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Learning Disabilities

Coping at SchoolTips And Tricks That Work

We call our ideas tips and tricks, but the word educators use is “accommodations.” Accommodations allow students with learning disabilities to get around, or to accommodate, problems by building on their strengths.

Think of accommodations this way: If you want to enter a door that is locked, you can bang and bang on the door and hope that it will pop open sooner or later. Or you can try to find a key to open it. For students with LD, trying to find the right key makes the most sense.

There are three types of accommodations. These deal with how information is presented and tested, what materials are used, and how the class is grouped. Many of the accommodations use technology such as computers and tape recorders, which helps the student make up for the lack of some skill or ability.

Many of the accommodations below can be used by all students, not only those with learning disabilities. Whether you have a mild or severe learning disability or have no trouble in school, you may find some ideas that will help you learn better and more easily. Note: The school may allow a student with an IEP to use only some of them, like dictating a test into a tape recorder. Get permission from your teacher before you try these strategies in class.

How Information Is Presented and Tested

Students with a learning disability usually do better:

  • In classes with teachers who provide high structure and give clear directions about what they expect the student to do.
  • In classes where teachers use short sentences and a simpler vocabulary, speak more slowly, and repeat important facts.
  • If they take notes on what the teacher says. Some teachers will also allow extra help, such as using a tape recorder for note-taking, copies of notes from a student who takes good notes, or copies of the teacher's notes.
  • If they use a tape recorder or computer for class assignments, including test-taking.
  • If they are given special test-taking accommodations, such as taking an untimed test, testing orally, dictating answers to a person or a tape recorder, or taking the test on a computer.
  • If they are allowed to use taped books for some classes. The Library of Congress provides a special tape recorder and taped books. Many schools and libraries also have a variety of books on tape.

What Materials Are Used

Students with a learning disability usually do better:

  • If they get organized. Each student needs to find his or her best way to organize time, schoolwork, and personal stuff. A student may need help in finding a way to organize that works best for him or her.
  • If they keep a calendar. They don't rely on memory if remembering is hard for them.
  • If they use a homework sheet with space for tomorrow's assignments and long-term projects.
  • If they use some trick to remember books and materials that will be needed. One example is jotting down the books and materials needed for homework on a note on the homework sheet.
  • If they find books that cover the same concepts but are easier to read. If the teacher cannot help find those materials, the school librarian or the children's librarian at the public library can.
  • If they try to find other media that present the information needed. These include filmstrips, videos, movies, and audio tapes.
  • If they draw pictures and make notes to aid memory. For example, when studying colonial times, draw a log cabin and write important dates on each log.
  • If they use concrete materials, such as pie-shaped pieces for learning fractions or raised letters for learning the alphabet and numbers.

How the Class Is Grouped

Students with a learning disability usually do better:

  • If they ask the teacher if they can buddy up with someone. For example, a report on World War II may require interviewing and writing a paper about someone who was in the war. If the student with LD is good at setting up a tape recorder and asking questions, he or she can volunteer to do the interview. The buddy can write the report and print it out.
  • If they don't pick friends as their buddies but choose people who have strengths in areas different from theirs.
  • If they don't just ride along on their buddy's work but do their share of the work.
  • If they tell the teacher they want to work alone, if that's how they work best.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaLearning DisabilitiesLearning Disabilities - Coping at School - Tips And Tricks That Work, General Problems At School