Learning Disabilities

Helping a student living with or left by a chemically dependent parent
Each week you can:

  • Help the student know he/she is not alone.
  • Help your student develop a healthy personal outlook, and deal with his/her feelings.
  • Teach him/her to recognize options when problems arise.
  • Provide alternative ways to respond to life in chemically dependent families.
  • Teach your student to recognize his/her powerlessness over other people's behavior.
  • Teach decision-making skills so he/she recognizes options to coping with stress.
  • Help build self-esteem, and increase personal awareness.
  • Build a sense of trust in adults by being a consistent role model.
  • Encourage your student to go to Alateen--a safe place to share with others in similar situations.

Helping a student with learning disabilities
Sometimes a learning style is so noticeably different that it regularly interferes with your student's learning. These tips about learning disabilities may also help you organize your thinking about your student's problems.

What are learning disabilities?
There are at least 12 prevailing definitions and multiple disciplines (audiology, neurology, etc) involved. The commonly accepted factors are:

  • Difficulties with academic achievement and progress;
  • Discrepancies between learning potential and what one actually learns; and
  • Uneven patterns of language, physical growth and academic development.

What are some early warning signs?
Problems with school work can involve delays, disorders, and deviations in listening and speaking; difficulty with reading, writing and spelling; difficulty in organizing thoughts (reasoning); difficulty in remembering information and instructions; difficulty in performing arithmetic operations.

Some symptoms commonly tied to learning disabilities are:

  • Difficulty with concepts of time
  • Distorted concept of body image
  • Reversals in writing and reading
  • Poor visual-motor coordination
  • Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
  • Difficulty copying models accurately
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Frequent confusion over instructions
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Difficulty with abstract reasoning
  • Difficulty discriminating sizes/shapes
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Frequent obsession with one topic/idea
  • Over-excitability during group play
  • Poor short-term or long-term memory
  • Poor social judgment
  • Behavior inappropriate for situation
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Lack of preference for right or left hand
  • Poor adjustment to environment
  • Excessive variation in mood
  • Distractibility; difficulty concentrating
  • Lags in developmental milestones
  • Gullibility; easily led by peers
  • Failure to see consequences of actions
  • Inappropriate displays of affection

Here's a checklist of behaviors that may indicate your student has learning disabilities:

  • Demonstrates marked difficulty in reading, spelling or using numerical concepts.
  • Has poorly formed handwriting. Has difficulty with certain letters. Spaces words unevenly.
  • Has trouble listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time.
  • Is easily distracted by background noise or visual stimulation.
  • Has trouble following directions; may need instructions repeated.
  • Exhibits severe difficulty in sticking to simple schedules; repeatedly forgets or loses things.
  • Omits or adds words when reading aloud.
  • Seems disorganized in space. Confuses up and down, right and left; gets lost in buildings.
  • Seems disoriented in time. Is often late or unable to finish assignments in the standard time.
  • Shows excessive anxiety, anger or depression because of the difficulty in coping.
  • Misinterprets subtleties in language, tone of voice or social situations.

What causes learning disabilities?
Often we don't ever know, but these may be factors:

  • Maturational lag: some children develop more slowly.
  • Nervous system dysfunction: some with normal vision/hearing may misinterpret what they see/hear.
  • In utero and early childhood injuries, premature birth, other medical problems in infancy.
  • Genetic background.
  • Gender: learning disabilities seem more common in boys, possibly due to slower maturation.

Does my student have to just suffer with his/her learning disability?
Absolutely not! There are many strategies that can help students with these needs. Once you have more detailed information, we can help you figure out how to find resources to help. Your student may profit from anything from glasses to a special school to graph paper.

Helping a student find his/her learning style
You may have already learned that your student gains and retains information more successfully in some ways than others. Those ways can be used to the student's advantage. Some of these helpful tips will seem obvious to you. That's because you have incorporated them into your style. Many students haven't reached that point.

  • Visual learners: Make mind pictures using your ability to see and imagine. Write down words and make short outlines of topics to study. Make lists, write notes, write down assignments. Have a notepad and pencil with you.
  • Auditory learners: Listen carefully to oral instructions and information. Sit near the front of the room so others won't distract you. Keep your eyes on the teacher. Clear your desk of all books and papers if you tend to tune out and play with things. Repeat important information silently to yourself. Make up rhyming jingles to remember important information.
  • Kinesthetic-tactile learners: Manipulate and handle materials. Remember to wait until directions are given before you start a project. Try to work in different areas of a classroom. Volunteer for class activities that involve movement and activity.
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