Learning Disabilities: Teaching Tips
A Learning Disability (LD) sensitive teaching style can help make lectures more accessible for all students regardless of their disabilities. The following guidelines are suggestions that other teachers have found helpful in educating students with learning disabilities. These guidelines are not meant to be applied as hard and fast rules, but should be thought about and incorporated into lectures in your own way. Different strategies work for different teachers, and ultimately only you will know which ones are most appropriate for your courses. Just keeping LD students in mind can make a big difference.
- At the beginning of a course, invite students with learning disabilities to meet with you outside of class to identify themselves. This helps promote understanding, dialogue, and can help make LD students feel welcomed. Many students are very private about their disabilities, so do not ask students to self-disclose in or immediately after class.
- Make sure to get course syllabi posted on the web as soon as possible. This allows students to order audiotapes of the reading material in advance. It will also allow students to gauge the amount of reading and writing that they will have to do in your course which can help them better balance their course load for the semester. Try to avoid last minute changes in course materials (especially textbooks), since it may mean that some students will not be able to get their books on tape until after the semester has started.
- At the beginning of a course, explain your course expectations and grading system. Give due dates for any large projects. This will help students with their long range planning. Many LD students also find it helpful if there is a regular schedule for smaller assignments.
- Explain the structure of your lecture at the beginning of the class period. Outlining the lecture will help students fit the various points of the lecture into a larger framework. Summarizing the important points at the end of class helps, too.
- Give students a way to refer back to important definitions that were introduced during the lecture by keeping them on the blackboard or distributing handouts at the beginning of class.
- Explain concepts in multiple ways. Some students learn best by seeing examples. Other students may learn best by constructing an idea piece by piece. Still others grasp things by understanding a concept as a whole, i.e. the gestalt. Also, try to use verbal, written, and graphical descriptions whenever possible.
- Make sure to call attention to new assignments, and give them both orally and in writing.
- If you have an LD student in your class who is struggling, ask what you could do to help. A lot of innovative teaching techniques are developed this way. Also remind the student of all the numerous campus resources.