Teaching Students With Learning Disorders

Millions of students throughout the world have learning disorders. Research shows that 8 to 10 percent of American children under 18 years of age have some type of learning disability.

Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention. Although learning disabilities occur in very young children, the disorders are usually not recognized until the child reaches school age (Article, ninds.nih.gov, 2019).

There are quite a few treatments and approaches that teachers and educational institutions can implement to not only accommodate students with learning challenges, but can help those students thrive in the classroom.

Types Of Learning Disabilities

Below are a list of different areas that students may struggle with in the classroom:


  • Confusion of similar words, difficulty using phonics, problems reading multisyllabic words
  • Slow reading rate and/or difficulty adjusting speed to the nature of the reading task
  • Difficulty with comprehension and retention of material that is read, but not with material presented orally


  • Difficulty with sentence structure, poor grammar, omitted words
  • Frequent spelling errors, inconsistent spelling, letter reversal
  • Difficulty copying from board or overhead
  • Poorly formed letters, difficulty with spacing, capitals, and punctuation
  • Difficulty expressing themselves clearly and precisely

Oral Language

  • Difficulty processing information presented orally, despite normal hearing
  • Difficulty attending to spoken language, inconsistent concentration
  • Difficulty expressing ideas orally although the student seems to understand the ideas
  • Problems describing events or stories in proper sequence
  • Residual problems with grammar, difficulty with inflectional or derivational ending


  • Difficulty memorizing basic facts
  • Confusion or reversal of numbers, number sequence, or operational symbols
  • Difficulty copying problems, aligning columns
  • Difficulty reading or comprehending word problems
  • Problems with reasoning and abstract concepts

Study Skills

  • Poor organization and time management
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty taking notes
  • Poor organization of notes and other written materials
  • Needs more time to complete assignments
  • A general lack of ability to develop strategies

Social Skills

  • Difficulty “reading” facial expressions, body language
  • Problems interpreting subtle messages such as sarcasm
  • Confusion in spatial orientation, getting lost easily, difficulty following direction.
  • Disorientation in time, difficulty telling time
  • Strategies for Students with Learning Disabilities

(From: College Students with Learning Disabilities: A Student’s Perspective, Carol Wren & Laura Segal, DePaul University, Chicago, IL. ws.edu. Accessed January 17, 2022.)

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Common Treatments

The most common treatment for learning disabilities is special education. Specially trained educators may perform a diagnostic educational evaluation assessing the child’s academic and intellectual potential and level of academic performance. Once the evaluation is complete, the basic approach is to teach learning skills by building on the child’s abilities and strengths while correcting and compensating for disabilities and weaknesses. Other professionals such as speech and language therapists also may be involved. Some medications may be effective in helping the child learn by enhancing attention and concentration. Psychological therapies may also be used (ninds.nih.gov, 2019).

Teaching Students With Learning Disorders

1. Break learning into small steps

Often also referred to as “chunking”, this strategy involves breaking down complex information into smaller and simpler parts that are easy for the brain to digest. Chunking is said to relieve the cognitive load on the brain and engage short-term memory in a more efficient manner. Chunking works with any text and subject. You can chunk information by ideas, paragraphs or keywords. You can even chunk your lesson into a list of learning objectives or goals, writing these on the whiteboard so that the students can follow your line of progress.

2. Visual aids

Visual aids are invaluable in teaching all students, especially those struggling with a learning difficulty. The human brain can process images faster and better than it can words. Words are abstract in nature, making them difficult to process, especially for children with learning difficulties. Using images, educational films and other visual aids such as diagrams and charts during lessons can help students build a direct correlation between words and their meanings – making learning much easier and faster.

3. Use multiple reinforcements tools

Repetition and revision are key to learning. But repetition can be boring, and focus is often a struggle for children with learning difficulties. That’s where multiple reinforcement tools can help – using different formats to teach the same concept. Generally, the more versatile the mediums are, the better: make them visual, aural and sensory, if possible. For example, for a lesson on how plants transport food, start with an attention-grabbing activity like changing the color of a flower. This will engage students and connect theory to practical knowledge. Follow this with a lesson on food and water transport in plants, supported with colorful images and engaging visuals. To reinforce the knowledge learned, set a quiz or revise the topic with a film.

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4. Build on previous lessons

A simple but efficient way of revising or making it easier to learn a new topic. You can review the previous, related lesson, or you can teach something new by connecting it to a previously taught topic and building up the new activity around it. For example, if students already know what plants need to grow, you can work towards a new lesson on tropism.

5. Memory techniques

Revision reinforces lessons taught in class, but students may still benefit from learning certain memory techniques to help them remember how one chunk of information relates to another. Mnemonics, mind maps and even simple diagrams can go a long way towards helping children understand and remember information easily. Mnemonics or special phrases have long been used by teachers to help students remember difficult concepts. The mnemonic LAWN, for example, can help students remember that all plants need four things to survive: Light, Air, Water and Nutrients. Mind maps and pie charts represent written information in a more visual format, making information like statistics and proportions easier to remember.

(TwigEducation.com. Accessed January 17, 2022.)

McCartney’s Classroom Solutions

As a retailer of the latest educational technologies and furniture, McCartney’s has become a regional thought leader for classroom solutions. Students that suffer from learning disabilities can benefit immensely from our educational solutions that help teachers and school administrators implement school-wide teaching strategies.For a free consultation, please call us at (814) 944-8139 to learn how McCartney’s can help educational institutions boost their students’ quality of learning!

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