Page 2 of 3
By Robert Brooks, Ph.D.
Making Appropriate Accommodations to Maximize the Success of Children with Learning Problems in School
If all children learn differently, then it makes inherent sense that we teach them in ways they learn best. The kinds of accommodations I typically recommend do not require major modifications in a student's program, nor do they demand that a teacher have different educational plans for each student in the classroom. What is required is that all parties - students, teachers, parents - understand a child's strengths and weaknesses, arrive at common expectations and goals, and recognize what has to be done to reach these goals.
Some teachers have raised the question whether it is "fair" to make accommodations for one student, especially if other students feel offended. While I understand this concern, I believe that since all children are different and learn differently, the least fair thing is to treat all of them the same. However, the issue of fairness must be openly addressed lest other students begin to resent those students who are receiving accommodations. For this reason, I advocate that schools use the first couple of days of the new school year (although it is never too late) as an "orientation" period. During this period, teachers would not focus on academic content but instead would use the time to create a classroom climate in which all students would have the opportunity to thrive.
For example, to lessen the possibility of children feeling a teacher is unfair because some children might be doing more work than others, on the first day of school, the teacher can discuss with the class how each student is different, how some students read more quickly than others, how some can solve math problems more proficiently, how some can run faster than others. The teacher can then say that given these differences, there will be different goals and expectations of the amount and kind of work done by each student. The teacher can add, "One of my concerns is that you may begin to feel I am not being fair, and if you do, those feelings may interfere with learning. Thus, if at any time you feel I am not being fair, please tell me so we can discuss it."
The feedback I have received indicates that when a teacher introduces the topic of "fairness" before it becomes an issue, it remains a non-issue and permits the teacher to accommodate to each student's needs without negative feelings emerging. Obviously, teachers should share this message of fairness with parents, perhaps through a short statement of class philosophy that is sent home.
As noted, the kinds of modifications I typically have recommended do not require major changes. A teacher reviewing several of these recommendations recently remarked, "These are all very reasonable." The following are a small selection of these accommodations:
Teaching Children How to Solve Problems and Make Decisions
I continually emphasize that a basic feature of high self-esteem and resilience is the belief one has control over many areas of one's life and can accurately define these areas. This belief is tied to a feeling of ownership, a vital foundation for motivation. If we wish our children to develop this sense of control, it is essential we provide them with opportunities from an early age to learn and apply problem-solving and decision-making skills.
When I consult with schools and have the opportunity to interview students, I often ask, "What choices or decisions have you made in the past month in school?" Choices and decisions must be present if we are to help students with learning problems gain a feeling of ownership and become self-advocates.
Teachers can provide choices in many ways. A couple of examples include:
Sign up for our free newsletter and we'll send you
more just like it every week.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.