In the methodology and activities
EDUCATIONAL SPACES AND ACCESS TO COMMUNICATION ADAPTATIONS
Flexible groupings and working in small groups allow a more individualized teaching learning process.
Simplify language, avoid the use of figurative language, sarcasm, slang, and double meanings....
It is important that students learn to properly improve their social interactions. This learning can be developed both in the classroom and in more individualized surroundings using direct models, role play , rehearsing and practicing how to deal with social situations which can be used in other natural environments.
Promote involvement with a classmate through structured meetings, allowing the student to develop social skills and generate friendship.
Make sure class rules are understood: These should always be within the students’ sight.
Encourage peer learning: cooperative groups, peer tutoring, pair -work...
Due to the difficulties in adapting to changing environments and the difficulties of interaction, the classroom should not have an excessive number of students and the overall atmosphere should be calm, limiting an overload of stimuli and disruptive situations, since these students need a highly structured and predictable context of schooling.
It should also be noted that these children are vulnerable as they have fewer personal resources, they do not usually defend themselves well and can be subjected to abuse from other classmates, therefore we must ensure that these kids are controlled not only within the classroom but in other areas and situations in the school, such as break time, gym class, extracurricular activities, the school canteen, etc.
ORGANIZATION OF THE HOMEWORK OR WORK IN THE CLASSROOM
These guidelines are useful for designing homework as much as organising activities in the classroom.
This kind of pupil needs to learn in a specific way how to organize notebooks, and other school materials. And it needs to be specifically trained.
These pupils need to use an agenda, but normally school agendas have a very small space to write, so, it´s better to have an agenda that allows the pupil to write more or use a normal notebook where the pupil only has to write the date and then organize the information.
In addition, pupils with NVLD usually have a problem with writing skills, so teachers and parents must be patient and: a- give them more time to do written work; b- use ICT strategies that allow them to write faster (or record a voice); or c- use cooperative learning, for example, a partner helps the pupil to write important information (homework, instructions, exams dates…)
Some scientists recommend that pupils with NVLD should use only a notebook for all the subjects as it helps them to save energy to concentrate on more complex tasks. Pupils must write the date and hour every day, and then the subject and all the activities, etc. This strategy could be useful. If finally, the teacher or the family sees that it does not help, it is better to stop using it and use different notebooks as they normally do.
MEASURES TO ADAPT TO THEIR WORK RATE
Decrease writing tasks. Do not ask them to write if not necessary (for example, do not force them to copy the activities wording) simply give them the opportunity to use alternative ways: voice recording, oral tasks, use a computer or tablet…
Many teachers and parents believe that writing these wordings trains the writing process but this does not work. It is better to train writing with a creative approach and with more motivating content. And it is also better if they write little but more correctly and do it themselves, without needing so much help and extra time.
Favour the use of activities where pupils do not have to write a lot: short questions, join or connect sentences or words, complete sentences with key words, “True or false” questions, multiple choice, etc.
As always, with a pupil with learning difficulty it is recommended to properly control the amount of tasks that each pupil has to do. For all children to work more than 1-2 hours each afternoon-evening (depending on age) is a mistake, for these pupils it is counter-productive or self-defeating. Therefore, it is very important for the teacher to decide how many activities should be given to these pupils. And, in addition, the family must consult with teachers how many tasks they will help the pupil to do. In some cases, it is better giving a smaller amount of tasks, and in others to control the time that the pupil can work for and stop when the time needed to do the tasks exceeds a reasonable limit.
As a guide, this information to design the homework is recommended:
Before 6 years old: do not give homework (although parents can show tales, books adapted to these children…)
6-8 years old: around 40 minutes.
8-9years: 60-90 minutes.
10-12 years: around 90 minutes.
Secondary Education: between 90 and 120 minutes.
Simplify the tasks as much as possible: for example, do not compel them to use different colour ball-pens. For pupils with NVLD this is worse than using a one-coloured ball-pen.
ORGANIZATION OF THE PAPER
Due to problems in writing, illegible in some cases, and with paper organization, these ideas could be taken under consideration:
Type of notebook. There isn´t a general rule, but it is recommended to use thin, small notebooks (A5 size).
Most of these pupils prefer using one line notebooks, but others might benefit by using Montessori lines. There are no general rules, these are valid for all pupils so flexibility is advised .
Pencils and ball-pens. Most pupils improve their writing using liquid ink ball-pens. Better to test and choose what is best for each pupil. These days we have erasable liquid ink-ball pens, so they have the chance to erase mistakes and do not need to write with pencil.
Position. A comfortable body position is recommended for writing, but for these pupils it is important to reduce tension and tiredness. They must be trained to sit straight, not to sit too near the paper, turn the paper slightly and hold it with the other hand. Train the right position of the hand and fingers writing.
Encourage pupils to train handwriting. This kind of skill could be trained until 3rd level in Primary School, but not later.
However, if writing is illegible, it could be trained in short and continuous sessions. To motivate them carry out a dull activity, provide little rewards, draw a picture or table where they can write their success and work…
Perhaps in training this kind of skill it is useful to use software or apps for computers or tablets.
Visual marks to help them organise lines and writing. For instance, write or draw an arrow or square where the date must be written, or start the paragraph, etc. The teacher or a classmate (cooperative learning) could write the clue; also train the pupil with this problem to do these marks on paper to promote self-control of the task .
In future, the pupil will be more able and might not need these marks
Never make them erase too much and do not tear the paper if things are written badly, as the level of frustration is directly related to a worsening of writing skills. We should remember that the problem with writing is common in this disorder, so “highlight the positive”. It is enough if the writing is legible and we can read what has been written.
On the contrary, if we highlight the “spaces with good writing” or praise somehow what they have written well, they will improve faster and their self-esteem will increase.
GUIDELINES FOR DIFFERENT CURRICULAR SUBJECTS
These pupils learn and show what they know using oral language. They can learn better in a traditional way: using their verbal memory.
However, their weak points here are handwriting and Reading comprehension, especially if they have to infer information or read abstracts or texts without structure (for instance, double meanings of a sentence, metaphors, “moral” of a text; for example, in Aesop’s Fables, these pupils would have a problem understanding the moral of the tale, they could have a superficial understanding).
Regarding handwriting, see guidelines explained above.
How to help them to infer:
Train with “Riddles”. First with simple examples.
Work with concrete questions related to the reading, not only about superficial information, but about the causes of the different situations, the behavior of the characters and help them to find this information in the text, giving them “clues” that will gradually disappear as they become more skilful.
Propose them to imagine different “ends” to their favourite tales and in the texts that they need to work on and understand.
Invent more parts to the story. Imagine how the story could be in the future.
Study with them, helping to organize information. After reading, make sure that they have understood everything; if they have not we will need to revise the difficult contents with them and use verbal reasoning and training their memory to help them learn the main contents.
These pupils often have good mental calculation skills. Their problems are more frequently related to:
Mistakes at writing numbers in the right sequence, cause as well mistakes in Arithmetic.
They could have difficulties to understand mathematics problems, where they have to do inferences of important information.
They could have problems with Geometry.
To help them the following could be considered:
Put visual clues (arrows for example) on the paper for make calculations.
Give verbal instructions and verify if they have written numbers correctly before letting them make mistakes.
Write information in a bigger space and give the main idea in a different sentence.
Give more time to answer activities where they must understand temporal concepts or in Geometry.
Sciences (Social and Natural Sciences)
Pupils often do not have problems in these subjects, as they can use verbal reasoning and memory to understand and learn the content.
Then they must write the content, so perhaps they have a good level (here, pay attention to their handwriting, or spatial distribution of the content, try to “ignore” the “mess” for marking purposes, as this is one of their biggest problems)
They could have problems for example understanding maps or in Geography (spatial concepts) and graphics.
Here they need extra verbal explanations, more time with “clues” to answer, do exams with a teacher guiding the process, increasing verbal activities, etc.
- They need more training and practice to understand spatial concepts, and the use of verbal guide.
-Place more emphasis on the creative process than on the result.
- Practise distribution of space on the paper. Allow them to use good practice examples (but keep in mind that even with a model beside them, they could have problems copying well).
As musical education is based on the stave or pentagram comprehension and interpretation which involve spatial based skills, they could have serious difficulties here. Also they have difficulties with fine psychomotor activity so they could have great difficulties to play an instrument.
Therefore in this subject we must value more their knowledge about conceptual contents (i.e. History of Music) than on procedural contents (i.e. playing the instrument) or visual-space based contents (i.e. reading a pentagram).
They would have more difficulties than most pupils, but we must practise motor coordination.
Although there could be problems imitating others, they will eventually do the exercises better if they have a model than if they have to do them only from visual memory.
Be aware that classmates could tease them for being clumsy when doing difficult physical activities. Adapt the level of difficulty and praise their effort getting the class-group involved in this positive feedback.