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.

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  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

    • Lakendria terry says:

      My child has a ld and im trying to seek good learning skills to put her up to speed

      • My child was diagnosed with autism, adhd, and hearing problems. I can honestly say its all about having patients and repetition. Lots of repetition. About fifth grade is when we hit our turning point. Before then his reading and writing was almost non-existent. Glad to say a short four years later he is doing amazing with no support system in place. He is doing so great that in 9th grade he is in the International Bachlorate Program taking AP, IB, and Honors classes.
        The thing is parents need to realize its not all about the teacher but us as parents. Parents need to work just as hard as teachers do when it comes to their child’s success. When a child is getting educational support and push from both teachers and parents they will succeed.

  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.

      • Thusoetsile Michael Mafule says:

        Hello! I am Michael Mafule a college lecturer at Tlokweng College of Education. Botswana primary school classrooms as all other classrooms internationally have a significant number of learners with general learning disabilities and often teachers find it very difficult to assist these learners. What will be your advice as regard to this matter?

        Let me say that I find the discussions here highly insightfull and would like to join as a member to … How do I go about it.

    • I just copied the exact paragraph into an email for my son’s teacher… With all due respect I believe you’re taking it out of context. The paragraph has nothing at all to do with the importance of a student. It has to do with the simple fact that all children learn differently and since we’re speaking about children with disabilities (mild? or strong?) they learn differently. So when you talk about “equal education experience for all”, that’s not possible. If a teacher gave all the students an “equal education experience” children with learning disabilities would get left behind sitting dazed and confused wondering what just happened. Those students and student with Straight A’s or a photographic memory will never have an “equal education experience”. Speaking particularly for my son, he can’t be taught the same curriculum or content that the others have in his general education classroom. And that is where his rights are, to be in that classroom with everyone else. So I think what it’s basically saying is that teacher’s needs to be flexible with lesson plans, daily schedules or content if need be, so students with learning disabilities do receive and “equal opportunity to learn”. When my son came home from school yesterday, (he’s in 5th grade) the first thing he said was he wanted me to email his teacher… Let’s just say she called him out, embarrassing him in front of the other students while he sat there and struggled not knowing what to do because he’s on a different level and did not know how to do what she asked him. He was laughed at and it hurt him and that’s not acceptable. No child should have to experience that. My son already has academic challenges I’m not going to allow his teacher too add emotional challenges.

      • michelle irusan says:

        Hi my name is Michelle Irusan I’m from South Africa, and i just read your article. I am sorry for what your child had to go through, but your love and support will be his strength. Focus on his strengths and capabilities and teach him how to be assertive, and stand up for his rights. Introduce waterfall sounds when he meditates and let his daily mantra be on ALL his attributes. Stick it up in various colors on his room wall have him repeat it EVERYDAY and that will drown out the negative words insecure people will say.

    • When reading the last statement of this article I can understand how someone might misinterpret the context and miss what is really being said. My solution is to simply research equity and equality in education, and they we all might be able to better understand the true meaning of the statements. There is a fine line between the two but a line has been drawn and as a teacher sometimes there are instances were we have to give extra help or resources to some students over others to help them to learn at the same abilities as the rest. That is why we also have to teach our students about equity and equality and what the differences are. I.t is easy to get offended at the idea that one student is treated different from another student, especially if you have your own children in these classrooms, but we have to understand that everyone learns differently and some need an extra hand to succeed in the same ways as their classmates.

  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!!!

  11. Elisabeth Mullins says:

    How do I cite this source? I do not see an author?

  12. sangavi baskar says:

    Hlw this is sangavi baskar from India…I am a pg student whocis doing project under special education especially learning we teach English for them…how to stimulate their cognitive ability…that’s wat my research…pls give SME suggestions to me and contact me with my mail id… Anyone giveany iinnovative ideas…I surely acknowledge u…

  13. Well done for this information which I found very helpfully. Can you please guide me how best to choose a tutor for my home schooling SPD..sensory processing dysfunction teenager ? I need a tutor to prepare my son for his O’level exams. Thankyou

  14. hi
    my daughter is having learning disabilities and find it very difficult to read and to overcome this problem

    p asokan
    chennai india.

    • LDA of America says:


      Take a look at our section for parents ( There’s a variety of information that may help you determine if she might have a learning disability. There are also articles on this page that help with tips and tricks for helping your child as well as advocating for them in school and other situations.

  15. chrisshawn shelby says:

    HI my name is Chrisshawn Shelby and im a student at Mclain High school and I plan to go to college so that I teach kids with learning disabilities, and make a difference in their lives is there any volunteering I can do near by me?

  16. KIPA ROBIN says:

    Hi, am a student of B.Ed special . I want to how we can treat/teach students in classroom at secondary level of education for students who have learning disabilities?

  17. Hi, how do I cite this source? I do not see an author or date.

    • Laura, you can cite the source as the Learning Disabilities Association of America using the website address. Hope that helps.

      • Tamilvanan says:

        hi, i am Tamilvanan working as a special educator, how to handle learning disability students in the inclusive setup

  18. Waiswa Paul says:

    am waiswa Paul an occupational therapist at st. Catherine’s hospital in Kampala Uganda kindly request to learn from you more about managing and teaching children with learning disabilities.

  19. Soobaseenee Jory says:

    I am Priya a Mauritian primary school teacher. I try my best to cater to each and every child of my class but I must say that it is very difficult.I teach a class of 38 pupils with different level of learning abilities. I have problems with about 8 pupils. They cannot follow the class as the other pupils. I encourage them to participate in the class especially during the oral part but for the written part it`s very difficult.Even if I try very hard I cannot give them the individual attention that they need to progress and I feel guilty and helpless. I have read that you said that we should not concentrate on the curriculum but that is not possible with 30 other pupils who can follow, even the supervisor says that I should work for the majority. As far as the parents are concerned they are not even aware that their children have a problem. So what to do?

  20. I would appreciate any suggestions on writing programs that could help children with low muscle tone learn to write better, retain how to draw letters and help in memory in general but specifically how to remember how to draw letters.
    I appreciate the suggestion for the reading program posted above -Barbara Wilson Reading program. I am looking forward to finding out more about it and trying it out.
    I have two children with DS and they are both eager to learn and enjoy learning. Currently we do repetition, cue cards and loads of tracing and cue points on paper. I am struggling with retention of how to draw letters.

  21. N.Sankari says:

    Hi my nephew Rohan is 12 yrs old,he is knowledgeable but finds very difficult to frame sentences, ultimately the answer ends meaningless.He is diagnosed as ADHD with LD.
    In what way I can help him in studies? Is there any suggestions?

  22. Dr Muhammad Nasir says:

    Thanks for such help. I learnt somewhat on teaching special students.

  23. I am also a mother to a son with learning difficulties. It gives me great pleasure to learn that there is a chance to assist our children to become more productive adults and to participate in the mainstream economy.

  24. Vanessa Finkley says:

    Hi I’m a mom of a 6 year old 1st grader she has had problems since kindergarten with her phonics, and blending sounds.She can’t pass standardized test they labelled her Ld and wanted her in a special ed class,I feel the teacher let her sit in class and not finished work just to push her aside,and this teacher also had 3 other teacher kids in her class so it was no slowing down for her.Please let me know what I could do as a mom she’s going to the 2nd grade but I don’t think she’s ready.

    • LDA of America says:

      You child is very lucky to have a parent, like yourself, that cares about the success of their education. To continue to advocate for your child there a few things that you might want to do to address their struggle with phonics and the blending of sounds. 1. Collaborate with your school and express your concerns about the phonics and blending struggles your daughter is experiencing by contacting the teacher, the school counselor, psychologist or social worker, the principal and/or the school study team. 2. By working with your daughter’s school staff a plan can be created and put in place to help with the phonics and blending struggles. Sometimes this can be accomplished without a formal Individual Education Plan (IEP), however, if you feel that you would like an assessment done please express that need to the individuals you are connecting with so an IEP can be initiated. 3. Go to your district website to find out if there is a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that you can get in touch with and/or become involved in. 4. Take a few minutes to check out the following website and peruse the section on “Parent Support”.


  1. […] “Successful Strategies for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities,” the Learning Disabilities Association of America suggested that teachers provide learning […]

  2. […] who have learning disabilities require a different approach, a different amount of attention, and sometimes, a different method to learn. With the amount of […]

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