Learning disabilities are neurologically based conditions that interfere with the acquisition, storage, organization, and use of skills and knowledge. They are identified by deficits in academic functioning and in processing other information. The diagnosis of a learning disability in an adult requires documentation of at least average intellectual functioning along with a deficit in one or more of the following areas:
- auditory processing
- visual processing
- information processing speed
- abstract and general reasoning
- memory (long-term, short-term, visual, auditory)
- spoken and written language skills
- reading skills
- mathematical skills
- visual spatial skills
- motor skills
- executive functioning (planning)
- A learning disability is not a disorder that a student “grows out of.” It is a permanent disorder affecting how students with normal or above-average intelligence process incoming information, outgoing information, or both.
- Learning disabilities are often inconsistent. They may be manifested in only one specific academic area, such as math or foreign language. There might be problems in grade school, none in high school, and again in college.
- Learning disabilities are not the same as mental retardation or emotional disorders.
- Common accommodations for students with learning disabilities are alternative print formats, taped lectures, note-takers, alternative ways of completing assignments, early syllabus, exam modifications, priority registration, and study skills and strategies training.
Instructional Strategies for Faculty
The following strategies are suggested to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations.
- Keep instructions brief and as uncomplicated as possible.
- Allow the student to tape-record lectures or look for a note-taker.
- Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due; provide advance notice of any changes.
- Provide handouts and visual aids.
- When appropriate, team a reader with a non-reading student during in-class assignments.
- Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
- Break information into small steps when teaching many new tasks in one lesson (state objectives, review previous lesson, summarize periodically).
- Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
- Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.