Children between the ages of 6 and 18 spend close to half their waking lives in school. During those years, parents, teachers, and peers deeply influence their lives. Students are at a profound disadvantage if they do not receive early and appropriate instruction to build the skill areas essential for success in school. It is equally important for adults to recognize students’ academic potential and nurture their strengths. Research indicates that success for students with learning differences and disabilities depends not only on designing an effective program for academic success but equally on developing positive social and emotional environments both at home and in school.
Facilitating academic success
The Landmark School Outreach Program’s mission is to empower students with language-based learning disabilities by offering their teachers an exemplary program of applied research and professional development.
Many highly-successful people experienced difficulty in school. An Internet search turns up scores of familiar names, including Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Schwab, Jay Leno, Danny Glover, Avi, and John Irving. Each of these people gained success in their adult lives.
Most success stories are less well known. Many thousands of people with learning disabilities finish school and build fulfilling careers, create families, and contribute to society in innumerable ways. Often, people with learning disabilities are particularly creative thinkers and visionary leaders. Some studies have found that individuals with language difficulty develop superior skills in other areas, such as art, music, dance, mechanics, cooking, and athletics. Additionally, much research has demonstrated that students whose difficulties are identified early and addressed with appropriate teaching can achieve academic levels equal or superior to peers without learning disabilities.
As classroom teachers, we can provide students with the feeling of self-efficacy that is essential for academic success in two key ways: by teaching them strategies to approach difficult academic tasks and by believing in their capacity to learn. Parker J. Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach (2007), offers this reminder:
Students who learn are the finest fruit of teachers who teach … I am also clear that in lecture halls, seminar rooms, field settings, labs, and even electronic classrooms — the places where most people receive most of their formal education — teachers possess the power to create conditions that can help students learn a great deal — or keep them from learning much at all. Teaching is the intentional act of creating those conditions, and good teaching requires that we understand the inner sources of both the intent and the act. (p. 6)
Landmark's Six Teaching Principles™
Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles™ create the conditions for learning that students with learning disabilities need to succeed. Students with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) make stunning progress with targeted, intensive, skills-based instruction under these conditions. Essentially, these principles are:
- Provide opportunities for success to foster a sense of self-efficacy.
- Use multisensory approaches so that all content is conveyed in visual, auditory, and tactile modes (see it, hear it, say it, do something with it).
- Micro-unit and structure tasks to form step-by-step processes, which facilitate learning and provide incremental opportunities for success that help students persist in the face of longer, more complex tasks.
- Ensure automatization through practice and review, as consistency and repetition develop skill.
- Provide models to give students samples of successful work and set clear standards, which helps students begin assignments and self-assess as they work.
- Include students in the learning process, because increasing students’ self-awareness as learners helps them engage and invest in the classroom.
The full text of Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles™ is available at the Landmark School Outreach Program website .
Thinking about how to facilitate success
Students have unique learning profiles that reflect their educational experience, their learning, thinking, and personality styles, and their particular areas of need for language acquisition and use. All students who struggle in school — particularly those with LBLD — benefit from structured, multisensory, skills-based instruction. Each requires individualized instruction targeted at his or her specific needs. The student profiles in Language-Based Learning Disabilities are included to encourage teachers’ thinking about students in their own classes.
As you learn about interventions for each student, keep in mind the following questions:
- What factors have contributed to the success of each student?
- What can be done to build on the current successes of each?
Patricia W. Newhall is Associate Director of Landmark School Outreach Program. The Outreach Program offers language-based consulting, program design, seminars, publications, and free e-resources that aim to empower students with learning differences through their teachers. For more information about language-based learning disabilities and language-based teaching, please visit the Landmark School Outreach Program website .