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.

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  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.

    • Melissa May says:

      Are the students taken aside to ask what works best for them or is it a private meeting? I wouldn’t want them to feel singled out in class when I ask what works best? Ideas?

  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.

    • Shara Gonzalez says:

      I work in a very different environment, a level four men’s institution. I find your post encouraging and your experience teaching special needs students valued. A great deal of my students have a variety of disabilities. It is imperative that I do not embarrass anybody. That being said, I still try to speak to each student individually, even though everyone can hear, while giving them my complete attention. I find the individual acknowledgement gives the students an understanding that I care about their learning and success in the program and in life. Thank you Calvin you just verified what I’m doing is creating a positive learning environment.

  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

  11. Lori Williams says:

    This article was very helpful. As a new teacher, I also encourage my students to ask questions by explaining that when they ask questions it helps me to be a better teacher. I did find success in working with a student to verbally assess his understanding of some somewhat complex concepts since he was struggling with communicating via writing.

  12. stella bello obyrne says:

    When I was getting my teaching credentials I was asked to go to different classes. I went to a Special need classroom. I was very impress with the teacher. I was asked by the teacher to work with a little girl who has visual problems… These little girl taught me lesson, I still remember her how was happy when she achieved the work at hand…

  13. Clarice Kavanaugh says:

    This information was very helpful-

  14. The information listed in the article is very important to know to be able to implement different strategies with children that need different ways to be supported.

  15. Seyed Saatchi says:

    As a teacher I have the responsibility to teach and help all students in class. Special need students are the ones that are going to be more challenging if new strategies are not used in classroom. Identify the special need students by asking the students in class as a group if anyone has special need while covering the syllabus.
    Get the parents and Staff involved and work closely with them.
    Incorporate more hands on, more group discussions, and movement in class.
    Get students’ feedback regularly.
    Keep a balanced class so all learners’ types are covered. Do not lose others by paying attention to special Ed students needs only.

  16. Elliot Pines says:

    I have had a full career in engineering, and am presently working on entering CTE teaching. This article is excellent, but I did just want to make one general comment where my industry experience is more valuable perhaps than teaching experience would be:

    “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.”

    The point is, this is not just the case with a special needs student–but with all students in the 21st century.

    As food for thought, my experience of many years (and my wife’s whose training is in accounting and has worked with EXCEL in sophisticated manners for decades), may be summed up in one incident. This was already back in the mid-1980s mind you, when the original Apple Macintosh computers were but a couple of years old and calculators weren’t available at the 99 Cents Store.

    I was running late for a meeting and due to some Murphy’s law issues, found myself doing some hand calculation for the meeting and quickly getting them onto overhead plastics. When the first of these went up, my section head stopped me and pointing to my first handwritten calculation he asked, “What is this?” I tried to justify it, and he stopped me dead in my tracks. “I don’t care about your excuses, and I don’t care to verify your answer and if wrong, redo the whole thing because I have no way to check the error. Further, why did you waste my charge number on the time it took to do all of that by hand. So you go back right now and redo this all electronically and then send it to me. And if you ever do something so unprofessional and inefficient like hand arithmetic again, you are fired–do you understand me!”

    I understood loud and clear. I understood too, that the teaching of such things as long division should receive no more emphasis than teaching Roman numerals. [I had been told by one teacher of an article that claims such emphasis on arithmetic is an important fundamental for mental development. On asking for a reference so that I could read this article, he admitted that the article had first been published about one hundred years ago.]

    Do we not need common sense reality checks on automatic methods? Of course–so put the emphasis on quick estimation methods, where it belongs.

    It should be denoted that it took close to 500 years from its introduction to Europe by Fibonacci before Roman numerals, finger methods and abacus finally took a back seat to hand arithmetic. It would be a shame if an outdated, slow and error-prone (ergo quality nightmare) torture for school children that makes them hate math continues, further into this century unabated. I know from personal experience as a parent.

    Do we realize how much real-world useful, interesting math can be taught its place? Might this help America’s lag in scientific and technological leadership?

  17. I believe as a teacher I am responsible for insuring lessons in which all of my students have the opportunity to experience success.

  18. Anny Beck, N.D., Sub Instructor says:

    Excellent comments here.
    I reaize there are those labeled with “special needs”, however, all students, each student, in my opinion, is special and have at least one special need, and that is love. It is my responsibility to find out how I can best serve that student and meet their special needs, through starting first with helping them to feel loved.
    I have also read a book that showed studies showing many children who got their allergies cleared up, also became a much improved learner. The ADD and ASHD improved dramatically, without medications, by clearing up their allergies using a method without drugs. I’ve read about more than one method that show their studies of success.
    Allergies have been proven to have significant relationships to emotional problems, so when the sensitivities got cleared, so did the negative emotions related to it. I find this info. very interesting.
    Also, I have read that EMF’s affect learning. These children who use cell phones without a chip on the phone or computer to prevent the EMF damage affecting their brain, can be affecting their learning abilities. I found out students acutally will sleep with their cell phone under their pillow or by their head.
    Some studies have confirmed multiple vaccines have affected the ability of some students to learn.
    Once the negative side effects are cleared out of the child, the child’s learning ability improves.
    One culprit of learning disabilities are the food colorings and additives in cold cereals and other products. Once the food coloring are removed, the children improved focus, and exhibited balanced emotions.
    There is a doctor in Cerritos,CA. that speicalizes in helping children with learning disorders who has an extremely high success rate. He invented his own program. My nephew went to him, and improved way beyond his parents expectation, graduating from college and became a social worker. There are answers out there. Knowledge doubles every two years. I believe we can find answers if we keep looking, researching & studying ourselves, with the intention of love first.

  19. Josefina Meza says:

    All these are great comments and a great way to motivate us new CTE teachers, I do understand that we definitely need to love special children in order to perform with excellence in the classroom. I would definitely keep in mind the techniques from teacher have done the job and still love what they do.

  20. Sergio Gutierrez says:

    Every lesson I teach is demonstrated in front of the student along with verbal instructions.I teach on a trial and error basis the student repeats each action over and over till learned.The beauty of teaching gardening is it is an entirely hands on process.In my short time in teaching I find this approach to be effective, I find that the students learn so much better this way.

  21. Verlin Richins says:

    I believe that understanding that different students do have different abilities allows me to be flexible in my expectations I have for different students. Letting a student know that I understand he or she has difficulty with certain concepts is okay and to accept that they may not be as strong in some areas as they are in other areas. Accepting this idea takes off the pressure for a student and I can help him or her learn enough to get by and pass the test or class.

  22. I agree that diferent students have different abilities. However, teachers who are professional jobs respect their students and their difference.

  23. It is very good to understand students and teachers’ veiw.

  24. Philip Johnson says:

    While I have had a lot of experience teaching many kinds and levels of content, I have had little experience teaching students with special needs. The tips in this article should prove useful.

  25. Andrew Rubin says:

    As one just starting out in teaching and who plans to teach one specialized class, I doubt that the specifics of the article will apply to my teaching situation; however, the approach using multiple ways to reach a special needs student probably will apply to many of the students whom I will teach.

  26. P. Hilburn says:

    As a substitute teacher, I am heartened by what I see in the K-12 classrooms. The teachers, para-educators, and special education departments are all working together to realize the potential of each student in the program. It isn’t always easy. Some cases are more difficult than others, but what I see gives me hope and encouragement that working together many things are possible.

  27. Michael Hernandez says:

    Great Reading material and very helpful

  28. Teaching in a prison setting will likely provide me with many opportunities to put this information to good use.

  29. Mikeh George says:

    I am a new teacher, I found the article to be very useful. I also appreciated all the comments. Thanks

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