Specific Learning Disabilities – Differences with Students

As a teacher, trying to understand and implement strategies for a student on an IEP(Individualized Education Plan) indicating the child has a specific learning disability (SLD) is like reading an essay written in a foreign language.  This is one of the catch-all terms for students who have learning disabilities that can affect their ability to listen, think, read, write, spell, and complete mathematical questions.  The wide variety of issues a student may have under the umbrella term of SLD makes it difficult to determine the correct classroom strategies that should be implemented.  Sometimes the IEP is helpful in providing goals and strategies that the student should aim to achieve.  This information can provide insight as to where the student struggles and what strategies should be implemented.  Unfortunately, on some IEPs, the information is very vague and it will take time to determine strategies to help the student to be academically successful.


Many students who are classified as having a SLD have dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia.  Dyslexia makes it difficult for a student to read, dysgraphia makes it difficult for a student to write, and dyscalculia makes it difficult for students to compute math problems.  Many times, these issues are compounded with other disabilities including ADD or ADHD.

One resource that can help a teacher with students who are diagnosed with SLD would be the Learning Disability Association of America site.  On this site, there is a specific section for teachers.  This page provides information and articles about LD, ADHD, social aspects of the disability, and reading strategies for the classroom.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities also has a page on their site directly for teachers.  This site provides information to support effective teaching strategies, monitoring the progress of the students, and Universal Design for Learning.  All three of these sections contain supporting articles written about the hot topics in teaching students with learning disabilities.  One article I found interesting was about how tweens with learning disabilities have a difficult time mastering the challenge curriculum where higher-order processing skills needed.  This article breaks down a study that was completed on this topic, and includes the teaching techniques and strategies as well as outlining the findings.  The recommendations  provided were to break down the steps of the tasks the students must complete, provide repetition, small group instruction, modeling when appropriate, and providing multiple exposures to the material (drill, repeat, practice, repeat, review).  The articles provided on this website offer a depth of research-based materials for implementation into many different special education classroom settings.

The website Great Schools has an interesting article about assistive technology for students with Learning Disabilities.  They suggest the implementation of simple technology such as online learning programs like Learning Today or the use of an electronic dictionary to help a student with spelling.  For all of the technologies that they list as good tools for students with learning disabilities, there is a link to another short article describing the tool and the classroom uses.

All of these resources can help teachers to implement strategies for success with students with specific learning disabilities.  Understanding the deficit and then providing the student with the tools they need to be successful will make the school year gains increase for the student.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By woodleywonderworks

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