How can we better accommodate students with learning disabilities?
You’re sitting at the very front of a classroom surrounded by your peers. Your educator is speaking a mile a minute. To you, the slides feel as though they are moving at the speed of light. You are struggling to comprehend everything but everyone else is fine. This may be exactly what your children feel like in their classrooms daily.
Although society has made immense progress when it comes to accommodating students with learning disabilities, we still have a very long way to go. Thousands of students around the world with LD are still not being helped properly. However, everyone can help these students inside or outside of the classroom. I sat down with The Mount’s very own Head of Disability Services, Margaret Kemp to talk about all things learning disability.
Before we learn how to better accommodate students with LD we need to know what it is like to walk in their shoes. First and foremost, a day in the life of a student with LD is full of plenty of anxieties. According to Kemp, “Students with learning disabilities often have to spend more time doing their work or studying to compensate for their disability.” These students often have to juggle way more than just their work. Kemp says, students “have to account for utilizing their accommodations during their day like remembering to tape record a lecture or schedule an exam with Disability Services.”
All of this works hand in hand with any added stress that a student may feel because of their LD. That sure is a lot for one student to handle. However, parents and teachers alike can help alleviate some of this pressure in these few steps:
Throw away misconceptions
Unfortunately, like any sort of disability, LD comes with misconceptions and stigma. A lot of people immediately jump to conclusions about students with LD, especially if the student’s LD is not obvious to the naked eye. Teachers and parents might assume that their student is lazy or disruptive. In worse cases surrounding people may presume that the student is unintelligent. This could not be further from the truth. People may also believe that LD is the same for every individual. However, Kemp notes that “there are different kinds of learning disabilities and different ways they affect students.” Kemp explains that because of these misconceptions and judgments, “students feel a sense of stigma attached to their LD.” This feeling of stigma can cause students to be closed off and feel embarrassed. Kemp said that sometimes “students feel uncomfortable disclosing their disability or sometimes even using their accommodations” due to this stigma.
Acknowledge their struggle
Students with LD have plenty of struggles that they have to overcome. However, one of these students' major struggles is the sheer amount of work they have to put into school. Kemp says, “I think the biggest struggle for students with learning disabilities is sometimes having to put in a lot more effort than students without disabilities.” Just acknowledging the fact that these students struggle in a different way than other students is a step in the right direction.
Positively encouraging our students can go an incredibly long way. This practice of building students up sets them up for future success in school or otherwise. Kemp says that “By being negative, we are harming their determination to do well.”
Listen, Learn, and Teach
Lastly, it is incredibly important for professors and parents to simply listen and learn from their students. Learning is a two-way street. The best way to integrate our students with LD is to listen to what they say is best for them. If you are confused about something regarding your student’s LD just ask them. Kemp says that “just by listening and asking questions, we can help students be successful.” Now you understand your students, you may be able to teach them some incredibly valuable lessons that they can actively use outside of the classroom. Kemp says that one of these important lessons is self-advocacy. She states that if “we can teach students with disabilities to be their advocates and it can help them in so many ways.”