Learning Style and the Special Needs Child

By Sze, Susan | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Learning Style and the Special Needs Child


Sze, Susan, Journal of Instructional Psychology


In order for a teacher to teach their students well they need to know their students and their learning styles. They need to know the best strategies of teaching in order to help them to become better learners. When the teacher accommodates their teaching to those students helps to level the playing field in the classroom. Leveling the playing field gives special education students a better chance of being successful inside and outside the classroom. Students, especially younger students, do not know or recognize their learning styles and therefore it is the educator's job to find those preferred styles and help accommodate their teaching to those styles (VanKlaveren, K., Buckland, T., & Williamson, J. (2002). Once students realize their learning style and know how to make things fit their needs, they will become more proficient learners.

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People choose to discover new ideas and opinions through their own learning style. A person's learning style is developed through how a person feels that they learn best. When dealing with various spectrums of the learning environment, two theories are developed that address the ideals of perception, intellect, and personality. These ideals are discussed by Willing (2008) through the categories of field independent and field dependent learners. Willing discovered that people differ from each other in the way they "perceive both their environment and themselves" (Town, 1993). People who are either field dependent or field independent differ in human relations, learning styles, and information processing.

Students with disabilities may hide their personalities as well because they don't want to come across as unintelligent to their peers. Students with disabilities may be as bright as their peers it just takes them more time to process information and get the correct answers out. Educators should develop strategies for students with disabilities that allow the students to interact with the rest of the class (York, 2008). Some strategies may be as simple as standing directly in front of the student when they are going to be called on or providing a clue word that informs the student that they are going to be next. Simple strategies such as these can provide a better learning environment for students with disabilities, which allow them to express their personality in the learning choices they make.

Students with autism thrive in environments that provide structure. The language learning classroom may be structured a certain way, but the structure of language itself is ambiguous and may cause for difficulty in language learning for these students. Teaching students with autism to communicate is often done through prompting, which involves the teacher saying a phrase and the student repeating the phrase. This type of structured learning may work well for beginning language/communication skills, but educators should strive to wean students off prompting and teach them to speak at their own will. Along with difficulty in communicating, students with autism also have problems with social activities and events. The ambiguity of language may pose more of a problem in social events because the students are unable to decipher how to act and response to the language of others. Providing these students with social stories is a strategy that allows the students to see a social event taking place in the story, and helps them learn how to react in that event.

Every student's brain functions differently and processes information differently. Due to this, students have different types of learning style. Once the teacher can understand the disability and the preferred learning styles of the student, they can better adapt to that student.

Teachers need to learn strategies to increase student achievement in order to help them function at the same level as their peers. When students know how to change things into the format that they learn best, students can fully take charge of their education. …

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