A teacher's overview of supporting children with moderate learning difficulties.
What are moderate learning difficulties?
Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) are one of the most prevalent triggers that teachers and parents experience with a child. A learning difficulty, often known as a learning disability, occurs when the brain's ability to comprehend information is impaired. This impairment can be caused by many factors, including genetic or biological causes, neurological disorders, sensory impairments, emotional problems, or environmental influences such as poverty, abuse, trauma, or neglect.The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that approximately 15% of children have some type of learning difficulty. In addition, about 1 in 5 adults has been diagnosed with a learning disability. The majority of people who are diagnosed with a learning disability do not receive the services they need to succeed in primary schools and/or work.
Whether you work in a special or a mainstream school, accurately assessing children's needs is paramount for providing them with a broad and balanced education. Special educational needs can be very complex and overlapping. Diagnosing children early on can prevent unnecessary permanent exclusions from school. Identification rates are generally quite accurate but nonetheless, some students can slip through the net, having a detrimental effect on their attitudes towards education.
- Mild Learning Difficulties: IQ is usually between 50 and 70. Physical traits are frequently absent. They are able to communicate effectively with others. They have high basic literacy and numeracy skills and are able to go about their daily lives normally.
- Moderate Learning Difficulties: they have the ability to manage their personal care and have an IQ range of 35 to 49. They have some difficulty with communication skills.
- Severe Learning Difficulties: they have an IQ range of 20 to 34, major developmental delay, and limited communication and verbal comprehension skills. They require assistance in order to cope in social circumstances.
- Profound Learning Difficulties: they have an IQ of less than 20 and have a major developmental delay in all areas where a well-supported plan and provision are required. There are significant cognitive impairments as well as physical abnormalities.
The main focus of this article will be on moderate learning difficulties. We'll define MLD and learn about the symptoms as well as supported strategies.
Understanding more about moderate learning difficulties
All of the learning challenges have an impact on the child's ability to learn new abilities in other areas of life as well as in non-maintained special schools. It makes it harder to grasp new skills and information while also making it challenging to cope independently with previously taught skills. A child with MLD, for example, may have difficulty putting on his own clothes.
There may be other specific special needs, such as dyspraxia, or broader conditions, such as Down syndrome, in addition to moderate learning challenges. MLD is also known as intellectual disability or generalised learning problem.
MLD is not the official term for diagnosing learning problems; it is always associated with a child's IQ score being below the normal range. Although a specific assessment by an educational psychologist should be performed to determine the learning disability, this is usually the main problem that teachers and parents face; the child's IQ is below average, and sometimes it is normal average, but there is a specific learning disability such as dyspraxia that is a trigger for academic, social, and behavioural progress.
There are different types of disabilities in education: physical, mental, and emotional. Physical disabilities include visual impairments, hearing impairments, and motor skills. Mental disabilities include intellectual disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. Emotional disabilities include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
In terms of learning disabilities, these are often referred to as "intellectual" because the impairment affects the brain's capacity to process information. The most common type of learning disability is called Specific Language Impairment (SLI). SLI is when children struggle to understand language and use it appropriately. This can affect their speech, writing, reading, listening, and understanding of spoken words.
Children with special educational needs may have trouble using grammar correctly, pronouncing sounds clearly, or speaking fluently. They may have trouble following instructions, remembering what was said, or finding the right word to express themselves.
Pupils who have special educational needs may need extra help from teachers or tutors to improve their communication skills.
Students with special educational needs often struggle with verbal concepts, especially those related to language. This includes vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and pronunciation. These children may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, and therefore require additional support from teachers or tutors.
All children with MLD have different types of challenges and each group requires different types of scaffolding from educators.
Signs of moderate learning difficulties
Children with moderate learning difficulties can often struggle with reading, writing, arithmetic and comprehension skills. They may also find it difficult to focus and concentrate and may experience problems with attention, organisation, planning and problem-solving.
They may also have communication needs and may present as emotionally older than their chronological age. In some cases, they may even appear to be older than their peers because of their inability to understand what others mean.
Some children with MLD may need additional support with carrying out everyday activities such as dressing, eating, washing and cleaning up; however, not all children with a mild learning difficulty will show every one of these behaviours.
- Difficulty understanding basic concepts: for example, a fundamental idea such as personal space between individuals, they may struggle to respect personal space or solving a simple addition problem. This could have an effect on their literacy scores and a wider impact on their attitudes towards education.
- Children with MLD have trouble learning basic abilities in reading, writing, and numeracy skills, as well as applying and developing taught skills. As a result, they may not be able to cope with their year group aim, resulting in a lack of confidence.
- Poor problem-solving skills: Instead of asking another child nicely, a child may force him or her to play on the swing.
- Difficulty applying and adapting taught abilities to new situations: For example, a child with MLD may learn the skill of counting forward, but when it comes to addition, the child may not be able to employ the previous counting forward knowledge.
- Children with MLD have trouble remembering and organising skills, and they may forget to finish their schoolwork, forget their school supplies, and so on.
- Children in primary school with MLD might have weak social and emotional abilities, which makes forming connections challenging.
- It's challenging to recall things visually and auditory when you have poor auditory and visual memory skills. For example, having trouble memorising songs or recalling phonics material, which makes reading challenging.
- Children in schools with MLD can have difficulty recalling and retaining knowledge due to poor long and short memory skills. They may also experience difficulties in learning new information, particularly if the information is presented visually or auditorily.
- A child who has been diagnosed with MLD will need a lot of support from their family, teachers and other professionals when they are at school. This includes providing them with opportunities for social interaction, as well as ensuring that they receive adequate help with homework and study time.
- Participation in schools might be hampered by a speech and language delay: individuals may have difficulties saying words and using language to express themselves, for example, narrating stories.
- Behavioural issues: a lack of abilities can lead to behavioural issues such as being aggressive toward others, especially with secondary school pupils.
Strategies to Support Children with MLD:
The additional support that you provide should always be informed by the individual child and their specific needs, however here are some general ideas which we hope will benefit most pupils:
Provide a quiet place where children feel comfortable, safe and supported and ensure that learning materials are age appropriate and accessible. Make sure that children have access to books, magazines, newspapers, computers, music etc. You can also encourage children to take part in activities such as arts and crafts, sports, hobbies, clubbing, socialising and group games. Helping children to develop good study skills, including organisation, note taking and revision techniques will advance their metacognitive abilities and improve their independence. Supporting children to learn how to manage their emotions and behaviour appropriately might also need to be considered.
- Provide a structured routine for the student. This gives the student a sense of security and prepares them to adjust to new conditions.
- Children should be shared and given responsibility.
- Encourage and congratulate the youngster on his or her accomplishments, both academic and behaviour.
- Make sure the learning target is reachable and appropriate for the child's attainment levels. Adapt the goals to guarantee that the youngster is learning to his or her full capacity.
- Break the task down into little parts, and make sure the work the child is given is differentiated and manageable for his or her level.
- Give the learner clear and basic instructions, and don't give them too many directives at once.
- To ensure that the child understands what has been said to him, have him recap the provided instruction in his own words.
- Revisit the taught abilities on a regular basis to ensure that the student has mastered them.
- Use a variety of methods to transmit knowledge to the child, including multi-sensory approaches, to ensure that all of the child's senses are engaged during the learning process.
- Instead of describing the needed abilities to the student demonstrate them to him or her.
- To assist the child in structuring their work, give them a writing frame and well-organized papers.
- Give the child a planner so he or she can plan their duties and cross them off as they are accomplished.
- Allow your students to utilise technology to aid his or her study (e.g., audio books, recording the lessons to revisit them, writing on the computer instead of using paper, etc).
- Assist the child in developing their social skills.
What can schools do to cater for their MLD students?
There are three main types of schools for people with severe learning disabilities: specialist schools, mainstream schools and dual placement schools.
Specialist schools cater specifically to students with specific needs such as autism, dyslexia, Asperger syndrome etc. They usually offer support around teaching methods and curriculum, and provide training for teachers and other professionals working with students with SLD.
Mainstream schools are designed to meet the educational needs of students with mild to moderate learning difficulties, but there is certainly no 'one size fits all' and the provision will differ from school to school. Some mainstream schools offer additional help and support for those with more complex needs.
Dual placement schools combine both mainstream and specialist provision within one school. This allows students to receive extra support and guidance in areas where they struggle most. Students spend half their day in the mainstream setting and half in a specialist setting but not all countries will have this level of support in place. Educational psychologists can also provide guidance and support but in some local authorities, this provision can be scarce.