Students with specific learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence but may have difficulties acquiring and demonstrating knowledge and understanding. This results in a lack of achievement for age and ability level, and a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual abilities.
According to the National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities, learning disabilities are a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. The specific causes of learning disabilities are not clearly understood, however, these disorders are presumably related to central nervous system dysfunction. The effects of a learning disability are manifested differently for each individual and can range from mild to severe. Learning disabilities may also be present with other disabilities such as mobility or sensory impairments. Often people with Attention Deficit Disorder also have learning disabilities. Specific types of learning disabilities include:
For a student with a learning disability, auditory, visual, or tactile information can become jumbled at any point during transmission, receipt, processing, and/or re-transmission. For example, it may take longer for some students who have learning disabilities to process written information. Lengthy reading or writing assignments and tests may therefore, be difficult to complete in a standard amount of time. This may be due to difficulty discriminating numerals or letters because they appear jumbled or reversed. Inconsistencies between knowledge and test scores are also common.
Some students who have learning disabilities may be able to organize and communicate their thoughts in a one-to-one conversation but find it difficult to articulate the same ideas in a noisy classroom. Other students may experience difficulties with specific processes or subject areas such as calculating mathematics problems, reading, or understanding language. People with learning disabilities may have difficulty spelling and subsequently have difficulty creating or editing text or otherwise communicating in writing. Difficulties with attention, organization, time management, and prioritizing tasks are also common.
Examples of accommodations for students who have learning disabilities include:
Computers can be adapted to assist students with learning disabilities. A student with learning disabilities might find these accommodations useful:
For math and science classes, examples of specific accommodations that are useful for students with learning disabilities include:
Check Your Understanding
Imagine that a student with Dyslexia who has difficulty reading enrolls in your course that has a large reading load. What accommodations might be effective to help this student complete reading assignments? Choose a response.
Accommodation needs of students with learning disabilities vary greatly by individual and by academic activity. Specific academic activities that may pose challenges and suggested accommodations in each area can be found in the following areas resources:
Further information on accommodating students with learning disabilities can be found in the DO-IT publication Academic Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities.