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There are many techniques that can be used, most at all levels, to help the learning-differently student in your classrooms and in your schools.  Some of these are listed below.  Many others can be found in the material in Resources and in the Appendix.

·          If you suspect one of your students might have a problem, check with the administration to see if the student has ever been assessed, and if “yes”, ask to see the results.


·          The administration should see that each teacher concerned is notified of any prior special  needs assessment; this includes coaches and extra-curricular teachers.


·          Match the student to the teacher whenever there is a choice; we learn better from people we like, and we probably like certain teachers because they are teaching us in a manner from which we         can learn; we might have the same learning styles.


·          Sit the student at the front of the class so there are fewer distractions.


·          Exempt the student with linguistic problems from taking more than one language.  While other students are studying a second language, the learning-differently student can be receiving specialized help or taking an advanced class in his or her area of interest.  Exceptions can, of  course, be made if the student has a strong desire to learn another language.


·          In so far as possible, make your presentations multisensory in nature; this will be a great help for your students who learn differently and will not harm the performance of the other students.


·          Give more time for exams.


·          Give oral instead of written exams when indicated. 


·          Permit the use of computers with grammar and spell check to take exams.


·          Allow the use of tape recorders for lectures.


·          Provide calculators for math.


·          Have lecture notes photocopied either by the teacher or a friend who takes good notes.


·          Allow lap top computers to take lecture notes.


·          Permit assistance from an "amanuensis" or scribe during exams ( a person who reads the questions and writes down the dictated answer).


·          Always stress strengths over weaknesses.


·          Be very positive when correcting work; an exercise that is returned covered in red marks is most disheartening.


·          Work together with the parents so homework requirements are realistic and clearly understood.


·          Don't make the child read aloud in class unless he is comfortable doing so.


·          Permit the use of spelling dictionaries and/or hand-held, electronic spell-checkers.


·       Have the exam questions available in audio form so the student can listen to them on a personal listening device while also being able to see them. 


·       Educate all the students about what learning-differently means.  In so learning, they will not only learn why some of their classmates get special dispensations, they will also learn more about themselves.  Some schools offer "Theory of Knowledge" courses which might be a good place to start, or perhaps a special section in the Biology course could deal with differences in perception.


Of course, not all these interventions are appropriate for all students.  But even very young students should be taught the use of assistive technologies as soon as possible.

This is by no means a complete list.  Also recommended is the teacher checklist that can be found on pages 51-53 of Dyslexia: A Teaching Handbook by Thomson & Watkins (see Resources/Books).  To find many more just Google teaching tips for students with learning disabilities.





Practically daily new computer programs are coming on the market designed to help the student who learns differently.  Some are for home use (see Resources) and others are to be used at school with the supervision of a tutor.  The British Dyslexia Association has a computer subcommittee on the use of computers by dyslexic students that puts out a bulletin with reviews of the latest software from the point of view of teachers of dyslexics.

Thomson & Watkins remind us in Dyslexia: A Teaching Handbook that, "What is important is for software, and teaching programs, to be based on sound educational principles. In the case of the dyslexic, this means based on teaching procedures that are used to overcome the dyslexic's difficulties. For example, overlearning and over teaching, structured and systematic teaching, immediate reinforcement and feedback, and multisensory learning." Those who are in the business of developing these types of programs would do well to ask the help of the students themselves.

Many learning-differently students respond well to working and learning with computers because:

·       There is an instant response that can correct or reinforce the right answer so that the right connections get made in the brain; the repetition (or overlearning) is continued until the correct response is learned.

·       The learning is student-led; the student works at his own speed.

·       The student competes against himself rather than others.

·       A computer is non-judgmental.

·       It is predictable; learning-differently students don't like surprises.

·       Computers by their nature are sequential and logical and this helps to reinforce these skills in the user.

·       Computers can be used in any class:

o   to correct grammar and spelling errors in any written work, such as note taking and exams

o   to correct deficiencies in handwriting.

In some countries if the student is properly assessed, they can get grants to help defray the purchase of this equipment, or they might have the equipment loaned to them.


A device put on the market in 2009 by Intel might also be a great benefit to many of our students.  The following description taken from the British Dyslexia Association website ( :


Intel have introduced an innovative product that takes pictures of printed words then reads them back to users. Intel Reader is a handheld device that helps people with Dyslexia read printed text, and is now available in the UK.


Approximately the size of a paperback book, it converts printed text into digital text, using a high-resolution camera allowing users to point, shoot and listen to printed words. Large amounts of text, like a magazine article, can also be stored for reading later.


Intel Reader could transform the lives of people who struggle with reading, including those with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs), partial sightedness or blindness.


Ben Foss, director of access technology at Intel’s Digital Health Group, suffers from Dyslexia and originally came up with the idea because he wanted to help people who have the same reading difficulties as himself.



To view the brochure on this product, go to:






Any teachers who would like to continue, or begin, specialized training in how to teach children who learn differently via distance learning are advised to contact The Hornsby International Center, Correspondence Course Division (see Useful Addresses.)


In addition to actual courses for credit, there are many web sites available to teachers containing current articles, lesson plans, worksheets, and interactive question and answer pages. One such site is ProTeacher ( for K-6 elementary and special education teachers.






I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Richard Lavoie at Riverview School on Cape Cod when he held the position of president of this residential facility for adolescents with special needs.  He holds three degrees in special education and is perhaps best known as the creator of award-winning videos for PBS.  In the course of our conversation I asked him if he thought that dyslexics make good teachers, and he replied, "I actively recruit them."  He went on to explain that dyslexic teachers have a special insight that makes them very effective teachers for learning disabled students.

Recently there was an article in The Times Educational Supplement entitled, "Read this carefully: dyslexia can make you a better teacher":

Every public performer suffers a variation of the same nightmare.  You stand there before a sea of expectant faces but you just cannot deliver.  Louise Anderson . . . says that's how it is when you're a dyslexic teacher and you first get your class list.

"I got this list with all these names," she says.  "And I couldn't read and pronounce them."

It's not that she can't read.  It's just that a page of text is daunting, and something she'd rather tackle in her own time in private.  Now, with confidence in her ability to do her job, she gets one of the pupils to help her - someone who is delighted and empowered by the knowledge that this excellent teacher, capable of the most exquisite work and with a gift of passing it on, has learning problems of her own. [1]


Her colleagues have been a great help.  One teacher, Steve Wells, got her to build up a bank of sentences that would describe her student's attainment.  "I gave her frameworks for writing."

Now in her second year, Anderson continues to be well supported.  For example she's been given voice-recognition software.   "The special needs department have been so supportive . . . last year when I was struggling to write my reports, our special needs coordinator said I should have come to her before."


The striking thing about both these teachers is the empathy they have with children who have differing learning needs. Wells sees it in terms of realizing that children learn in different ways.


You have in front of you lots of children with lots of learning styles. That means you have to teach in different ways.  The less able children are particularly dependent on the kind of teaching they receive.  If the teacher is not sympathetic to their learning needs, they are not going to fulfill their potential.


Anderson, too, talks of trying to present material in a range of ways, "making it easier and accessible, so children are using all their functions and not just sitting and listening.” [2] 


Students Who Learn Differently Overseas

by Susan van Alsenoy, AWC Antwerp


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Page created 10/29/99 EvE. Last updated 03/01/11 SvA


Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas


Copyright 1998-2011.  All rights reserved.                      



[1] Haigh, Gerald. "Read this carefully: dyslexia can make you a better teacher." Times Educational Supplement. January 12, 2001. pp. 6-7.

[2] Ibid.