Accommodations, Techniques and Aids For Learning

Teacher reading with student on floor matWhile the majority of a student’s program should be as closely aligned with the general education curriculum as possible, some accommodations and modifications may be necessary. Listed below are some suggested ways to aid students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) learn more effectively at home or at school. Selection from these and other possibilities must be based on the individual needs of each child.

Information and ideas from a multidisciplinary team, including the parents and student, are important for developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that meets the unique needs of each student with learning disabilities. A carefully developed multidisciplinary approach will make classroom instruction meaningful for students.

    1. For some students who read slowly or with difficulty, a “read-along” technique may be used with taped texts and materials to allow learning of printed materials.
    2. For students with memory problems or difficulty taking notes, a fellow student might share notes; the student might tape the lesson; or the teacher might provide a copy of the lesson outline.
    3. For students who read below expected levels, educational videos and films or talking books can provide the general information that cannot be acquired from the printed page.
    4. For students with short term memory problems (e.g., understand math processes, but have short term memory problems that interfere with remembering math facts), a table of facts or a calculator could be provided.
    5. For students whose handwriting is slow, illegible or includes many reversed letters, a cassette recorder or a computer with word processing software could be used for written work or tests.
    6. For students who have difficulty with spelling, a “misspeller’s dictionary” or computerized spell checker can help make written materials readable.
    7. For students who have difficulty reading cursive, small, or crowded print, typed handouts, large print, or double spaced materials can help.
    8. To develop memory and listening skills, poetry, rhymes, songs, audio-taped materials and mnemonics may improve performance.
    9. To teach spelling, the teacher might use a multi-sensory approach that combines saying, spelling aloud, and writing words.
    10. Ways to improve vocabulary and comprehension can include a student-developed file of vocabulary words and the use of word webs and visual organizers to relate words and ideas heard or read on paper. A dictionary or thesaurus, suited to the child’s learning level, is also an excellent tool for building vocabulary, spelling and reading comprehension.
    11. For students who have difficulty organizing time, materials and information, a variety of approaches can be used, including:
      • a quiet, uncluttered homework space
      • alarm watch
      • purchased texts that can be marked with a highlighter
      • a homework assignment diary coordinated between home and school
      • study skills instruction
      • a personally-developed date-book or scheduler
    12. For students who copy inaccurately, but need written practice to solidify learning, changes that may help include: leaving a space directly under each word, phrase or sentence, or having handouts on the desk for those who can’t copy from the blackboard or take dictation accurately. For left-handed students, place the list of words at the right margin. For students whose writing is large, provide enlarged spaces for “fill in the blank” activities.
    13. For students who seem to process auditory information slowly (e.g., not fully understanding questions asked, recalling needed information, or forming an appropriate answer), be patient. Allow sufficient “wait-time for the answer or provide the questions in written form.
    14. Oral and written language should be taught together as much as possible. Illustrations in a book being read should be used to generate conversation, vocabulary and concepts that will relate to what is to be read. Material that is read can be translated into a verbal summary, a word web, a visual organizer, or a computer presentation.
    15. Students who find reading slow and difficult may benefit from supplementing the subject matter being read with video tapes, DVDs, captioned TV programs, or computer software.

More on Reading

Since reading is central to learning, children who do not learn to read by the second grade are likely to struggle with learning throughout their lives. Reading assessment should include skill levels in decoding, fluency and comprehension.

As children learn to read, they learn how spoken and written language relate to each other. Thus, the components of a reading program must also relate to one another, engage all children and meet their individual needs. Reading activities may include:

  • Listening to good stories and books, appropriate to the child’s age, read aloud daily
  • Language games that encourage identification of rhyming words and creation of rhymes
  • Instruction and practice in phonemic awareness, alphabetic knowledge, alphabetic principles, decoding strategies, vocabulary acquisition, fluency and comprehension
  • Additional reading instruction in a small group or tutoring setting
  • Before/after school and summer school classes

Teaching Mathematics

Theories on mathematics disabilities view spatial visualization and verbal skills as critical. These two skill areas are important for anyone learning mathematics, but are especially important for students with learning disabilities. These areas should be heavily emphasized in the teaching and remediation of mathematical concepts and skills.

An individualized education program in mathematics would concentrate on developing concepts and skills within such strands as: numeration, geometry, measurement, collection and interpretation of data, estimation/mental computations, patterns and relations and word problems/applications. Concepts are best introduced with “hands-on” concrete materials. Knowing one-digit facts is important, but work with paper and pencil algorithms should not be emphasized, since calculations can be done with calculators if memory or sequencing is a problem.

Estimation strategies are often taught as mental computations skills are developed. Students should be encouraged to draw illustrations and representations whenever possible. They should consistently discuss, read and write as they solve more complex computational and word problems. For students with learning disabilities, confidence in the practical applications of mathematics to everyday life is also very important.


  1. Allan Saviskas says:

    I have worked for over 10 years with students with learning and emotional disabilities. Often the emotional aspects interfere with learning strategies. As an emotional crisis fades, the techniques become useful.

    • Sharon Hampel says:

      As a teacher, student, and parent, I believe that disabled students are no more emotional than others. Rather, they are just more discouraged than are the more able students. In general, encouragement (in its real meaning “strengthening the heart”) should be at the heart of every classroom interaction. Without real respect and encouragement, every student, whatever his or her abilities, responds emotionally.

      • rob patten says:

        I totally agree with you, in my experience if you can give the time to engage on an individual basis it is often the case that emotional frustrations disappear in direct relation to their level of engagement. Not always easy, but worth the effort in the long run as it gradually changes a reluctance to participate for fear of failure into an eagerness to try new ideas or skills. Plenty of encouragement and praise maintains the impetus.

  2. Patrick Mitchell says:

    I enjoyed accessing all of this information. I have a son with learning disabilities and now better understand how his teachers are approaching his education. I will enjoy putting it to work in my classroom.

  3. Thomas Washington says:

    I enjoyed reading the comments, however I would like to add most people don’t give the student labeled disabled full credit that of understanding from the onset. I think as we work with disabled student and develop a relationship of trust they seem to do better in their learning process. Through positive reinforcement we treat them no differently than the other students; we can see their advancement in their learning experience.

    • Encouraging those students and making them feel that it is OK to be wrong at times, stimulating their interest towards learning and performing better and better – all that is a very important part of the teaching process; constant feedback and scaffolding your special needs students in climbing up the learning curve should not be forgotten . And, as a teacher, you will feel so much rewarded seeing your students progress and smiles on their faces when they say ” I got it!”.

  4. richard velarde says:

    I enjoyed reading the comments and accessing all the information given. Encouragement and praise go such a long way.

  5. richard velarde says:

    I believe students with special needs obviously also need extra attention and patience ,proper learning strategies and techniques make such a big difference.

  6. Calvin Kidd says:

    I have worked with deaf students for more than twenty five years from Pre-K through age 21. Some of my students where Special Needs having varying added disabilities such as Autism, CP and host of other learning disabilities. What I found to was my patience with them, encouragement and praise along with being clear and consistent. I must say 90% of the time they become a willing participant in learning which led to improvement in what ever subject that was being taught . When you help someone feel good about their self it builds their self esteem. An important element to being successful in life.

    • I agree with you Calvin. Patience and Positive Reinforcement are essential in helping struggling students to build their self esteem and confidence. Giving clear expectations with achievable goals for student success and acknowledging each success keeps students motivated.

  7. Marcia Holtz says:

    I have several students who struggle with reading, and I really like the idea of using visual aids as representations of some of the concepts. I will incorporate this into my classroom environment.

  8. Orlando Villagran says:

    This Module has many useful resources. This reinforces what we instinctively know: each of us has a unique gift and skill set. Giving students alternative modes of access to learning can aid in discovering their strengths and open paths to greater academic advancement.

  9. derrick Spears says:

    I have posted on my door of my classroom Buzz words for my students to key on and I always use a situation that will be job related to those words and the job tasks.

  10. vincent gomez says:

    this module was very informative to everyone working with a wide range of students. i have students that love all visual auditory and hands on. that i believe is what works for my classes

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