Teaching children with learning difficulties

learning difficulties in the classroom
06 Sep Shelley Vernon 1 Comment

*Teachers often have to include children with learning difficulties in their classrooms. While I have no solution for this, I do have some tips that may help.


Most important tip

Do not discourage the child. Do not give them test results that they can compare with others. Do not, ever, imply that they cannot succeed. The child knows he is drowning and doesn't need it pointing out. If you are positive the child will also be hopeful and have more confidence that he or she will learn, despite his or her difficulties. Even if you teach the child nothing in your particular class, at least you will have given him or her emotional and moral support. This child may have the courage to continue trying.


Set attainable goals

depressed child hunched over and looking downRegardless of what you are doing with the rest of the class, set separate goals for the child, such as learning two new words in a lesson...share these goals with parents. Make them attainable. The child will succeed with his or her specific goals and this is encouraging. If you work with the same text with the whole class, give them easier questions relating to that text. You cannot give kids with difficulty the same tasks as the rest of the class. How would you like to sit there in class totally lost and not able to do the assignment when everyone around you can do it? With encouragement and hope, this child may go on to succeed in an area of life, despite travelling a relatively short distance along the academic path. Those people who are happy are the successful ones.


The first time I had a student with learning difficulties I didn't know it. The parents dropped her off and said nothing. I soon observed that she couldn't retain information. I just went on as if nothing had happened and I hadn't noticed. Then I started asking her questions right after we had just heard the answer, and she could answer me correctly, so I could then praise her.


I was astonished when her parents told me, at the end of the second term, that she had improved in all her subjects at school since she had been coming to my classes. I think I was the only teacher who was able to say "well done" and "Yes! That's right!" It might not be as simple as that, but honestly giving them tasks they can do, and encouraging them is going to go a long way. Leaving them lost is only going to make them feel hopeless, and potentially give up, get depressed and have all sorts of additional problems.


Discover the hidden talents

If there is something that the child is good at, include that in the lesson. This is good for the child's self-esteem. At last! Something he is good at! For example, I knew a Downes Syndrome boy who was an absolutely brilliant dancer. So, in a game he could do a funky dance as a forfeit, while someone else might prefer to name 3 vocabulary flashcards.


Appeal to different learning styles

Make sure you include lots of movement, and other stimuli, (not just pen, paper and books) such as mystery box, flowing scarf games, feeling, smelling, charades, word games, acting, dance and song. (See 176 English Language Games for Children.) If you can work out how the child in question learns best, that will help. Parents or the school might be able to help you with this. The child may respond best to visual stimuli, rather than kinaesthetic - knowing this can help you a lot.


Find out more from the experts

You may want to delve deeper and read about learning difficulties. You will find a plethora of books on ADHD, dyslexia, autism, etc. and it could be interesting bedtime reading! No kidding, if you have an understanding of what someone is going through it can make you naturally feel compassion for them, which will help you a lot when you are standing there feeling frustrated in class. You'll also learn tips on how to handle those difficulties. It's well worth asking for support from your school and other teachers. If there are experienced teachers you can observe, or who have relevant knowledge, this can be a huge help to you. This book by Tom Daly, How to Turn Any Disruptive Child Into Your Best Student - the ADHD Solution for Teachers, is out there, lost among millions of books on Amazon. At $2.49 a copy, you can't go wrong! Here is the link.


English Teaching Resources


I do know of teachers who are already using my games and resources for children with learning difficulties. And they have had success with them. I believe that children with learning difficulties often need to go at a slower pace, have lots of repetition, and be stimulated with visuals, audio, kinaesthetic methods - not just textbooks and worksheets, which, often for various reasons, they can't handle.


So I would say that if you use my games book for primary school children, and just teach three to four new words at a time, with lots of different games and repetition...you should get somewhere. And I'd also use the plays and skits with them. If you are not teaching English as a second language, but English as a native language, then the games book will be great to drill spelling and grammar with them gently.



I teach teenagers in 50 students groups, it is really difficult to detect and help students with learning problems. Furthermore, parents do not help. Thank you for your article it was really helpful.

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