Teachers who work with kids who have special needs know that it can be overwhelming, especially as you try to meet a child’s particular needs. A good understanding of the child’s disability can enable you to find practical solutions to address the specific challenges that arise.
Here’s a list of the most common learning disabilities in the United States, along with tips for teaching special needs kids.
What Are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disabilities affect not only academic achievement and progress in children, but also their self-esteem. The discrepancies that exist between a child’s potential for learning and what he or she actually learns result in an uneven pattern of development. Kids with learning disabilities often have difficulty learning basic skills. They struggle with reading, writing, or math, and are often overwhelmed or frustrated by organizational tasks. There may be memory or attention deficits. Teachers often need to find alternative ways of supporting these children’s efforts. Many special needs/inclusion resources are available.
Most Common Learning Disabilities in the United States
According to the National Institutes of Health, 15% of the U.S. population (one in seven Americans) suffers from some type of learning disability. Here are some of the most common learning disabilities:
Dyslexia is commonly referred to as a reading disability or reading disorder. It’s a language-based disability that causes a person to have difficulty understanding written words. It may also affect writing, spelling, and speaking.
Students with dyscalculia find it hard to solve arithmetic problems and grasp math concepts. This student may struggle with comprehension of math symbols, organizing numbers, or telling time.
People with dysgraphia struggle to form letters or complete writing tasks within a specific time frame. This learning disability directly affects a student’s ability to perform the many skills needed for written expression.
Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders
Despite having normal vision and hearing, a person with an auditory or visual processing disorder will find it difficult to understand written or spoken language.
Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
Nonverbal learning disabilities are neurological disorders that affect the right hemisphere of the brain. This type of disability causes problems with intuitive, organizational, evaluative, visual-spatial, and holistic processing functions. These students often have trouble understanding body language and other social cues.
Symptoms and Signs of Learning Disabilities
The first and most important step in helping a child with a learning disability is acknowledging that it exists. Teachers have a better chance of helping children manage their learning challenges if they are diagnosed at an early age. Various signs and symptoms can help you determine whether a child has a learning disability. Helpguide.org lists the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities based on communicate more clearly with parents regarding a student’s learning disability.
The Learning Disabilities Association of America shares simple but valuable advice for teachers working with a child with a learning disability:
- Break learning tasks into smaller, more manageable steps
- Supply detailed feedback to students regularly
- Use diagrams, graphics, and pictures to complement your spoken explanations
- Ask students process-type questions like, “How is this strategy working? How else might you apply it?”
Realizing that your student has a learning disability will assist you in helping him to succeed. By proactively addressing the challenges, you can begin to find solutions that will help you support the student educationally and emotionally in school. Many tools and special needs/inclusion resources are available to help you in your journey. Be sure to reach out to other professionals who are engaged in similar endeavors, as they can be great sources of knowledge.