How to Identify and Teach Adult Students with a Learning Disability

Posted by on June 2nd, 2016

A Learning Disability (LD) is a neurological disability that someone is born with or is acquired later in life. A disability impacts the way a person processes information. Sometimes learning disabilities are referred to as “specific learning disorders.” They can affect learning, understanding, memory and communication.

Learning disabilities are determined through thorough examination by licensed professionals, such psychologists and psychiatrists. Often times the evaluation is prompted by observations made by a teacher or a loved one. As a teacher, you will likely encounter students with LD. It is necessary for you to recognize some of the common characteristics as well as use effective teaching strategies in your classroom.


LD Characteristics

The characteristics of LD students can range from positive and subtle nuances to more obvious expressions.

Some of the positive characteristics are:

  • Compensatory strategies
  • Empathy
  • Outgoing personalities
  • Persistence
  • Problem solving skills

Some areas of difficulty include:

  • Difficulty accepting change
  • Disorganization
  • Eye-hand coordination problems
  • Memorization complications
  • Reading, Writing and/or Math challenges
  • Sequencing struggles
  • Trouble following directions

Teaching Strategies

Targeted strategies and accommodations can be used within the classroom to support LD students. Many of the strategies are already present in effective classrooms. Some of the same strategies can also be useful on the job for adults with LD. Accommodations include:

  • Assistive Technology – Helpful in the classroom, at home and work; available through a number of apps
  • Audio Texts – Provides an opportunity for students to follow along with text
  • Color coding for organization – Applies to notes, information files and other life areas
  • Graphic organizers – Most commonly used in the form of Charts, graphs, tables and diagrams
  • One-on-One instruction – Can be utilized for hands-on skills training and specific academic instruction
  • Reading aloud – Useful for both texts and directions; exposes students to proper fluency and expression
  • Summarization – Offers the opportunity to restate information in one’s own words rather than requiring verbatim recitation


Learning disabilities are not related to intelligence, but rather influence performance at home, school or work. With accurate diagnosis and targeted strategies, the effects of a LD can be minimized as weaknesses.

Implementing teaching strategies within your classroom allows you to help LD students recognize the approaches that work best for them. They will be able to apply the same methods to produce workplace success. The strategies and accommodations that you choose for your LD learners can also be helpful for mainstream students. Organizational skills and tools can extend beyond the classroom to produce results in other areas of life.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *