Knowing which teaching methods for students with learning disabilities are appropriate to use varies as much as the individual students themselves. Learning disabilities affect how individuals perceive, process, store, retrieve or express incoming or outgoing information. These types of cognitive issues may impede the ability to learn efficiently in one or more ways, resulting in :
- Auditory processing disorders that affect the discrimination of non-verbal and verbal sounds making it hard to follow auditory cues and instruction.
- Language processing disorders that affect the processing and interpretation of meaningful speech and impact reading and writing development.
- Non-verbal disorders that affect understanding of body language and facial clues which contribute to appropriate social interactions.
- Visual perceptual or motor problems that affects how a person sees or produces information and can impede writing, copying, drawing and coordination skills.
- Dyscalculia, dyslexia or dysgraphia, which affect how a person processes, comprehends and expresses math, reading or writing concepts.
Regardless of what type of learning disabilities a student may exhibit, however, cutting-edge teaching methods for students with learning disabilities remain grounded in traditional approaches while incorporating modern treatments and therapies. Here are some examples.
Experiential Learning and Scaffolding
Researchers have long known that methods using meaningful experiences improve comprehension in students of all ages. Experiential learning uses visual, auditory and hands-on approaches, with self-directed student participation, to enhance comprehension and reinforce content. Today, teachers combine this traditional approach with scaffolding, which breaks concepts into structured steps that can be modeled. Teachers can then guide students to master content more easily while supporting independent learning skills. As a result of these combined approaches, students benefit from active engagement in the learning process, process content more efficiently, and are more likely to increase their comprehension and retention of target material.
Direct Instruction and Scripts
Unlike experiential learning and scaffolding approaches, where teachers guide students through self-paced activities, direct instruction uses scripts to explicitly teach concepts through structured routines in group or individual settings. Used correctly, these methods provide fast-paced, interactive lessons that engage students in the learning process. As a long-established teaching methodology, direct instruction adapts beautifully to new ways of use when combined with the use of scripts. Together, these approaches help to develop automatic recall skills, acting as cues for students to remember previously learned information.
The importance of technology that assists students to access content more easily cannot be overstated. Established technology includes a wide variety of tools, including: calculators, note-taking or voice-recognition programs, screen reading software and digital organizers. Added to these are today’s modern applications that provide students with independent learning opportunities as part of daily learning routines. Apps get high marks from teachers as motivating, technological tools that engage students to independently practice math, writing, reading, study skills, memory strategies, organization, note-taking or handwriting by strengthening speed, accuracy, automatic recall and critical thinking skills.
Students with learning disabilities can be successful learners when they identify their learning strengths and the strategies that work best for them to comprehend and retain information. To that end, teachers must assess individual learning styles and provide the appropriate instructional approaches that can maximize each student’s learning potential. By incorporating new instructional approaches with traditional teaching methods for students with learning disabilities, learning success for every child is possible.