Learning Disability Characteristics
The following is a list of behavior components often noted in students with a learning disability:
• Has good and bad days and struggles to sit still.
• Doesn't always consider consequences before acting - impulsive.
• Often has a short fuse or low frustration level
• Difficulty finishing assignments and is often a result of being easily distracted
• Can be fidgety and often needs to tap fingers, feet, twiddle pencils etc.
• Mind wanders a lot and tends to have mood swings
• Can exhibit negativistic or oppositional behavior
• Doesn't follow rules and makes fun of others, exhibits mood swings
• Difficult time minding his/her own business
• Often is disorganized, loses things etc.
Assessing Students with Learning Disabilities
Assessing students with learning disabilities can be a challenge. However, we must remember that assessing is providing the child with an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, skill and understanding. For most learning disabled students, last on the list should be a 'pencil/paper' task. Below are a list of strategies that support and enhance assessment of learning disabled students.
• A presentation is a verbal demonstration of skill/knowledge and understanding. The child describes, shows and offers to answer questions about his/her task. Presentation can also take the form of discussion, debate or purely question/response. Some children will need to speak in a small group or in a one to one setting as LD students are often intimidated in this setting. However, with ongoing opportunities, they will begin to shine.
• A conference is a one to one between the teacher an the student. The teacher will prompt and cue the student to determine the level of understanding and knowledge. Again this takes the pressure away from written tasks. The conference should be somewhat informal to put the student at ease. The focus should be on the student sharing ideas, reasoning or explaining a concept. This is an extremely useful form of formative assessment.
• An interview helps a teacher to clarify the level of understanding for a specific purpose, activity or learning concept. A teacher would generally have questions in mind to ask the student to resond to. Very insightful method but this can be time consuming.
• Observing a student in the learning environment is a very powerful method to assess. It can also be the vehicle for the teacher to change or enhance a specific teaching strategy. Observation can be done in small group setting while the child is engaged in learning tasks. Things to look for include: does the child persist? give up easily? have a plan in place? look for assistance? try alternate strategies? become impatient? look for patterns? Teachers need to be prepared for what they are specifically looking for in an observational setting.
• A performance task is a learning task that the child will do while the teacher assesses his/her performance. For instance: you might want to check some math problem solving by asking if 6 people fit in one car, how many cars will be needed to transport 42 people? During the task, the teacher could be looking for attitudes, skill, ability and evidence of risk-taking.
• We always want our students/children to be able to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. Self-assessment will lead the student to a better sense of understanding of his/her own learning. The student may need some guiding questions.....'What did I do well on....... how can I improve upon.....where was my biggest strength/weakness?
There are a plethora of assessment strategies, I've merely focused on the ones that support the learning disabled student.
Homework Tips for the Learning Disabled
It is as traditional as apple pie, parents assisting children with homework as part of the evening routine in many North American homes. Many will agree to the fond memories of homework sessions, positive memories of homework being done independently while mom or dad added enriching information or clarification of a misunderstood question or point. The parent of a learning disabled child can turn homework sessions into fond memories too, follow these successful tips and make homework manageable in your family routine.
Establish the Environment;It is important that all family members agree to the importance of homework. Establish rules for reducing distractions, no friends over, tv and stereo turned off or volume is low, no video games, limit telephone calls. Limited distractions provides and mood and environment for learning.
Agree on who will assist with the homework;Your mood can reflect on your approach and patience with your child. Not everyone has the required ability to be patient, fair, flexible or objective everyday. It is best to decide prior to the homework session, who is going to assist. If it is a single parent home, perhaps enlisting the aid of an older sibling or tutor to assist on designated days.
Establish a routine and set goals; Designate a homework area and time, this establishes routine for the LD child and reduces poor organization and procrastination habits. Identify what parts of the assignment the child can do independently and what will require assistance. You as a parent know your child's tolerance levels better than anyone, set sessions goals according to what you know your child can handle.
Start sessions with success;You have already determined what part of the assignment the child can do independently, so start there. This gives the child the confidence to tackle the more challenging task of the assignment. Next step is to tackle the parts where something is known, if your child can do single digit addition but struggles with then go back and review how single digit addition relates to double digit addition. It is important to reinforce relationships between tasks to help the student generalize what they just learned.
Accept all responses as effort;The LD child isn't any different from any other child. A long day at school, what they had to eat, not enough sleep, not feeling well can influence performance levels. Accommodations like reading the assignment to the child or working the problem out together is a more productive approach with the LD child. Being creative in altering the usual assignments is far more conductive approach to homework completion than disciplining the child.
Be careful how you say it;All too often we say thinks to our children in hopes of making them feel better about themselves, but sometimes what we say can shift the task at hand to the child's self worth. "Your just like me, I can't spell very well either" or "How do expect to go to the next grade if you don't know how to multiply?" These are parental fears and are very normal, but voicing them during homework sessions does not encourage successful completion of assignments. Try saying things like "I know it was difficult but you stuck to this assignment very well, I'm proud of you." This type of comment doesn't imply that the child knows that material or can complete assignment independently but they do point out the child's strengths and that is encouraging.
The above tips are not solely intended for the LD child, but for all children and parents who are looking for assistance with homework assignments.