As teachers of learning disabled students, we are constantly in search of that one modality we can best plug-in to. Some students are auditory learners…others, tactile, while some are visual learners. The challenge is to find the best approach in identifying that strength, then finding many ways to tap into it.

Visual learning is often the strength behind the success of the learning disabled student. Using photography as a tool to enhance this strength is a wonderful way to captivate and motivate these students. Photography is a universal language. Students naturally and honestly communicate with photographs. They don’t know the rules, and in this case, not knowing the rules is a good thing. When you or I shoot a photo, we first check to ensure the sun is behind us and not in front of our lens. We then ask our subject to avoid standing in front of any brightly-lit areas to avoid underexposure. When we have multiple subjects, we ask them to rearrange themselves in such a way that is cosmetically pleasing to our eye. The final request is to ask them to look at the camera, smile and call out diary products. All of this takes precedence over the language of photography. This is simply not true with learning disabled students, because they don’t know the rules. They take it as they see it. This concept really speaks for children in general.

My youngest son, Casey, was on his way to preschool one morning. It was my job to get him there. He announced, “Daddy, I want all my friends at school to know who my Daddy is.” I was pleased to know that I was finally allowed to escort Mr. Independent to his classroom…that is until he informed me he would simply take my picture. I handed him the Polaroid camera. He snapped a single shot and promptly placed it in his shirt pocket. On the way to school, he removed the photo from his pocket, smiled and exclaimed, “Hey, Daddy look! My picture turned out perfect!” Upon my examination, I was surprised to find a photo taken of me from the belt buckle on down. Now, being the encouraging father, I complimented him on a job well done. On the drive home, I was thinking that if I had taken that very photo, I would have disposed of it and retaken the photo. After all, I cut off the most important feature of my subject. And yet, Casey felt it was “perfect.” Why? Because he only stood as tall as my belt buckle, therefore unless he looked up or I squatted down, the from my belt buckle on down is “Daddy.”

Learn to appreciate the natural honesty that comes from a child’s photographic communication. You just might learn something you might otherwise have missed.

- Timothy Gangwer

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