Successful Strategies for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities

Teacher working closely with young studentResearch continues to confirm that we can teach students with learning disabilities to “learn how to learn.” We can put them into a position to compete and hold their own.

Some intervention practices that produce large outcomes are:

  • direct instruction;
  • learning strategy instruction; and
  • using a sequential, simultaneous structured multi-sensory approach.

Teachers who apply those kinds of intervention:

  • break learning into small steps;
  • administer probes;
  • supply regular, quality feedback;
  • use diagrams, graphics and pictures to augment what they say in words;
  • provide ample independent, well-designed intensive practice;
  • model instructional practices that they want students to follow;
  • provide prompts of strategies to use; and
  • engage students in process type questions like “How is the strategy working? Where else might you apply it?”

Scaffolding is also something that seems to make a real difference. Start out with the teacher using heavily mediated instruction, known as explicit instruction, then slowly begin to let the students acquire the skill, moving towards the goal of student mediated instruction.

Success for the student with learning disabilities requires a focus on individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning. This requires specific, directed, individualized, intensive remedial instruction for students who are struggling.

Whether the student is in the general education classroom or learning in a special class setting, focus the activities on assessing individual students to monitor their progress through the curriculum. Concerns for the individual must take precedence over concerns for the group or the curriculum or for the organization and management of the general education classroom content.


  1. Sônia M.R. Simioni says:

    How to be a member? Because I am a researcher and I care for publications related to curriculara adaptation for students with intellectual disability.
    Thank you

  2. LDA of America says:

    Hello and thank you for your question! We’re pleased you’re interested in becoming a member. Please simply go to and scroll to near the bottom of the page to start the online membership application. If you need any help while on that page, simply call our headquarters at the number listed at the bottom of the page (in the green box) and they’ll be happy to help.

    Thank you again for your interest in LDA.

  3. Although the strategies you have listed are helpful and useful for teaching students with a mild disability, I think you should re-check a statement you make in the last paragraph – “Concerns for the individual must take precedence over concerns for the group or the curriculum or for the organization and management of the general education classroom content”. No child should be of more importance than the next, it is the role of a teacher to assume heavy workloads in order to plan and prepare for an equal education experience for all.

    • As a teacher, when I read the article I took it to mean, that teachers should teach with more diversity. We should think of each student when we are planning. When teachers teach to the middle, more students slip through the cracks. An equal education experience doesn’t mean the exact same thing. It means fair. Sometimes being fair is applying a different application for each child. It is a difficult thing to do, but with time it becomes more important. All students are expected to achieve high standards but we all may take a different road to get there. Teachers need to be aware of those differences each child brings into their classroom. Sometimes that means getting to know your students like you never have before. I have had to learn that lesson the hard way. I regret my first year’s of teaching in a lot of ways. But I tried with what I knew. Now I try to make time to learn my students so I can tailor their learning experience in my classroom.

  4. iam interested in taking part in LAD

  5. angella adams says:

    Dear LDA,
    I am a preschool teacher whose working her Master in Special Education. My question is from a step -mom position how can a help my nine year old step son to enjoy reading even when the words are difficult to pronounce and comprehension

    • That is an excellent question. If your nine year old stepson is having difficulty pronouncing words and comprehending, I would orally read to him. All children have a thirst for knowledge and reading and this is one way to accommodate his reading style. By the way, children’s classics today with sophisticated words and beautiful illustrations. Don’t be shy about showing the classics on an earlier level.

      Further, if your stepson is having difficulty with decoding words, I strongly recommend the Barbara Wilson Reading Program. Generally, comprehension is impeded by poor decoding.

      Hope this helps.

  6. Grace Ching says:

    Dear LDA,
    I am from Malaysia. I am a part-time home tuition teacher. I am a with two boys currently aged 10 yrs and 8 yrs.My problem is my younger son. I do not know what is wrong with him.No matter how hard we, parents, of taught him but the results came out disappointing. We have used many types of methods but in vain. The exam results would end 40- 50%. I give him tuition too but it doesn’t help much too.Sometimes, he will keep on laughing even though the matter does not seem funny. This makes him lose his focus fast.I need some guidance methods to teach him to the right direction. Kindly help with thanks.


  7. RAHEEM KABIRU says:

    I’ m an educational researcher from
    Nigeria. Is there a general consensus as regards which model to stick to in defining the term ‘ learning disability’ ?(between discrepancy and RI Models)

  8. RAHEEM KABIRU says:

    As far as I’m concerned, LD should come up only after all the neceseary apparatus and measures have failed to solve a particular learning problem and the step to take is just to focus on the area such an individual can excel

  9. Kristy Chung says:

    I have a question. My cousin is a 4th grader now, but he can’t keep up with the class. This is because when he was younger, he couldn’t go to school, but now that he can, he is in 4th grade, where he doesn’t really understand a thing. Even if you try to tutor or teach him, he gets it on that day, but the next day, he claims that he forgot. What could help him?

    • With a child that “forgets easily ” – repetition and breaking concepts down into smaller parts helps…making sure each part is in the simplest language possible. Have your cousin repeat back what you are studying while making “flash cards” or “cue cards” to remind him/her the next day what he/she studied. This could be an acronym or one word on the card that will spark a memory of what you studied…just make sure to study that acronym or word before.
      Hope these few things help

  10. Hi. I’m reading about Marzano and the studies about Tier 1,2,3 vocabulary etc., the positive effects on children’s acquisition of language/vocabulary/word use, as well as increased test scores… And I’ve found the more probing I do…the less positive feedback I’m finding on his experience with children with severe LD. I work with this population of students and the demands to meet APPR are the same as every other teacher in the state. I don’t take tests into account when I assess my students’ progress or lack thereof, however I’m looking for specific strategies beyond what I’m implementing to try with this population, which I so desperately want to see surpass and succeed!!!

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