Self-Directed Approaches to Learning Disabilities

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DA is alterations that affect a person's ability to speak, write, mathematical calculation, attention, or coordination of movements. They can occur in young children, but are usually recognized only after school age. Learning difficulties can be lifelong conditions that can affect experiences at school, work or social situations. In some people, more LD overlap.

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Specific categories of LD include:

  • Dyslexia: Difficulties in recognizing, writing, and understanding the words.
  • Dysgraphia: Results in impaired handwriting or limited spelling, or both.
  • Dyscalculia: The ability to learn arithmetic and mathematics.
  • Nonverbal learning disorder: Difficulties in receiving and interpreting non-verbal forms of communication such as body language and facial expressions.
  • Linguistic apraxia: Difficulty of saying what you actually mean.
  • Central auditory processing disorder: Difficulty in recognizing and interpreting sounds.
  • Information processing disorders: Learning disorders related to the ability to use sensory information (obtained through visualization, hearing, tasting, smell or contact). These problems have nothing to do with the inability to see or hear, but with the recognition, reaction to that information and the memory of that information.
  • Language learning difficulties: Problems that affect age-appropriate communication, such as speaking, listening, reading, writing, and writing.

Research Evidences of SD Approaches to LD

Michael Wehmeyer, Carolyn Hughes, Martin Agran, Nancy Garner & Danna Yeager (2010) proved that student‐directed learning strategies could prove important for including students with disabilities in general education classrooms by reducing the student's dependency upon others in the classroom setting. Mazher, Waseem (2019) described that psychological concerns and methods of teaching can allow students with LD to cope effectively in secondary school and in college. Shea, Lynne C.; Hecker, Linda; Lalor, Adam R. found that approaching disability from the perspective of difference, the authors of this new volume offer guidance on creating more inclusive learning environments on campus so that all students--whether or not they have a recognized disability -- have the opportunity to succeed. Strategies for supporting students with specific learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder or who display learning and behavioral characteristics associated with these profiles are described. A valuable resource for instructors, advisors, academic support personnel, and others who work directly with college students. Jozwik, Sara L.; Cuenca-Carlino, Yojanna; Mustian, April L.; Douglas, Karen H (2019) found that participants reported high satisfaction with the goals, procedures, and outcomes of the intervention. Wehmeyer, Michael L.; Shogren, Karrie A.; Toste, Jessica R.; Mahal, Stephanie (2017) described that promoting self-determined learning through student-directed learning strategies has been documented to promote more positive school-related outcomes for upper elementary grade learners with disabilities and other students who are struggling. Michelle Janzen (2019) found that through the use of creative strategies in otherwise conventional academic expectations, students experiencing disabilities may increase the potential of achieving academic success. Karrie A. Shogren, suggested that young adults with disabilities who have greater self-determination - who are able to effectively make decisions, solve problems and advocate for their needs - are more likely to be employed, to attain postsecondary education, earn higher wages and have better quality of life. Students with cognitive and learning disabilities who were taught the fundamentals of self-determination were more likely to access mainstream curricula and achieve their academic and other goals.

Tips for Educators and Parents

  1. Praise the performance effort: Children with LD don't always get high grades, but if they put a lot of effort into it, it deserves recognition. Teachers can focus on the study strategy or the focus on a child's task. Index cards, library time, working on drafts, or receiving feedback from previous activities can take a lot of courage to try a new approach, and it's important to keep it motivated in percentages and votes regardless of the outcome.
  2. Put things in mind: For children with specific LD, it may seem an almost impossible goal to achieve a perfect score in an assessment measure. Remind them that perfection is not important and that mistakes are part of learning. When a child starts to accept their mistakes and uses them to direct more specific studies, they are less likely to attribute mistakes to personal errors or deficits. This makes it easy to maintain a positive and healthy image.
  3. Share your experiences: Children can benefit from anecdotes that help them relate to different aspects of the learning process. Teachers could explain how they handled their least preferred subjects, or take care of material that proved particularly challenging. Sharing your experience helps cement a bond with a child, so that it's more likely to open up to you about your feelings.
  4. Keep them motivated: It can be difficult to motivate a child to learn when they feel inferior in a particular thematic area. For this reason, it is useful to select educational topics that are already of interest to a child. Explain why a particular task is worth it and let them have a choice about how or what to study. You can also develop, reward schemes or plan your day, so you can use fun activities to solve more challenging tasks. Learn more about motivation and motivation for children to read.
  5. Give them time: It may take some time for an intervention to work and new strategies and skills to be acquired. Focus on long-term goals and organize larger tasks into milestones that can be distributed over time. Remind students that effort and focus matter for longer than the time it takes to complete something.
  6. Provide challenging models: There are many celebrity success stories, including athletes, politicians and celebrities, who have worked hard to overcome the challenges of learning problems. Take a biography or search for a video about someone you think your child relates to and review it together. Discuss a person's success path and let the child identify different strategies that can benefit them.
  7. Specific learning issues: Learning problems do not reflect intelligence, but often hinder academic performance and can lead to feelings of frustration, fear and shame for a child who is less able to work at the same pace as their classmates.


SD learning strategies could prove important for including students with disabilities in general education classrooms by reducing the student's dependency upon others in the classroom setting. It promotes more positive reading and writing outcomes to enable students to become autonomous learners whereas it finally results in an independent and healthy life.


  1. Jozwik, Sara L.; Cuenca-Carlino, Yojanna; Mustian, April L.; Douglas, Karen H. (2019) Evaluating a Self-Regulated Strategy Development Reading-Comprehension Intervention for Emerging Bilingual Students with Learning Disabilities, Preventing School Failure, 63 (2), 121-132.
  2. Mazher, Waseem. (2019) Teaching Secondary School Students with Learning Disabilities to Cope in Preparation for College, Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 92 (1-2), 53-62.
  3. Michael Wehmeyer, Carolyn Hughes, Martin Agran, Nancy Garner & Danna Yeager (2003) Student‐directed learning strategies to promote the progress of students with intellectual disability in inclusive classrooms, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 7:4, 415-428
  4. Michelle Janzen. (2019) Disney And The Magical World Of Writing; How Combining Creativity With Learning Disabilities Can Promote Academic Success, Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 12 (1).
  5. Shea, Lynne C.; Hecker, Linda; Lalor, Adam R. From Disability to Diversity: College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
  6. Wehmeyer, Michael L.; Shogren, Karrie A.; Toste, Jessica R.; Mahal, Stephanie. (2017) Self-Determined Learning to Motivate Struggling Learners in Reading and Writing, Intervention in School and Clinic, 52 (5), 295-303.
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