One in five children has anxiety, attention or learning issues. – National Center of Learning Disabilities (NLCD)
Children affected by Learning Disabilities are more likely to repeat a grade, get suspended, or leave high school. – National Center of Learning Disabilities (NLCD)
The five most common learning disabilities include; dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and processing deficits. – National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
Fortunately, learning issues are not permanent obstacles that slow or deter a child’s learning.
With the right strategies, children can overcome any learning challenges they face and tap into their full academic potential.
Here are 7 tips to improve academic success for kids with learning issues.
7 Tips to Improve Academic Success for Kids with Learning Issues
1. Break Studying into Smaller Chunks
In fact, according to neuroscientists, the brain benefits from pertinent pieces of information that it can process, digest, and consolidate before moving to new information.
So, breaking up big tasks into a series of more manageable, smaller tasks, helps kids who might struggle to concentrate or grasp a topic in a single sitting.
This provides a logical, sequential structure to learning.
Think of it as building a house. The house’s foundation has to be sturdy, and an exact blueprint followed, to make sure the house is strong and robust.
Chunking studying sessions and study material not only helps make tasks less overwhelming but also helps improve recall.
According to the Ebbinghaus curve of forgetting, learners will remember the most from the beginning (primacy) and the end (recency) of a lesson.
The knowledge they encountered in the middle tends to be forgotten more easily, and the rate of being able to recall specific information declines through lengthy study sessions.
Keeping study sessions short, therefore, reduces the gaps between the beginning and the end and helps improve the recall rate of new information.
Studying for shorter periods helps kids with attention deficit issues concentrate.
Keep study sessions about 20 minutes long, then take a break. When you get back to studying, review what you learned before moving on to the next segment.
Reviewing and retrieving information stored in your memory helps strengthen the neural pathways associated with that knowledge.
This means you’re much less likely to forget information that is presented, and the opportunity to assimilate, integrate and internalize information increases.
2. Turn Road Maps into Mind Maps
Another extremely effective way of overcoming information overload and approaching learning in a logical and meaningful way is with the creation of Mind Maps or Visual Summaries.
Rather than pages upon pages of linear notes and text, Mind Maps provide an eagle-eye overview of an entire topic, represented visually in images.
This is great for the brain because the brain processes images faster and more efficiently than text or sound.
In fact, about 80% of the brain is engaged in visual processing!
A typical Mind Map starts off with the main topic or chapter heading in the middle, with a circle drawn around it.
As you go around the Mind Map, starting at the top right and going clockwise, draw spokes from the central circle to other smaller circles, containing the titles of each subsection.
For subsections that further divide into other sections or points, make more spokes branch out of those circles.
The best Mind Maps also contain illustrations, because as discussed, the brain loves visualization – therefore, colorful and meaningful images are easier to recall than lines upon lines of text!
This has multiple benefits – it condenses all the information the student needs to learn in a simple, meaningful way on to a single page.
It also provides an overview to help students understand how points connect to each other and correlate.
This helps students who are unable to process these connections when linearly reading text.
The process of creating a Mind Map also naturally encourages students to engage with the information in a more meaningful way than they would by simply reading a book.
They have to make sense of it, summarize it in a way that facilitates comprehension, and transform it into a visual format that makes sense to them.
This process and the engagement and interaction it encourages with the material improves understanding and recall by over 300% according to research studies!
3. Read More
But reading for school and reading for enjoyment are rather different things.
Encourage students to explore topics and genres they find interesting and introduce them to books at their reading level. This helps personalize their learning and gives them a vested interest in reading.
Over time, gradually introduce them to material of a higher level of reading difficulty.
Engage them in discussions over what they have read and encourage them to analyze the text critically.
Qualifiers enhance comprehension. The 5Ws and 1H (What, Why, When, Where, Who, How) questions provide a framework and purpose for gleaning important content information.
All of this helps the child assess and engage with what they read, naturally expand their vocabulary, improve their ability to communicate their ideas, and so on.
By making reading a process they enjoy and find fulfilling, students can build up their self-confidence and comfort with handling text.
This, in turn, keeps them motivated to read more.
Meanwhile, reading, specifically reading fiction, can help boost the brain’s neuroplasticity – in other words, its ability to grow and adapt to new knowledge.
This has a multitude of benefits, including priming the brain for more learning, better memory, sharper cognitive functioning, and more!
4. Make Learning Multi-Sensory
We all have a preference in how we learn.
Some people are visual learners and learn by watching, some people are auditory learners, and learn by listening, and some people are kinesthetic learners, and learn by actively engaging in an activity.
Middle schools and high schools primarily cater to visual and auditory learners.
Classes are content based, and students listen to the information being presented while processing what they see visually.
Tests are predominantly written, and recalling information in mental images triggers the words they need.
This type of recall is hundreds of times faster than remembering word by word or by how a student “feels” about the information.
Adding visual learning strategies to the learning toolbox that auditory and kinesthetic learners already use, and incorporating auditory and kinesthetic strategies into lessons and studying, can help overcome these learning issues.
Breaking down and verbally outlining instructions and topics for students can benefit auditory learners, along with encouraging participation in discussions and repeating and summarizing guidelines orally.
Scheduling breaks for children to move around, or structuring classes to include some level of physical activity, can help engage kinesthetic learners.
At home, auditory learners can practice reading text out loud, listening to recordings or podcasts, or studying in groups to help them better absorb and retain what they learn.
Kinesthetic learners may also benefit from being active while they learn.
Pacing around, acting out the material, jumping or shooting hoops, while saying the information aloud and making images of it etc., may all help a kinesthetic learner study and remember better.
A multisensory approach is necessary for learning since all the learning styles have strengths which children with learning issues can capitalize on.
For instance, visual learning strategies help learners to improve their ability to remember study material better due to the brain’s ability to process and recall images faster than words.
Auditory and kinesthetic learning strategies can, for example, help improve a student’s ability to process verbal information and communicate effectively, and engage in situated, tactile learning.
5. Time Management and Organization are Essential for Success
Considering the number of textbooks, notebooks, homework, etc. that they need to juggle, this isn’t surprising.
It could overwhelm and confuse them, leading to overlooked homework and forgotten books.
A little time spent on establishing and maintaining structure can go a long way in helping students overcome this challenge.
Planners are a simple but effective way to make sure students stay on top of their workload.
Developing a habit of jotting down assignments, deadlines, and test dates let them know what they have to work on at the end of the school day and in which order.
Creating a calendar of benchmarks to keep for long term assignments reinforces ‘smashing the task’ and ensures deadlines are met, and last-minute cramming sessions are unnecessary.
In fact, keeping a to-do list, ensuring that the tasks are manageable and realistic, can serve to keep students motivated.
Checking off an item on your to-do list activates the reward center of your brain, releasing the motivation molecule dopamine and making your brain want a repeat of the sensation.
Another time management and organizational habit to implement is saving all quizzes and tests and reviewing them prior to end of unit tests.
Teachers have already identified the information they want you to learn, so remember to review.
Keep separate binders for each subject.
Each week, go through the binders and remove completed worksheets, quizzes and tests.
Create a folder for the quizzes and tests for future references. This teaches children to organize and makes study prep time easier.
Setting aside time to sort notes and homework into the right binders means that when they sit down to study, they know precisely where everything they need is.
6. Go Analog
Studies show that using devices in class or studying generally correlates to a fraction of that time spent doing something else.
Unlike physical notes and books, a laptop or tablet has multiple other functionalities, which might be too tempting and distracting for students with learning issues like attentional challenges.
Meanwhile, research has also established that reading off a screen is correlated to poorer test scores.
Reading from physical print results in greater recall of the material, whereas reading from the screen does the opposite.
Taking notes on a digital device is also correlated to less recall compared to handwritten notes.
This is because typing is significantly faster than writing, and many end up copying down what they hear in class ad-verbatim without exactly processing it.
When writing, however, they have to listen, process, and condense what they learn into their own words in order to keep up with the class.
This higher degree of engagement with the learning material promotes better understanding and better retention.
For those instances where the student must use a device to study, there are plenty of apps available to help block potentially distracting sites until they complete their study session!
7. Encourage Students to Seek Guidance from Teachers and Learning Specialists
Students should be encouraged both in school and by their families to seek help when they need it.
Confusion about an assignment or uncertainty over what is going to come for a test can lead to stress and time wasted, which they can avoid if the child reaches out to someone who can help.
Providing students with opportunities to ask questions during or after class, or with a means of contact during office hours or through email, may give shyer students the confidence boost they need to reach out.
Learning to take the initiative by participating in class discussions, asking questions, and seeking clarification also helps to foster academic and social engagement in school.
Parents may reach out to teachers or to educational experts such as Dana Stahl who has an online course called The ABC’s of Academic Issues and learn helpful tips to overcome learning issues.
Learning issues might pose a roadblock for your child’s learning journey, but by no means are they a dead-end.
With these seven tips to improve academic success for kids with learning issues, students can integrate healthy study strategies into learning and boost their performance in school!
Which learning issues do your children face?
And which of these tips are you going to try out with them?
Write in, and let me know!
Dana Stahl is a renowned Educational Consultant and Learning Specialist that major news outlets such as CNN and parenting journals have on speed dial in order to share the very best information possible for parents who have children with learning challenges.
Having experienced a learning disability herself as a child, she brings expert knowledge, compassion and empathy to her work with you and your child.
Parents taking her course, The ABC’s of Academic Success, A Must Have Parent Guide to Help Your Child With Learning, Attention, or Anxiety Issues Thrive, get the added benefit of a FREE 15 minute private consultation with Dana.
This course leads parents through a step-by-step simple process to help their child who has learning, attention, and anxiety issues, by answering questions and giving them the best path to follow while helping their child thrive.
Within her field, Dana is referred to as the Dr. Spock of Learning Issue solutions.
Her private practice, Educational Alternatives, LLC, focuses on advice, advocacy, and individualized school placements. She is also the author of The ABCs of Learning Issues in both English and Spanish.