Nurturing a learning disabled student is essentially the same as nurturing a mainstream child. Natural caregiving practices apply. However, there are some extra concerns to be aware of as well. I've grouped the suggestions according to basic care topics.
- Try to imagine your student's world; it will help you to understand him and what he struggles with. Try doing your ordinary tasks with potholders on your hands. Wear someone else's glasses or plug your ears with cotton. This will help you to empathize and understand what he has to live with. You will be able to help your student much better.
- The best nurturing you can provide is your love, tolerance and patience. Speak calmly and pleasantly.
- Nurture learning disabled students with consistency and routine. Change can be terrifying for some learning disabled students.
- Follow a basic schedule.
- Teach learning disabled students to keep their environment neat and organized. This will help with consistency.
- In special needs education, we aim for the "least restrictive environment." This means that we provide as much room and freedom as we can while maintaining safety. This is a good maxim to follow with learning disabled students.
- Organize the environment as you would for an infant or toddler. Keep plugs covered, breakable or chemical things out of reach and the floor free of obstacles. This may sound redundant, but it is a good precaution if the learning disabled child struggles with anger or ADHD issues also.
- Try to make their lives as normal as possible. Focus on the positives that they do and the skills that they have.
- Show them that you value them just as they are.
- Help your student with self-care and hygiene needs. Sometimes a learning disabled child may not know how to care for himself. It makes me sad to see a learning disabled student looking unkempt and dirty. It emphasizes the handicap and causes more social problems. Be sure that he has clean teeth, nails and hair.
- Provide safe, educational toys like blocks, plastic animals, cloth or plastic books and study puzzles. Fine motor skill toys like lacing cards, block sorting, bead stringing and pegboards are helpful also, especially for younger children.
- To help with gross motor skills, offer simple, safe riding toys or balls. A large Pilates ball is great fun!
- Provide outdoor game equipment to develop eye-hand coordination and general muscle tone. Lacrosse, badminton, golf, tennis, bocce ball, and other toss and catch games work well!
- Swimming is great for aquatherapy, overall body functioning and coordination. If appropriate to your learning environment, even a small plastic pool would be helpful.
- For outdoor play, keep the boundaries clear and safe. Fence areas and monitor at all times. But do let them run and play and get lots of fresh air.
- Feeding a learning disabled child: Provide simple, regular nutritious meals and snacks as you normally would. Avoid sugar, pop (especially diet), processed foods and foods with dyes and additives. Try to serve whole grains, proteins, complex carbohydrates and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. A good diet goes a long way toward counteracting the effects of learning disabilities.
- I strongly suggest limiting TV, computer and video games. It is virtual reality and keeps them from genuine interaction. It also can very damaging to developing emotional health (creates images of fear, danger and tension). Studies have also shown that exposure to the light and flickering images can damage visual and perceptual development.
- Music and peaceful images can be very soothing. The Baby Einstein videos are relaxing and visually stimulating. Classical music is good for the nerves and psyche.
I wish you well with the your very dear and precious learning disabled students!