help students with learning disabilities better understand the subject matter and process daily lessons with ease.
2. Provide transcriptions to your lessons or sessions
After every lesson or session, it’s best to provide your students with transcriptions. Transcriptions can be handy tools in online learning for reference and review, which will help the students learn in their own way and at their own pace. You can use a free transcription service that will help you transcribe audio recordings of your lessons and distribute to your students.
3. Be clear and straightforward with your language
It’s important that you’re clear and straightforward with students with learning disabilities. Don’t be vague, don’t provide confusing instructions, and be specific with everything you tell them. You do not want to confuse them or hinder them from learning or doing an activity properly.
4. Encourage student engagement
Encouraging engagement among all students is also a good practice. Encourage other students to help their classmates in need in reading sessions or activities, establish a buddy system among classes, or more. Each help can go a long way and your students will have the chance to bond and interact.
5. Use clear and effective models or examples
It’s also important to show clear and effective models or examples when giving instructions or discussing a particular lesson. Clear models or examples will help neurodivergent students grasp the lesson or the instruction better. You’ll be helping them understand and process the matter easily.
6. Consider one-on-one help for those who need it
One-on-one help will be extremely beneficial for students with learning disabilities, especially for virtual classes. Take the time to analyze those who are struggling or are a bit behind with the lessons and consider setting up one-on-one sessions with them. This kind of setup might be better and will help them concentrate and learn more.
7. Establish proper communication with parents
Last but not least, having proper communication with parents is a way to support these students. When you have established effective communication with both student and parent, you’ll have a better understanding of their needs and ultimately be able to adjust teaching strategies to suit their way of learning. You’ll also be able to report any concerns, progress and achievements to the parents.
Keep these things in mind the next time you meet with your students to make sure you are doing whatever you can to support them not just when it calls for it, but all year round.