Classroom Strategies for the LD Child

As an educator, you may find that 10% of the students in your class have various types of learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, auditory or visual processing difficulties or dysgraphia. You may notice that these students do not participate or they may withdraw or even act out in class because they do not know how to read, spell or express themselves in oral or written language or have visual-spatial difficulties. Many regular teaching techniques often do not work for them.



  • To maintain better focus or attention, arrange special seating for the student. The student can sit in the front of the class, or they can sit in an end row, where other students are only on one side of them.
  • Allow the student to have a tactile toy such as a soft or textured handball that a student can fiddle with. Make sure the toy doesn’t make to much noise.
  • When doing an activity or an assignment, emphasize the intent of the activity, such as “accuracy is more important than speed”. Assign work only one task at a time rather than everything at once.


Auditory processing

  • Make sure that you give verbal instructions away from background noises. Simplify your language and vocabulary. Have the students look and repeat back your instructions.
  • Break your lesson or instruction into small parts, these are easier to remember. Give students time to complete the steps before going on to the next part.
  • When possible, give concrete and specific examples. If introducing new concepts, such as in math, science, art ideas, etc., provide pictorial information to make a connection with what is heard.
  • Allow sufficient time for instructions or questions to be processed. The student needs time to hear the question, make sense of it, think of an answer and formulate a response.



  • Teach the student specific handwriting strategies that encourage them to print or write letters in a consistent manner. Use thin or thick markers, pencil and pens with rubber grips to improve or pencils with darker graphite, dark colour pens or markers if applying pressure is a challenge.
  • Use the hand-over-hand technique to help the student get use to the feel of the movement. Talk aloud, describing each step clearly. Ask how it is working.
  • Make sure that the student’s body is positioned properly when working at a desk. Ensure that the feet are on the floor, the desk is at an appropriate level, that forearms are supported by the desk, etc.



  • Provide a verbal and written pattern for solving math problems. Model the pattern for students by saying out loud, both your thinking process and what steps you are doing, as you write them on the chalkboard. This way the student can see and hear the instructions.
  • Solving word problems requires the student to have skills in specific math vocabulary as well as a certain level of reading, comprehension and listening skills. If the student is experiencing difficulties in language skills, you may need to adapt the math problem to reflect the student’s reading level.
  • If the student doesn’t understand math facts like multiplication tables, find a different way to approach the math skill. For example, if memorizing multiplication tables is difficult, explain that 7 X 2= 14, so if 14 is doubled, then 7 X 4=28.



  • Word your instruction so that the student doesn’t waste time trying to understand them. Unclear instructions can result in frustration in trying to complete the work. Provide written instruction as well with time limits such as “You have 15 minutes to complete this task”. The written instructions act as a reminder for students with memory problems.
  • Break longer assignments into “sprint work” for the student to complete quickly one after another. Your student will feel less overwhelmed and he/she will complete more tasks in less time.
  • Tape a checklist to the student’s desk. Place a copy into each subject folder or notebook. The checklist should outline steps, directions, and different amounts of time (10, 15 or 20 minutes) for the completed assignment. The student ticks off the box that applies to the task as they are completed.



  • Make weekly check-ins with the student to plan assignments and projects. Have the student schedule important activities with a due date into a day timer, along with a concrete plan, classmates who can help, etc., to follow through on his/her intentions.
  • Have the student take 15 minutes at the end of each day to put things away and look at the calendar or agenda book for the next day. A to-do list can be taped on the inside door of a locker in order to gather what is needed before leaving school.
  • Ask the student, “What stops you from getting started?” Teach the student to stop a minute to think about what’s preventing him/her from doing the work. It could be something very simple like “I don’t understand the instructions”, or “I don’t know where to start”. In that case, you can reword the instructions and have the student repeat them back. With the former, you can help the student break down the task so it doesn’t look too big and overwhelming for them.



  • If the student has substituted a word in a sentence, then it deserves your attention. For example, Text: “The wagon was drawn by horses”; Child: “The wagon was drowned by horses”. Ask the child, “Does that make sense?” If the child continues to make mistakes, give him/her easier materials to read.
  • Write four or five short sentences for the student to read. Include as one of the five sentences one that is completely out of context. Ask the student to identify the “the wrong sentence or part” of the story. Once the student can detect
  • “nonsensical” sentences, give them one of his/her own problem sentences and ask “Do you recognize the wrong parts of the sentence?”
  • If the student leaves out a word because he/she doesn’t understand the concept, you need to teach the concept of that word. For example, if the word is “alligator”, sound the phonemes out, say the word out loud, explain its meaning, show a picture, draw a picture, display a model, etc., of the word. Once the student has a vivid understanding of the word, it is less likely they will omit the word again.


Self Esteem

  • When assigning homework, tell the student to “Look at all ten questions, and to select six questions to answer that you think best demonstrates your knowledge” By offering a choice, the student takes control and ownership of their learning.
  • Have the student contribute to the school environment. If a child excels in reading, pair him/her up with a student needing help. Have the student take care of plants or small animals in the classroom, or seasonally decorate the room with class drawings, projects, etc.
  • Use cooperative learning so students gain experience working and helping one another. This allows students to realize they have something to contribute to others.


Social Skills

  • Focus on behaviour that can be modified such as talking out of turn. Carefully provide clues like “Raise your hand to talk”, or encouragement like “That was right” or be more direct by standing next to the student so that his/her focus is on you and not on the unwelcome behaviour.
  • Interpersonal skills are learned in small student groupings of three or four members on projects. Students learn cooperatively from one another and share organizational ideas, responsibilities, and tasks.
  • Many times students are unaware that their facial expression or wandering eyes is out of place when having a conversation. Don’t misinterpret unexpected responses as an attempt to mock you or defy you.



  • It is often useful for a student to keep a word index or a personal dictionary of words they frequently misspell.
  • Have the student break apart a word. Ask, “How is this word like other words you know?” Point out that words have patterns such as the tion; “institu-tion” and “tradi-tion”. Look for prefixes, suffixes, and root words such as “un-cover-ing” and “‘pre-vail-ing“.
  • Leaving out letters from words can help a student become aware of correct spelling as well as reinforce the visual elements of the words. For example, have the student fill in the blanks to the word, efficient: e__icient   eff__cient   effic__nt
  • Watch for the way the student is pronouncing the word. This can help avoid common spelling errors, such as li-bary instead of library, prob-lee instead of probably, or ath-a-leet instead of athlete.



  • The student will function better when able to anticipate the time required to complete a task. Provide a visual representation of the day’s schedule. Use visual cues to indicate time to change tasks or activities.
  • Write the schedule and timelines on the blackboard each day. Include due dates for each assignment.
  • At the beginning of each week, let the student know the activities being covered. Have the student make a plan that helps them get through the day and week without running around crazy. The plan should include the task, what needs to be done, materials needed, who can help, how long they think it should take to complete and due time.


Visual Processing

  • Make a “window frame’ by cutting out the center from sturdy paper like an index card or construction paper. Place the cut of the center of the frame over words, numbers, pictures, etc., which keeps the important information in the center while blocking out peripheral material which is distracting to your child.
  • Use letter tiles such as those found in commercial games. Have the student find and arrange the correct spelling of a word being studied. Or have the student unscramble letters to form words. In both exercises, the student must concentrate on the correct order of letters.
  • Practice estimating distance with your student by throwing a ball and having him/her estimate its distance, then measure it together. You can also practice social distance by having your child judge the appropriate closeness to other people.
  • Provide paper for writing and math work that has darker or raised lines to make the boundaries more distinct. Reduce the amount of information on a sheet of paper to maintain the student’s focus.



  • When learning to write difficult letters, try using this special technique. Encourage students to make up meaningful associations to remember difficult letters. For example, with letters “b‘, “m” and “n” say the following; b has a belly, m had two humps, the n has one.
  • Use special writing paper with raised lines for spelling or writing or raised graphs for math as a sensory guide for the student for staying within the lines or graphs.
  • Even if your student uses a word processor for writing, it is still very important to develop and maintain legible writing. Consider balancing a word processor for long-involved writing activities and handwriting for short, quick activities.