Students with Learning Disorders

Learning disorders is a general term for a variety of specific processing disorders which affect a student’s ability to acquire and use skills in listening comprehension, oral expression, written expression, reading, mathematics, memory, abstract reasoning and/or attention. Students with learning disorders have average to above average intelligence but specific processing deficits.

You should keep in mind that the learning disabled student’s needs center around information processing: taking in information, processing it, and communicating it back. Some students with learning disorders have trouble taking in information through the senses and bringing it accurately to the brain. Because the information does not reach the brain accurately, the brain often does not do a good job of storing the information in memory, or it may be stored but “scrambled.” Other students have difficulty manipulating  information: organizing, sequencing, processing, prioritizing, relating, and synthesizing facts and theories.  Still other students may have difficulty communicating back to you what they have learned through a standard format such as a written report or a multiple choice test.

Because of these specific processing deficits, the learning disabled student will need assistance and support from you in finding innovative ways of receiving, processing and transmitting information. The student’s capacity for learning is intact. It is only the means by which information is processed that is different.

While the needs of students with learning disorders vary greatly depending on the specific processing deficit, the following are some guidelines which might prove useful in working with these students.

  • Try to present information in more than one format, e.g. lecture and written notes.
  • Allow students to tape record classes.
  • Oral testing or testing with a scribe may be important to students whose primary difficulty is writing.
  • Break instructions or tasks into smaller parts.
  • Allow the use of a computer with spell check and grammar check features for writing.
  • If reading material is distributed in class, have an audiotaped version available as well.
  • Provide a lecture outline at the beginning of each class.
  • Briefly review material covered previously before proceeding to new material.
  • Identify clear purposes for reading, writing, or viewing experiences.
  • Allow time for questions and reflection during class.
  • Structure tests with various response methods: multiple choice, short answer, matching, short essay, true/false.
  • Close the door during class.
  • Encourage students with learning disorders to sit near the front of the room.
  • Communicate project assignments early to give students plenty of time to organize and prepare.
  • Allow sufficient lead time for reading assignments to accommodate those students who listen to textbooks on tape.
  • Use visual aids wherever possible. Make copies of visuals available to students.

Students with learning disorders may benefit from checking their written notes with another student’s notes to ensure accuracy and completeness. Following is an announcement to assist you in identifying a note taker in the class. The Student Disability Services office will provide notetaking paper to facilitate the notetaking process. It is also helpful if you can provide a copy of lecture notes, or review the student’s notes for accuracy after class.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a specific neurological dysfunction characterized by distractibility, impulsivity,and restlessness. Not all people with attention deficit disorder are hyperactive; some are better characterized as "inattentive." ADHD may occur in conjunction with learning disabilities, but it is not a by-product of a learning disability. Unlike learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder may be treated with medication, which helps to control the symptoms. Medication therapy is not a "cure;" medication itself may cause problems because of side effects such a sleep disruption and loss of appetite.

Organization, structure, and self-management are areas of great difficulty for students with ADHD. You can assist this student with developing structure by being specific about assignments, deadlines, instructions, and expectations. Lists, reminder, schedules are outlines are very important.  Break tasks into small parts and provide frequent feedback. Help the student develop "memory tricks" such as rhyming, associating, coding, etc. to manage extensive or complex new material. In class, make frequent eye contact but avoid singling this student out in front of others. Plan more frequent short breaks, or allow this student to leave the room briefly as needed.

Student Disability Services does not expect you to change course guidelines or standards.  The purpose of accommodations is to ensure equal educational opportunity. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call Student Disability Services at 770-423-6443. 


“I have been asked to identify a volunteer note taker in this class. The note taker will be provided with notetaking paper which provides a copy for the note taker to keep and a copy to share. Your notes will not reflect on your grade in this course, but I may review the notes for accuracy before sharing them with others. Please see me immediately after class if you are willing to serve as a volunteer note taker this semester.”