How to support a child with a learning disability

Little girl with special needs enjoy spending time with mother in nature

Whether you’re already supporting a child with a learning disability or want to begin a career in supporting others, it may be helpful to review some of the most effective ways of supporting someone with a learning disability.

Defining a ‘learning disability’

According to Raising Children Network, a learning disability is an ongoing disability that can affect different areas of learning and educational development. Learning disabilities can vary between individuals and they can also occur alongside physical disability and various health conditions.

Common signs of learning disabilities

Once a child begins attending school, learning disabilities can become more evident. If they dislikes reading, have trouble spelling words or putting words to paper, have unclear handwriting or are uninterested or not confident about schoolwork, it may be worth revising the tips below so you can begin providing them the right support.

How to provide support

1. Provide regular encouragement

If you’re supporting someone with a learning disability to help them complete their educational activities, it’s important to maintain regular vocal encouragement. Even if they are struggling to complete their study, assignment or lesson, you can praise them for having a go at that task. If they are expressing that they’re feeling incapable of completing their task, remind them gently of other things they are interested in or good at, such as sport, music or their communication skills.

2. Use different ways of communicating

Every individual is different and may choose unique ways of communicating. When supporting a young person with a learning disability, it may take time to understand and learn a method that accommodates them. It may also be worth speaking to the individual’s next of kin, such as a parent, carer or friend to gain a better understanding of their preferred methods of communication before engaging with them.

If you’re initially unsure how to communicate with a child who has a learning disability, you may wish to:

  • begin by speaking clearly by using short sentences and matching your words to their vocabulary,
  • ensure they can clearly see you and your facial expressions when speaking to them,
  • allow them to understand tasks in a way that suits them – this may be by touching, hearing or watching,
  • and practice predictable routines to ensure consistency and reduce misunderstandings.

3. Empower them through responsibility

Whenever possible, you might like to offer small responsibilities as a part of supporting a person with a learning disability. Some responsibilities might include:

  • Letting them choose the activities for the day,
  • Giving them the opportunity to try new things,
  • Offering them choice when it comes to selecting a place to work, a place to play or eat.

By offering them responsibility, you’re also offering them empowerment, choice and the ability to do exactly what they love.

4. Exercise their individuality

Childhood is perhaps the most important part of an individual’s life because it’s a time that many people are learning about themselves, their abilities and identity. If you’re supporting a young person with a learning disability, you may want to encourage them to complete tasks that not only increase their knowledge but also exercise their individuality.

To help them recognise their individuality, you might suggest a range of stimulating tasks that require them to be creative or reflect on themselves. For example, you could give them a task that involves them drawing or painting themselves in different situations such as playing sport, talking to friends or in the classroom.

5. Be a role model

If you regularly support a young person with a learning disability, you’re most likely already a role model for that individual. Being a role model includes:

  • setting the right example in communicating to others, completing tasks and engaging in activities,
  • offering time and displaying patience when supporting others,
  • maintaining positivity and showing them how to exercise their best self.

If something is challenging or upsetting for the person you’re supporting, you could help show them the positive side of the situation to ensure their mental wellbeing and maintain their self-esteem and confidence.

Want to build a career in supporting others? Head to Mable to learn how you can begin connecting with people who are seeking disability support in your local community.

Information within this blog has been provided according to the information on the Raising Children Network.