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How Can You Support Students with Specific Learning Difficulties in Classrooms?

As we gain a better understanding, we are seeing a rise in students being diagnosed with specific learning difficulties. As a supply teacher, how can you support these students and enable them to make the most of their time in the classroom?


We have some tips.

What Are the Common Learning Difficulties?


Specific learning difficulties and differences are caused by variations in a person’s brain that can affect the way they learn, though these are in no way a reflection on their intelligence. However, when students struggle with learning because of these, they can often end up feeling frustrated, anxious, or embarrassed, which in turn can affect their performance.


Here is a list of some of the common learning difficulties and how they affect children.




Dyslexia is a language-based disorder and people who suffer from it may experience difficulty in learning to read and spell or express themselves in writing. However, there are six types of dyslexia, with each presenting its own sets of challenges.




Dysgraphia is a disorder that affects handwriting. Students who suffer from it find it easy to copy text but are not able to produce original copy by hand. They find it difficult to spell properly and their handwriting is often illegible.




Students suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may find it difficult to focus on a given task, resulting in sloppy work. They may also cause disruption in class as they try to expend excess energy.




Dyspraxia, like dysgraphia, affects the fine motor skills of a person. It can also affect their planning and organising abilities, making it difficult for them to organise events sequentially.




Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects the student’s ability to understand numbers and can often occur in conjunction with dyslexia.


Processing Speed


Students suffering from slow processing speed find it difficult to keep pace with the rest of the class. This is because they take time in understanding and learning, and may need extra time to absorb lessons and get them into their working memory.


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How Do You Support Students with Specific Learning Disabilities?

Allow Extra Time


With most specific learning difficulties, you can help your students by letting them complete a task at their own pace. You can support students with specific learning difficulties by breaking down large tasks into smaller ones and allowing some extra time to complete them.


Assess Knowledge


If you assess students on the speed at which they finish a task, you will find that students with specific learning difficulties will struggle. This is why it is important to find ways of assessing their knowledge instead of how fast they complete work. You may find that some are better at giving verbal answers while others might just want to write slower than others.


Simplify Instructions


Most students with specific learning difficulties may find long and complex instructions intimidating. They may find them difficult to follow and get overwhelmed. In order to help them cope better, simplify the way you give instructions. Break down your sentences into shorter ones, and focus on one task at a time.


Encourage Typing


Instead of asking them to hand-write, allowing them to type makes it easier for students with specific learning difficulties. If they can learn to touch-type, it will vastly improve the time it takes them to complete assignments as well as to express their ideas.


Encourage Repetition


Repetition can be a good way of helping students with specific learning difficulties memorise lessons. You can encourage them to write down a word multiple times to learn the spelling or verbally repeat a lesson to make it ‘stick’. Additionally, you can also repeat important parts of a lesson, and use different media to explain it.


Make No Assumptions


Instead of presuming what your students need, allow them to tell you. Even with a specific learning disability, the way it manifests itself may vary between individuals. That is why it is best to talk to the student and let them tell you what concessions they need.



Further Reading

What is expected of agency teaching assistants and nursery nurses?

How to help students settle in the new school year

Autumn activities to help inspire nursery children


If you’re interested in joining the world of education as a supply teacher, get in touch with us.

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