Union University
Union University Center for Faculty Development
Center for Faculty Development

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Teaching & Advising > Teaching Students with Disabilities

Characteristics of Learning Disabilities

Some students with learning disabilities:

  • appear unmotivated

  • process information at a slower rate (auditory and/or visual)

  • have difficulty with spatial concepts and relationships

  • say or do things impulsively and may appear to be rude

  • are disorganized ... lose class-related information and handouts

  • have difficulty in reading comprehension (some are better at inferential comprehension than they are at literal comprehension) or they may understand details but be unable to relate them to the "big picture"

  • have difficulty with the math concepts and the "language of math"

  • have difficulty sequencing the steps of a task ... in math, science labs, constructing a written composition

  • have inconsistent test performance and be unable to repeat a good score

  • need to have tests read to them ... and will need to give oral rather than written answers

  • have excellent listening comprehension, but poor reading comprehension

  • have terrible listening skills and be unable to take useful notes

  • will need a notetaker assigned to them

  • remember by hearing lectures than by taking notes during a lecture

  • will need visual support (handouts, overheads, videos) to help them understand oral presentations ... typical of college lecture formats

  • have difficulty studying for exams ... they may tend to study everything or not enough

  • have difficulty monitoring their own understanding (have poor metacognitive skills)

  • may do extremely well in one class and unexpectedly low in another

  • have difficulty seeing cause-effect relationships or comparison-contrast patters ... and difficulty responding to those items on an exam

  • will need background noise (radio, t.v., etc.) to study effectively

  • will need an absolutely quiet environment to study effectively

  • will have a low level of confidence and poor self-esteem

  • will become the class clown to "mask" their disabilities

  • will become defeated by poor class performance

Some students with learning disabilities will respond to:

  • alternatives to your "standard" expectations ... allowing them some level of creativity (with your blessing) in completing a class project

  • being able to tape your lecture or having another student take notes for them

  • modeling and demonstrating spatial concepts ... being able to use manipulatives or diagrams that represent the content of your lecture

  • having a simplified written or oral explanation of a class assignment

  • ordering recorded materials from the Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic ... this source should be able to provide many commercially-available printed materials in recorded format

  • being counseled privately for comments that are disrespectful to you or students

  • having a folder specifically for the handouts and related materials for your class

  • having concept or vocabulary guides for "heavy content" courses ... history, sciences, religion, literature, etc.

  • having a printed guide to the concepts and language of a math course ... a kind of dictionary or printed summary of important information

  • having a simplified guide to lab experiments, steps in sequencing steps to solve math problems

  • having tests read to them ... responding orally rather than in writing ... converting a multiple choice question to a written answer ("I don't see the answer among the options, but here is the answer to the question.")

  • having your lectures supplemented by overhead transparencies

  • comprehension checks during your lectures

  • recaps during your lectures ... "OK, let's see what we have said up to this point."

  • reading guides that "walk them through" the various parts of a reading assignment ... to check their comprehension after especially complex paragraphs or divisions of chapters

  • need honest encouragement for what they have accomplished ... even if it is just increased effort to attempt a task

  • feedback from you frequently regarding his/her grade and requirements of the course ... feedback should be as specific as possible and provide suggestions for how a student can improve a grade

Note: For explanations regarding any of the above, contact Ralph Leverett in Education, Ext. 5385

"Only the devil has an answer for our moral difficulties, and he says: 'Keep on posing problems, and you will escape the necessity of obedience.' But Jesus is not interested in the young man's problems; he is interested in the young man himself."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer; The Cost of Discipleship