Educators know how intimidating it is to stand in front of a roomful of children and teach them to not only read, but to love reading. In a classroom of thirty children, there may easily be thirty different learning styles, and it’s a challenge to adequately teach each one of those styles. If some of those kids have learning disabilities—and there’s a very good chance at least one does—that adds an additional challenge.
But learning disabilities don’t have to stand in the way of literacy. Here’s a rundown of the learning disabilities you’re likely to encounter in your classroom at some point, as well as great tips for navigating each one. We’ll also discuss how best to teach different learning styles, so you can mix and match to find the best method for each student.
If you have children in your classroom who love listening to verbal instructions and love reading aloud to themselves, you’ve got some auditory learners on your hands. These kids may be slower at reading, might prefer to read aloud, and may have a tendency to repeat instructions.
How to teach:
Auditory learners need to be read to (Kayalar & Kayalar 2017). Learning Dynamics emphasizes reading aloud together, but the real magic happens with the incorporation of music and other auditory engagement that’s found in our lessons. Auditory learners love learning to read by hearing words and concepts—they may have been the first in your class to know the alphabet song. Keep that momentum going by adding rhythm to words and letters. Clapping, tapping, and making up songs are all great to help engagement going through the reading process. It’s also important to have auditory learners repeat back what they’ve learned and have them read aloud. Your little auditory learners will have lots of questions, so be sure to encourage those questions and keep the dialogue going.
Visual learners love pictures, written directions, and diagrams. They may have a difficult time following verbal directions, but will be better with charts and chore charts and other visual cues. Visual learners love to doodle and make lists.
How to teach:
With visual learners, it’s all about art. We believe strongly in the power of the picture (Kouyoumdjian 2012), which is why each of our books relies heavily on visually representing what letters, sounds, and words mean. Have your visual learners point to the pictures and describe them in their own words. You can also have your visual learners make their own pictures by doodling what they think letters and words mean. It’s a great way to keep them motivated as they learn to read. For these students, picture books are especially important.
Only about 15% of children (Kinesthetic Learning 2019) are kinesthetic learners. These learners have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves. That’s because they learn through touch. Their handwriting might not be the best, and they may excel in sports and dancing instead of sitting quietly.
How to teach:
Instead of working against the movement, work with it. As you teach reading, encourage your kinesthetic learners to act out what they’re reading or hearing. We like incorporating rewards that children can hold, and we strongly encourage kids to touch our books, feeling the progress they’re making as they turn the pages. And allow for lots of breaks! Learning Dynamics lessons only take 15 minutes, and there’s a reason for that: kids need lots of breaks, and they can better internalize learning when it’s followed up with play.
Kids with ADHD/ADD often have difficulty focusing (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 2019) and may also exhibit hyperactivity and impulsivity, which can be challenging when teaching reading.
How to teach:
When teaching children with ADHD, it’s useful to eliminate distractions. Teach in a quiet area without other children, if possible. Some children find they’re able to focus better if they have something in their hand to fidget with, such as a fidget spinner or a stress ball. If the student is still having difficulty focusing, they may benefit from a behavior contract, which is providing a reward and motivation for focusing. Learning Dynamics has rewards built into each lesson specifically to keep kids motivated throughout the lesson.
Kids with dyslexia have difficulty reading because their brain has difficulty processing speech sounds (Hudson, High & Otaiba) and assigning them to letters and words. They may have a hard time seeing similarities and differences in letters and words and might have trouble finding the right words for things.
How to teach:
Not all dyslexia is the same. The best approach is to engage as many learning styles as possible—auditory, visual, and tactile—so that many areas of the brain can be engaged at once. Learning Dynamics is especially great for dyslexia because it builds sequentially and the rules are always the same, so children know exactly what to expect from each lesson.
Processing disorders mean a student has difficulty processing visual, auditory, or sensory information.
How to teach:
There’s no one right way to help children with processing deficits. One child may have a hypersensitivity to noise while another child may mix up speech sounds. We encourage you to consult with resource teachers to gather individual assessments for those with processing deficits. For some children, a weighted blanket may make a world of difference. Others may just need extra time. It will take sensitivity and maybe some trial and error to find the right solution for each child.
We believe every child can read—they just need the right tools. Children with learning disabilities may need different approaches to reading, but they are just as smart as every other child and can learn to love reading just as much.
“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sept. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml.
Hudson, Roxanne F, et al. “Dyslexia and the Brain: What Does Current Research Tell Us?” Reading Rockets, 12 Dec. 2013,
Kayalar, Filiz & Kayalar, Fethi. (2017). The effects of Auditory Learning Strategy on Learning Skills of Language Learners (Students’ Views). IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS). 22. 10.9790/0837-2210070410.
“Kinesthetic Learning.” Crystal Symmetry Through Dance, 11 Mar. 2019, serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/mineralogy/xtlsymmetry/kinesthetics.html.
Kouyoumdjian, Haig. “Learning Through Visuals.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 20 July 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-psyched/201207/learning-through-visuals.