Whether you’re a teacher who is new to helping students with learning disabilities or you’ve been teaching those students for a number of years, it can never hurt to expand your field of expertise and explore new ways to help all of your students reach the heights of their learning potential. While some students may struggle with similar issues or have learning disabilities that coincide with one another, everyone has their own accessibility needs — even those with the same learning disabilities.
Even if you’re working with students who have similar needs, it’s important to remember that everyone is different, and just like neurotypical students, they each have their own unique educational journey. As a teacher, you are in a unique position to serve and guide that educational journey for each student. While any teaching situation has the opportunity to become overwhelming — especially when dealing with a variety of students with different needs — learning to work with your students’ needs is a hallmark of teaching. So, if you’re teaching students with learning disabilities, here are a few ways to better the experience for everyone involved.
Connect With The Student
Whether you have one student with a learning disability or many, teaching is — first and foremost — about the connection with the student. While understanding their disability is important, understanding your students will undoubtedly take you further.
Use the IEP!
An IEP — also known as an Individualized Education Plan — is a plan used to document and track the progress of a student who might need specialized instruction or support. Relying on the IEP and using it in your classroom can be essential in understanding the unique needs of any individual student.
This can be a valuable approach to your relationship with any student, but it can be especially important when students have learning challenges. Keep being patient, and continue to communicate gently.
Involve the Parents
This one can sometimes be difficult, especially if you happen to be dealing with uninvolved parents or resistant parents, but children tend to thrive much more when they have help both at home and in the classroom.
Establish Boundaries — For Both of You
Boundaries are important no matter your situation, so it stands to reason that setting boundaries can help both you and your students. While helping students understand their learning process can be highly beneficial, you also need to allow them to work independently and understand space.
Use a Schedule
Most people thrive on a schedule of some kind, and kids especially tend to work well on set schedules. Having a schedule — even if it is a flexible schedule — can lead students to working in a comfortable environment and routine that enables them to learn and process information much better than they otherwise would.
Teach to Their Strengths
Every student has their strengths, even those with learning disabilities and challenges. When you teach to a student’s strengths, it can open up an entire world of possibilities for helping students develop unique skills, and feeling more confident in themselves overall.
Remember That Learning Can Be Fun
Again, this is a tip that works no matter what kinds of students you’re teaching, but finding the fun in learning can be a transformative tool for igniting a passion for learning in your students.
Work On Communication
Communication skills can be challenging for kids as they grow, but especially when it comes to disability accommodations and requirements, the ability to communicate needs effectively can be a highly necessary skill to have.
Believe in Them
Some teachers have no problem believing in their students and communicating that to them, but some need a reminder every once in a while. Every student has the potential to grow and improve when given the chance, and you can be a part of that transformation if you believe in them and show them that actively.
Work With Their Learning Styles
Just like neurotypical students, students with disabilities can fall into different learning style categories. From auditory learning to visual learning — and any other learning style or combination — students tend to make better progress when teachers maintain an awareness of their learning styles and keep them in mind when teaching.
Not all teachers like to offer choices in their classrooms, but offering choices can be especially helpful when guiding students with ADHD and other attention-related learning disabilities. You can try it out and see how well it works in your classroom.
Teaching Students With Learning Disabilities
Each student has their own needs, requirements and challenges when it comes to learning, and you can make your classroom a place where students feel comfortable and progress in their learning much faster and further than you might expect. Whether you have one student with a learning disability, or a classroom filled with them, you can be a great teacher for any student who needs you.