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Accommodating Learning Disabilities and Differences Without Singling Students Out (Guest Post by Edward Stern)

Edward Stern is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and writes for http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/online-schools.

Accommodating different learning disabilities is a regular and occasionally difficult task for all teachers. Each and every student has a different learning style, but some differ more than others. Students with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), dyslexia, or other common learning impediments may not seem outwardly disabled when compared to their peers and do not, in most cases, need to be in a separate classroom, but can be frustrated by these challenges, a frustration that can ultimately destroy their education endeavors.

This frustration with school can also stem from being labeled as different. Learning disabilities are beyond their control, and so it hurts even more when they are singled out by teachers and harshly teased and even bullied by their peers. Labeling students, especially when teachers do so, sets a student apart from a group in an atmosphere where everyone just wants to be a part of the gang. It lowers self-esteem and lowers one’s drive to learn.

To avoid excluding a child because of a learning disability and to avoid any ostracizing from peers, it is important for teachers to not look at a learning disability as such, but as a difference, and to make the other students view it as such as well. To do so, teachers must foster an environment of acceptance, which all teachers strive to do but some overlook the learning style aspect of it.

The best way to lead students to acceptance is through the recognition that learning differences exist and to educate them on these differences. Make students aware that each and every student has a different learning style. A great exercise for proving this is to show a sentence full of facts on the board. Leave it up just long enough for everyone to read it, then erase and have them take an immediate pop quiz to see how much they remembered. Do the same with another sentence, but this time read it aloud. Have each student see which quiz they did better on. Some will find they are visual learners, others auditory. Explain this difference, which proves that everyone learns differently.

By establishing that learning differences exist, students will be more accepting of other students who need to take tests in a separate classroom or who receive extra times on essays—because they need those accommodations because of their unique learning style.

It is important not to make a big deal about how one student needs a quiet space and another needs extra time either. Doing so singles a student out, as does expecting less from a student because of a learning disability. All students want to be treated equally, and so teachers should expect students to maintain the same workload and complete the same assignments, just some at a different pace and under different circumstances than others. One of the worst things a teacher can do for a student’s self esteem is to hold them to a lower standard than his or her peers. Teachers must believe that a student can rise above their learning difference and have the same academic capacity as their peers for the student to believe it himself.

If teachers can foster an inclusive and accepting environment, learning disabilities will be understood and accepted. They don’t have to be a big deal if they aren’t made out to be one. Through education and the recognition that everyone learns differently, teachers can positively handle any learning disabilities in the classroom without singling anybody out.

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Discussion

5 thoughts on “Accommodating Learning Disabilities and Differences Without Singling Students Out (Guest Post by Edward Stern)

  1. Edward – thanks so much for guest-posting!

    What do you think of redesigning schools – their classrooms, class sizes, staffing, schedules, and environments – on a human scale with universal design for learning for all students? How would that impact our notions of special education?

    All the best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | February 1, 2011, 7:35 pm
  2. As a student with a learning disability, I completely agree with this post. When I was growing up it was difficult to talk to my classmates about my learning disability, because no one else was talking about it. I think educating the teachers and the students about different learning styles would have really helped me when I was growing up. Because it almost felt like a secret, when instead it should be discussed openly and proudly. Everyone learns differently, we need to accept and embrace these differences! :)

    Posted by pinky | December 25, 2011, 1:36 am

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