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Adaptive Instruction for Teacher Education: Inclusive Approaches, Resources and Technology
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Communication Exceptionality:

Learning Disability  


Ministry Definition... A learning disorder evident in both academic and social situations that involves one or more of the processes necessary  for the proper use of spoken language or the symbols of communications, and that is characterized by a condition that: 

  • Is not primarily the result of:
    • impairment of vision or hearing;
    • physical disability;
    • developmental disability;
    • primary emotional disturbance;
    • cultural difference; and
  • Results in a significant discrepancy between academic achievement and assessed intellectual ability, with deficits in one of more of the following:   
    • receptive language;
    • language processing;
    • expressive language;
    • mathematical computations.
  • May be associated with one or more conditions diagnosed as a perceptual handicap, a brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, developmental aphasia.


Learning Disabilities: Type 1 | Type 2 | Type 3



1.    Although it is not explicitly stated it is implied that there must be evidence of at least average intelligence.

2.    There is a significant difference between the potential (of at least average intelligence) and academic functioning (which should be at least in the average range for age or grade but is significantly lower).

3.    The academic difficulties cannot be attributed to any of the above ‘distracting factors.’

This is the largest category of exceptionalities and most of these students are placed into a regular class. 

There are many ways to classify Leaning Disabilities.  The following is a relatively easy classification system that can assist the regular teacher, (although it should be noted that each student has a highly specific combination of difficulties).  

Type 1.  Students have difficulty processing visual-spatial information.  This is also called a non-verbal learning disability.  These students are often incorrectly termed the dyslexics.

Type 2. Language Learning Disability. This is the most prevalent type of learning disability (about 80% of all students identified as Learning Disabled. ) These student show delays in the development of language, have difficulty processing auditory information and in oral language production. 

Type 3. Muscle control difficulties which may affect either large muscle control or small muscle control.  These difficulties occur concurrently with either one of the above two types. 

Each are discussed in greater detail below. 


Type 1 | Type 2 | Type 3


Type 1. Learning Disabilities with Visual-Spatial Processing deficits. (Also termed a non verbal learning disability and is often incorrectly termed dyslexia, which really means unable to learn to read.) These are students who have:

  • Average or higher intelligence;
  • Excellent oral language abilities;
  • Good auditory processing.

These strengths can be utilized in compensating for weaknesses they may have. They occur in 5% of all students.

The following are some of the difficulties these students encounter:

1. May have extreme difficulty learning to read or even if the student does learn to read he or she may read very slowly.  Reversals – They may have difficulty distinguishing between d,p,q,b/n, u,v etc.  Their visual field does not remain stable. The difficulty is in the developing the Sound to SYMBOL relationship in decoding.

2. Visualization.  They may have difficulty visualizing things or do not associate a code with an object.  So they do not visualize a cat when they see C-A-T and this further exacerbates their difficulty reading, in that theses students may not use visual imagery for thinking and may not form visual schemes which may affect their social skills.

3. Spatial Relationships Involving Sequences- Math & Spelling
    These students seem to have problems involving the sequence of numbers, aligning numbers in math and do not remember the visual sequence of letters in words so spelling is often weak. In addition geometry and geography may pose particular problems as well as some technical areas that involve eye to hand co-ordination as well as judging distances such as drafting, carpentry etc.

In Phys Ed. They may have difficulty judging where to throw a ball, or in catching a ball as well as having difficulty judging the depth in a swimming pool. 

4. Handwriting. The visual spatial difficulties may be reflected in their handwriting, which is poorly spaced, off the line, doesn’t always start at the left margin of the page etc.

5. Social Relationships. Students with kind of learning disability may not process body language cues adequately, judge distances, depth, or angles.

To Do

Students who have non verbal learning disabilities can benefit a lot, from the use of adaptive technology.  It should be a major component of accommodations for these students so that they can achieve their potential.

Refer to the list above and think of a lesson you have taught and how a student with such a learning disability can be accommodated in your class.  Then determine how adaptive technology be used to differentiate instructions for these student?

Also Refer to Finding Common Ground and Finding Common Ground - Visual in the Assignments section to assist in answering the above questions.


Type 2. Language Learning Disability.  These student show delays in the development of language, have difficulty processing auditory information and in oral language production i.e. in using oral language to communicate effectively and to express their thoughts or emotions in an age-appropriate manner despite their average or higher intelligence.

If the ability to develop and use language is extremely low it may be terms a Language Impairment.


Students with language learning disabilities have strengths in visual- spatial processing.  It is seen in Mathematic ability, technical subjects and art.


However the affect of language related disabilities are extremely pervasive and affect not only the student’s ability to learn but also how they interpret the ‘world’.

Students with language learning disabilities may have difficulties in some of the following areas:

  • Vocabulary is limited and poorly organized which limits the student's ability to understand or use age appropriate vocabulary. They may use words but do not fully understand the meaning e.g. Manitoba is a continent;
  • Syntax- They may have difficulty learning the grammatical structures of language automatically;
  • Morphology- e.g. may not understand the difference between active and passive sentences structures or for example how the use of before and after can modified the meaning of a sentence and the order of actions;
  • Pragmatics is the social use of language and students  may not be able to modify their language to a listener's needs or to context- so, for example a student may speak to the principal in the same way he or she speaks to their friends;
  • Figurative Language.  These students may have difficulty interpreting figurative language and will take it literally or may  not understand double meanings of words, humour, or sarcasm;
  • There may be Retrieval Problems or word finding difficulties when responding to a question or describing something;
  • Many students with Language Learning Disabilities remain concrete in their thinking and have difficulty forming abstract concepts as he or she may not look for similarities between things and therefore don’t categorize.  This results in a lack of generalization i.e. being apply to apply what is learned in one context in another, and so learning continues as a series of  isolated events.  For example: Learn spelling lists but don’t spell these words correctly in written work.   This then extends to having difficulty making inferences or learning by experience;
  • Reading & Spelling is often weak  as the poor ability to process auditory information can occur concurrently with a difficulty with sound segmentation of words, termed phonology.
    This affects, together with a weak auditory memory makes learning the SOUND- to Symbol associations needed to learn to decode difficult;
  • Even if the student can decode, weak vocabulary limits comprehension and lack of abstract thinking limits their ability to make inferences.
    Estimated as occurring in 60- 90% of all Learning Disabled
    Which is about 60 to 90 out of 1000 students

To do

Review the list of all of the adaptive technologies determine which would be good for language learning disabled students to use?

Please see Assignments for two useful check lists.


Type 3. Muscle control difficulties which may affect either large muscle control or small muscle control.  These difficulties occur concurrently with either one of the above two types.
They may have problems with learning motor actions, and with eye to hand co-ordination. 

Small Muscle control difficulties can or may be seen in

  • articulation difficulties including Apraxia, which may look like stuttering;
  • difficulty controlling a pencil, using scissors, using a keyboard;
  • students may failing because they do not hand in written work. (Often these say their hand gets tired).

Large Muscle Control Difficulties

These students may be clumsy and socially inept because they bump into things and people, are not well coordinated in Physical Education, sports, catching a ball etc.

To do

Refer to all of the submenus of Finding Common Ground in the Assignments section to determine ways to differentaite instruction and acommodate these students as well as what adaptive technology would be appropriate for students with the above types of learning disabilities.