Educational Activities For Children With Learning Disabilities

Learning disabled children need educational activities that are multisensory. Simple tips and ideas for teaching these unique children are presented here.

Children with learning disabilities have a challenge when presented with academic tasks, but with patience and a few specific techniques, they can learn. When possible, one-on-one tutoring is very helpful. An educational activity appropriate for LD students will have several characteristics.

First, it should be multisensory. While most school tasks require the visual task of reading and the tactile task of writing, LD students need input from their other sensory channels. These channels include auditory (hearing) and kinesthetic (feeling muscle movement) along with tactile and visual. When possible, include the senses of taste and smell, too. The second characteristic of a good learning activity for LD students is that it should be systematic. These students need the material they are learning to be broken down into very small chunks and organized logically. Then they need plenty of practice. The final consideration when working with LD students is that modeling an activity is very helpful. This refers to patiently showing the children what to do, as many times as necessary, instead of merely telling them.

Multisensory activities for teaching beginning reading and writing can be great fun! When teaching letter sounds, the child can form the letters from scented modeling dough. For best results, the child should say or hear the sound while forming it. Another tactile activity is to have the child write the letters in moist sand or finger paint. Try chocolate pudding instead of finger paint for a real treat. Try using different writing tools, too, such as large colored markers on sheets of newsprint hanging on the wall, or scratching the letters with a nail in wax. Try writing in the dirt with a stick, too.

A helpful activity, especially for learning cursive writing, is for the child to write in the air with the hand, finger, or fist. Make the letters as big and dramatic as desired. This kinesthetic technique can be used to drill spelling words as well. A related tactile activity is for the teacher to write with her finger on the child's back or arm. When teaching letter sounds, combine this method with saying and hearing the sound. Also, have the children try to write with their eyes closed. This helps them be aware of the movements within their arms and hands.

If tutoring a child one on one, it's helpful to write a story with the child, letting them watch. Modeling is very important. Discuss with the child what should happen in the story and how to spell the words while they watch. Letting the teacher do the hard part takes the pressure off the child, too.

An activity that improves reading comprehension is for the child to draw a picture of what has been read. This helps because it encourages the child to form a visual image of the sentence or paragraph. There is no real right or wrong picture to a sentence like "The dog barked at the cat" as long as it contains a dog and a cat. Drawing the sentence, or discussing what it might look like, forces the student to see a dog and a cat. Ask the student, "What kind of dog is it? What color? What size is it? (etc.)" Draw or verbally analyze the mental picture evoked by the sentence to help children comprehend what they read.

Kinesthetic activities like hopping and spinning can be used when practicing math facts or drilling spelling words. The child can spin in a rotating chair or jump on a mini-trampoline while saying the facts in rhythm with the movement. This is fun, especially for those active kids, but the rhythm and kinesthetic stimulation also help the child remember the facts.

Mnemonic devices are a helpful strategy for an LD child to learn when studying material that is hard to remember. These are mental hooks a person can use to organize seemingly unrelated material. A well-known example of a mnemonic device is "Every Good Boy Does Fine" (EGBDF) to memorize the music notes on the lines of a treble staff. Another is HOMES to memorize the names of the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.) One student came up with a more elaborate mnemonic device when she linked the amendments of the Constitution with the players of her favorite hockey team, whose numbers she already had memorized. Be creative.

When LD students have a large amount of material to read and learn, the material must be broken down into small parts that can be frequently reviewed. One way to do this is to use sticky notes. Have the students read a few paragraphs. Then they should write a word or two of summary on a sticky note, and stick it to the part they just read. Read another paragraph or two and write another sticky note. Continue on in this fashion. When finished, the students can assemble the sticky notes into an outline from which to study.

Unfortunately, learning disabilities can cause children to have poor self-esteem. The best way to remedy this problem is to give children opportunities to grow in those areas they can do well, such as sports or music. While activities to help them accomplish more in academic areas are essential, the chance to succeed in something will go a long way toward helping these special children feel good about themselves.

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