What LD families need from teachers and schools
Monday, May 15, 2017
Teaching and parenting students with learning difficulties is extremely complex and sometimes very frustrating for all parties concerned.
For the students, the challenge is not to lose confidence in their abilities to learn successfully. The parents and teachers, meanwhile, struggle with the issue of knowing how to give help the "Goldilocks" way — not too little, not too much, but just right.
In my experience, the most efficacious path to guiding these students to more consistent learning success is to help them acknowledge and use learning strategies that are most likely to help create outcomes that are highly likely to be successful.
Success is often contagious in the mind of the learner, unless the failures have become so deeply ingrained that the student acts to sabotage her own success. This sometimes occurs because there is some fear of achieving success, since it has been such a rare occurrence in the student's experience
For example, some students never seem to be able to successfully memorize their multiplication facts. Yet they and their families doggedly continue using this method as homework, not being aware of a quote credited by some to Albert Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results!"
The obvious thing to do, instead, is empower students to know there are learning methods that can be successful for them in almost any area of learning — if they only find the one that is right for them. In the case of the multiplication facts, one has only to go to YouTube, find a video about "Finger Multiplication" and prepare to become fluent in less than a week.
Following are some ideas about what to teach students who struggle with many different subject areas. Find the idea that work best for the student you have in mind who never seems to improve with certain learning tasks.
1. Assume the student will be highly successful if the tasks require visual, tactile and/or kinesthetic input. Avoid tasks that require careful listening. People who are not auditory learners are not less intelligent than people who do learn by listening. They are, to a great extent, simply less lucky since so many school tasks they have been given require excellent listening skills.
2. Always be sure the learner has had access to the whole concept in a meaningful manner before expecting him to learn any parts in isolation. Therefore, rote learning is generally unsuccessful because there is no "big idea" for a student's mind to use to relate the skills to something that is meaningful to the student. The whole may be presented as an interesting video, as a mind map or other graphic organizer and/or by actually experiencing the targeted concepts as an interest-generating experience.
3. Always try to tie the student's areas of interest to the target skills or content. You may think you have no control over this element, but a student who gets to write a business letter to a company to complain about an unsatisfactory product or service is much more likely to be willing to learn to write that letter if he is also expected to send it to that same company.
4. Connect the student with whatever technology may be useful to expedite learning. One has to only consult the internet and search with the adjective "free" before naming the desired resource to find some helpful resources. Be sure to talk to your school's technology expert and see how that person can help with your search.
5. Include movement as often as possible. Allow student to listen to soothing music with headphones while he is encountering challenging learning tasks (no words, just music).
6. Be sure the student is not hungry, angry or tired without trying to connect him with allowable snacks, a cooling-off period with soothing music or even an short catnap during class.
If your reaction at this point is thinking that you will never be allowed to offer these options in your school, let me ask you scroll back up to read aloud Einstein's definition of "insanity."
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