Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities

A learning disability refers to a variety of conditions. These conditions can affect the way in which a person takes in, remembers, understands and expresses information.

Learning disabilities range in severity and invariably interfere with the acquisition and use of one or more of the following important skills:

  • Oral language (e.g. listening, speaking)
  • Reading (e.g. comprehension)
  • Writing (e.g. spelling, written expression)
  • Mathematics (e.g. problem solving, concepts)

The exact cause of learning disabilities is not known, in some cases it may be due to genetic, other congenital and/or acquired neurobiological factors.

Learning disabilities may co-exist with other conditions including attentional, behavioural and emotional disorders, sensory impairments or other medical conditions.


  • For some individuals a learning disability can lead to difficulties with organisational skills, social perception and social interaction.
  • May experience problems with reading comprehension, spoken language, writing and mathematics.
  • A learning disability may make it difficult for a person to receive information from their senses.
  • People with a learning disability may find it difficult to communicate what they know.

Communication Strategies

When communicating with a person with a learning disability it is important to acknowledge that each person is an individual and should be approached as such.

  • Always remember to keep your voice tone low and unhurried.
  • Meet in a setting that is comfortable and does not cause anxiety or distraction.
  • Use visual aids like pictures, drawings and photographs.
  • Use short, clear direct sentences to be more easily understood.
  • Make instructions clear and brief.
  • Avoid complex language or words that may be taken literally.
  • Be patient.
  • Rephrase information if it is not understood, or present the information in another way.
  • Ask questions to ensure the person understands the information being discussed.
  • Always provide opportunity to answer any questions or provide further information.
  • If the person has difficulty understanding or remembering, it may be helpful to write information down or to use pictures. Ask the person about the most appropriate way of communicating with them.

Accommodation strategies for in the class room

Accommodations that can be made for a student with a learning disability will allow them to complete the same work as others by removing barriers to performance which is irrelevant to what is being assessed.

Presentation of written work

  • Increase spacing between words and sentences
  • Increase the size of the response area
  • Use lines for students to write on
  • Highlight and underline keywords and phrases
  • Use different colour paper and print


  • Read directions to student, more than once if necessary
  • Simplify language
  • Give prompts
  • Multiple choice – fill in the blanks
  • Verbal response format
  • Time allowances

In general

  • Provide students with an outline
  • Provide class notes
  • Simultaneously combine verbal and visual information
  • Write keywords or points on board and define them
  • Use balance between presentation and activities
  • Employ a daily routine