Once a child has been formally tested and diagnosed with a learning disability, it is imperative for the parent to request accommodations for that child’s specific needs within the classroom. Appropriate accommodations should be written into a student’s IEP. Listed below are some suggested ways to aid students with learning disabilities.
1. Conduct a class review session before the test – Teachers can provide the student with a study guide with key terms and concepts as well as model the answers for the student. Students with learning disabilities need clear and concise directions and want to know exactly what is expected from them. It is beneficial to the student to know ahead of time the purpose of the test. What will the examiner/tester be looking for?
2. Oral testing: Tests can be read out loud to the student or provided pre-recorded on audio version. The student can also be allowed to give the answers orally.
3. Read the instructions for the test out loud: A student with a learning disability often gets nervous and might mix up instructions or take longer to process the directions. Before beginning the exam it would be beneficial to make sure that the student understands what to do on each part of the exam.
4. Unlimited time: Students with learning disabilities may need extra time completing tasks. It takes them a lot longer to read the questions, compose the answer in their head, and get it down on paper. The student can come in before class, return after school or use study periods to finish a test.
5. Fill in the blank test questions: Students with learning disabilities may have a difficult time remembering new words and may be nervous about spelling these words correctly. The vocabulary words can be listed at the top of the exam or a list of possible answers can be printed on the test.
6. Multiple choice questions: The volume of reading required for a multiple choice question test is overwhelming for a student with learning disabilities. If possible this type of testing should be avoided.
7. Essay Questions: The teacher can let the student know the main idea of the question the day before the test. This gives the student an opportunity to begin organizing information for the question at home. The essay portion can be corrected on content and content alone. Spelling errors, grammatical errors and writing mechanics can be ignored.
8. Test Booklets – Students may be permitted to record answers directly into the test booklet instead of recording answers on a separate sheet.
9. Grade on Content – Teachers can ignore spelling mistakes on all types of testing and grade on content only, not mechanics.
The BEST type of testing for a student with a learning disability is to draw a line from the question to the answer.
Weekly Spelling Tests
For those students struggling with spelling, these tests should not be graded. The student can complete their spelling homework and take the test along with the rest of the class but the teacher might want to put either a smiley face or a stamp on the test and leave it ungraded. This way the student is still exposed to the spelling. It also helps the student feel included in the classroom and keeps the self-esteem high.
For students struggling with reading, they should not be forced to read out loud in front of the class. This will cause extreme embarrassment for the student. If this is necessary (class play, skit, etc.) the student should be warned ahead of time and shown exactly which passage they will have to read so that they can practice it ahead of time. If the student raises their hand and wants to read – then of course the student can be given that opportunity.
For students who read below expected levels, audio books, talking books, educational videos and films can help provide the general information that the student is unable to acquire from the textbook.
Teachers can accept dictated homework. On assignments that require a lot of writing (summaries, book reports, essays, projects, etc.) students can dictate and the parents can act as a scribe.
For Students with memory problems or difficulty taking notes, a fellow student might share notes; the student might tape the lesson; or the teacher might provide a copy of the lesson outline.
Teachers can reduce copying by providing information or activities on handouts or worksheets.
The student should be allowed to use any technology tools that the parent is willing to buy to work around their challenge areas.
For students with short-term memory problems (e.g., the student understands math processes, but has short term memory problems that interfere with remembering math facts) a table of facts or a calculator could be provided.
For students whose handwriting is slow, illegible and includes many reversals an audio recorder or a computer with word processing software could be used for written work.
Place the student close to the teacher, whiteboard, or work area and away from distracting sounds, materials, or objects.
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder and Director of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com