Learning Differences

An introduction and resource page about learning differences.

How the Library can Help

      So, now how can the school library and librarian provide services to this population and make the resources as valuable, accessible, and useful to them as to any other student?

      These students learn differently, so they need to be taught differently. Most of them have a combination of learning differences, and can be overwhelmed by the typical school library or research assignment--its large selection of books, journals, and magazines, its lack of material in an appropriate format, a librarian or library clerk who does not know how to provide more appropriate material, and a library website that is overwhelming and laborious to navigate.  There are also certain modifications in the way a teacher-librarian imparts information and ideas.

      Utilization of multisensory methods and resources is most important. Here are some suggestions that will be covered more indepth on this page:

  • Accommodations & Modifications
  • Audiobooks & eAudiobooks--free and subscription services
  • Assistive technologies
  • Applications, Software, & Freeware
  • Website Design

Universal Design for Learning

Watch the video from CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) on UDL Principles. UDL is an educational approach with three primary principles:

  • Mutiple means of representation (how material is presented)
  • Multiple means of action and expression (how students demonstrate knowledge)
  • Multilple means of engagement (how to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, increase motivation)

Video: UDL: Principles and Practices

and UDL Guidelines--Educator Checklist

Accommodations & Modifications

When working with students with learning differences the following strategies are used by LD teachers--yet these teaching accommodations will benefit most any student.

Teaching Strategies

  • Structured environment, reduced noise and distractions
  • Predictable routine--warm-up, "to do," copy homework from board
    • Introduce/preview iinformation in the same manner each new topic
    • Use KEYWORDS in lecturing--"first, second," "to summarize," main point, supporting point, concluding point
  • Reduce verbal language while teaching--the most difficult!
    • Use a slower rate of speech. Really.
    • Enunciate clearly, without exaggeration
    • Use body movements and natural gestures
    • Integrate "wait time" into question asking and presentation of information
  • Present information in small chunks
    • Allow time for processing
    • Check for comprehension
    • Review the next day
  • Allow for breaks--stretching, change topic for 2 minutes
  • For students needing it (IEPs)--extra time, reader, note-takers, scribe
  • Ask for feedback
    • Too fast? Too slow?
    • Ask each student to anonymously write down/email what they thought the point of the lesson was
      • then adjust accordingly!
  • Provide concrete examples of good essays, good iMovies, good Powerpoints, good outlines, good notecards
  • Teach direct concepts and try not to rely on implication or deduction without explaining it
  • Teach direct behaviors wanted
    • "Stop talking," "Close your laptops," "Take out your note cards," "Log on to NoodleBib"
    • Do not start with "it would be a good idea...," or "you might want to...," or "somebody is talking..."
  • Avoid sarcasm and explain metaphorical language--the abstract is impossible for some
  • Encourage and reward students who come for extra help or further clarification
  • Actively teach note-taking & organizational skills
    • Outline on board, verbalize outline, copy outline--check for copy accuracy
      • Insert information during lecture or film
      • Ask for summary of what the outline means at end of period
    • Repeat (for weeks) until you have them create their own outline
      • Check for their accuracy
  • Present information in as many modalities as possible--VARK

Assistive Technologies


FREE. Windows XP and Mac OSX come with basic text-to-speech capabilities. Set up in System Preferences, and selected text is read aloud using a computer-generated voice (Control+1).


FREE. Copy and paste text into the box and creat an mp3.


FREE. Create a personalized speaking avatar and use them on your blog, website, email messages.


NEO ($149). For students with dysgraphia, pre-laptop or computer, as young as 3rd grade.


($15-50). Interactive speaking dictionary. Automatic phonetic speller corrects words ("nolij" into "knowledge") and an animated handwriting guide demonstrates print and cursive writing.

Kurzweil 3000--Reading, Writing, and Learning Software

($1100 +). Reads electronic text using a computer voice, offering better voice choices and advanced features than free text-to-speech applications. Highlights text being read, controls for speed, allows for annotating, bookmarks, export into outline form.