Learning disorders or disabilities are congenital abnormalities that are neurological in nature and presentation. They manifest in a person's life as impairments of their ability to assimilate, process, and produce information using one or all of their senses (Dyslexia Association of Ireland, 8). These impaired co-ordinations are what have been termed as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia based on the area of the brain where information transmission is affected. A person with a learning disability can be properly managed and given educational skills needed for a fulfilling life (Dyslexia Association of Ireland, 4). According to the Foundation for People with Disabilities, Most peoples learning disability occurs from birth or childhood illness and the effects are lifelong. It is important that people find the right, personalised support to lead a full and interesting life and have the same opportunities as everyone else (Dyslexia Association of Ireland, 7). It means that it is possible to live successfully with the appropriate help and support. This paper looks at the symptoms of dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia with the management strategies for the teachers.
Often, disabilities are interlinked one showing in the other through certain symptoms. Dyslexia is basically the inability of a person to learn the basics of reading. It is categorized symptomatically from preschool, high school, and adult life. As a learning disability it has the mild, moderate, and severe forms. The symptoms include delayed speech, difficulty with pronunciation of rhyming words, learning shapes, colours, writing names, struggling to tell a story in the order in which it was told, regular confusion with certain letters of the alphabet and writing words backwards. Additionally, persons with this disability have challenges with grammar, such as prefixes and suffixes and thus they avoid reading books especially in class. Major spelling mistakes in assignments are a normal occurrence as well as challenges with learning foreign languages.
The management strategies of dyslexia begin with identification, consultation with parents, understanding, and a well structured multi-sensory teaching program tailored to the need of the child. According to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland If left undetected, dyslexia may stop a student from mastering the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, damage self esteem and self confidence and have negative long term effects. If dyslexia is identified and appropriate intervention put in place, students can be enabled to achieve their potential (Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 20). Therefore the teacher is to encourage the student to use logic instead of learning by rote, use small unit material, allow the use of laptops or computer, alternate form of a book report, provide copies of lecture notes to students, use books with large prints, use books on tape, and a multi-sensory approach. In addition to all this, a comfortable environment should be maintained. The student should not be asked to read aloud in class for the sake of confidence and self esteem.
Dysgraphia is a condition where a student is faced with the inability to write properly because of motor skills dysfunction. This expresses as symptoms in illegible printing and cursive writing, inconsistencies with the upper and lower cases, irregular arrangement of letters, unfinished words and letters with omissions and inconsistent spacing of words and letters (U.S Department of Education, 10). Students exhibit strong writs position, body or paper position, has difficulty pre-visualizing letter formation, slow in writing and copying, poor spatial planning on paper, has difficulty thinking and writing at the same time, shows a firm and unusual grip of pen and sometimes complains of a sore hand.
The strategies to manage dysgraphia are almost similar to dyslexia except that they are directed in these cases to the specific needs of the child. According to Learning Disabilities Association of America, Success for the student with learning disability requires a focus on individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning (Learning Disabilities Association of America, 8) The teacher is required to suggest the use of a word processor in learning, avoid chastising the student, use oral examinations, allow the use of tape recording for lectures, allow the use of a note taker in class, provide notes or outlines to avoid too much writing for the student (Learning Disabilities Association of America, 6). Also, the teacher should reduce copying aspect of class work, allow use of wide rule and graph paper, suggest use of pencil grips and/ or specially designed writing aids, and provide alternatives to written assignments (Learning Disabilities Association of America, 8).
Dyscalculia as a learning disability is the condition where a student shows impairment in solving simple and basic arithmetic problems. They lack the ability to do calculations. The symptoms include the following: Difficulty understanding concepts of place value, number quantity, number lines, positive and negative values, carrying and borrowing, difficulty with word problems, challenge with sequencing of information, difficulty with the steps involved in solving math problems. Further, they have challenges in adapting to change and handling money. In addition, they also have difficulty with concepts dealing with time and seasons, organizing problems on a page, keeping numbers lined up, and solving long division problems.
The strategies to manage the condition are within the framework of the school and teacher. They are to allow the use of fingers and scratch paper, use diagrams, and draw math concepts in class, provide family, peer assistance, and suggest the use of graph paper and colored pencils to differentiate problems (Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 2012). In addition, the students should draw pictures of word problems, use mnemonic devices to learn steps of math concepts, use rhythm and music to teach maths facts and to set steps to a beat. Lastly the students should have a schedule for computer time and practice.
Learning disabilities do not mean that a child is precluded from having equal opportunities in life. With early identification and personalized support from teachers, employers, and parents, they can maximize their potential and contribute positively to society.
Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, (2012). Retrieved from http://www.learningdisabilities.org.uk
Dyslexia Association of Ireland, (2011). Retrieved from http://www.dyslexia.ie/information for teachers, schools and colleges
Learning Disabilities Association of America, (2004). Retrieved from http://www.idaamerica.org/successful-strategies-for-teaching-students-with-learning-disabilities
U.S Department of Education. (November, 2004). Identifying and implementing educational practices supported by rigorous evidence. A Guide. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/landing.jhtml
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