The objective of this article is to point out some guidelines for effectively dealing with children with learning disabilities.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: Children with learning disabilities may be very bright. The idea is to locate the the place of the disability or disabilities and work around these. They need to be thought of as normal and capable but with temporary and remediable impediments to learning. The impediments are temporary as expert help is sought. Alternative methods to providing learning can be used and some are described here.
Parents should read to learning disabled children and talk to them. engage in activities with them, and otherwise help them understand and keep up with their world while they are learning to do for themselves. A good language foundation is critical for these children. This needs to begin at birth whether children are found to be learning disabled later or not. Such a start may prevent later problems.
Remember that many learning disabled children need calm, “structured” environments. Schedule activities such as eating, sleeping, and playing at the same time daily. In school, such a child is likely to do better in small groups. Try to have him seated in a spot that minimizes distractions. Some children exhibit little or no sense of space or direction. Teachers have found that these children do better if their desk space is marked off on the floor. The markings help the child understand where he belongs and ultimately help with learning the meaning of left,right, back, and front.
Seriously affected children may need to attend a class or school where they are not overstimulated. Your school system will know about special classes and schools. If not, get in touch with the Association for Children With Learning Disabilities. There are affiliates in every state and the Internet can help you locate your local chapter.
When addressing children with learning disabilities, keep directions short and simple. Give them in small steps. “First we will do this, and then we will do that.” You can gradually move up to not more than two to three steps at a time.
Don’t insist on entering children in first grade unless they are ready. or unless the school offers special training. One example of lack of readiness is children who show no interest in activities built around symbols such as words and pictures.
Children in general and these children especially, need praise and reward. These children need it after every success, even if it has taken six months to write one letter correctly.
For a child who progresses slowly, provide evidence that he is progressing. For example, keep work that your child brings home in a folder to show the progress.
Many teachers and parents use tape recorders to help children who can say what they want to write but can’t write it. Have the child put onto tape what he wants to write. It should be short in the beginning. Then the child listens to the tape to see if it sounds the way he wants. Last, he copies it on paper. Correct the copy for spelling and syntax. Then have the child make a final copy by writing or typing.
Don’t nag a child to do better in school than is possible. Recognize that learning disabled children can’t be helped by telling them to pay attention or by punishment. Such tactics are damaging. These children need much stamina just to approach learning. They need to find successes to move them forward. Otherwise, they may lose confidence and any interest in learning.
When a child seems depressed or otherwise deeply affected by his school experiences, consult a specialist in learning disabilities who can deal with the emotional side of thins as well. This will help not only the child but the parents as well.
Be frank and encouraging when affected children ask questions about themselves. As children grow into adolescence, it is vital for these kids to hear from many sources that they are very bright and simply need more time to learn than some other children. They need to hear that they will make it in the world. These children need much information about themselves and to hear it often. Such a child may still feel dumb but he will know that he is not retarded or brain damaged, or whatever else he may dread.
Remember that there is now a federal law that requires the detection and education of exceptional children. This includes learning disabled youngsters.One of these requirements is consultation involving parents, school authorities, and specialists for the purpose of drawing up an individualized education plan for each child.