Learning disabilities affect the manner in which individuals with average or above average intelligence receive, process, retain and/or express information. A learning disability is NOT to be confused with generalized low ability. Learning disabilities are invisible, but may affect a student's performance in reading, writing, spoken language, mathematics, orientation in space and time and/or organization. The areas of difficulty will vary from one student to another.
Course Work Organization
According to the Title 5 regulations which govern the California Community Colleges, the definition of a learning disability is as follows:
Learning disability in California Community College adults is a persistent condition of presumed neurological dysfunction which may also exist with other disabling conditions. This dysfunction continues despite instruction in standard classroom situations. Learning disabled adults, a heterogeneous group, have these common attributes:
- average to above average intellectual ability;
- severe processing deficit;
- severe aptitude-achievement discrepancy(ies); and
- measured achievement in an instructional or employment setting.
- Confusion of similar words, difficulty using phonics, problems reading multi-syllable words
- Difficulty finding important points or main ideas
- Slow reading rate and/or difficulty adjusting speed to the nature of the reading task
- Difficulty with comprehension and retention of material that is read, but not with materials presented orally
- Difficulty with sentence structure, poor grammar, omitted words
- Frequent spelling errors, inconsistent spelling, letter reversals
- Difficulty copying from chalkboard
- Poorly formed handwriting - may print instead of using script; write with inconsistent slant; have difficulty with certain letters, space words unevenly
- Compositions lacking organization and development of ideas
- Has trouble listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time
- Is easily distracted by background noise or visual stimulation, unable to pay attention; may appear to be hurried in one-to-one meetings
- Problems describing events or stories in proper sequence;
- Problems with grammar;
- Using a similar sounding word in place of the appropriate one.
- Difficulty memorizing basic facts
- Confusion or reversal of numbers, number sequences or symbols
- Difficulty copying problems, aligning columns
- Difficulty reading or comprehending word problems
- Problems with reasoning and abstract concepts
- Exhibits an inability to stick to simple schedules, repeatedly forgets things, loses or leaves possessions, and generally seems "personally disorganized."
- Difficulty following directions
- Poor organization and time management
- Problems interpreting subtle messages, such as sarcasm or humor;
- Seems disorganized in space - confuses up and down, right and left, gets lost in buildings, is disoriented when familiar environment is rearranged;
- Seems disoriented in time, i.e. is often late to class, unusually early for appointments or unable to finish assignments in the standard time period;
- Displays excessive anxiety, anger, or depression because of the inability to cope with school or social situations.
Suggestions for Helping Students with Learning Disabilities
(and ALL Students) to Succeed in the Classroom
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Course Work Organization
Reviews and Previews:
- It is extremely helpful if the instructor briefly reviews the major points of the previous lecture or class and highlights main points to be covered that day.
- Try to present reviews and previews both visually and orally
- Use study aids such as study questions for exams or pretests with immediate feedback before the final exam.
- Students with learning disabilities learn more readily if material is presented in as many modalities as possible (seeing, speaking, touching).
- Help the student visualize the material. Visual aids can include overhead projectors, films, carousel slide projectors, chalkboards, flip charts, computer graphics, and illustrations of written text.
- Use color. For instance, in teaching respiration technology, everything related to the body's respiratory system might be highlighted in green and the digestive system in orange.
- In complex mathematical sequences, use color to follow transformations and to highlight relationships.
Hands on Learning:
- Provide opportunities for touching and handling materials that relate to ideas. Cutting and pasting parts of compositions to achieve logical plotting of thoughts is one possibility.
- Whenever possible, announcements should be in oral and written form. This is especially true of changes in assignments or exams.
- An instructor who speaks at an even speed, emphasizing important points with pauses, gestures, and other body language, helps students follow classroom presentations.
- Try not to lecture while facing the chalkboard.
- This is important in maintaining attention and encouraging participation.
Demonstration and Role Play:
- These activities can make ideas come alive and are particularly helpful to the student who has to move around in order to learn.
Administer a learning style inventory to the entire class. Access the "DVC Learning Style Survey" on the DVC Website.