Blogger Janet George, M.Ed., Fellow/AOGPE
If you have a learning difference or live with a person who has a learning difference, you struggle with language. Language, according to Webster’s is; any set or system of such symbols as used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another. Dyslexia is a neurological difference in the brain and effects the brain’s ability to process language “into, through, and “out of” the brain. So the “symbols and systems” of language are disrupted, and communication inhibited. Struggling with language can look like several things: Does any of this sound familiar?
- Trouble with reading, writing, spelling and possibly the “words” of math (less than, minus, fewer than, increases, decreases, greater than, etc.).
- Finds it difficult to retrieve certain words – especially under pressure – and uses the words “thing” and “that” to excess.
- Confusing letter names and sounds, difficulties blending sounds into words, slow rate of reading, trouble remembering after reading text, tires easily when reading.
So if an individual is struggling with language it makes sense his/her vocabulary is often limited. The older one gets, this can further frustrate the desire to affectively use and interpret language, seeming to create a vicious cycle of feeling lost in conversation and socially complex situations.
So how does an individual with learning differences work to acquire a rich vocabulary? Direct teaching in a multi=sensory hands on way is the most effective means for a person with LD to learn. Direct, specific, and goal oriented with an end in sight. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Truth: Despite having a learning difference, you can build your vocabulary and improve your language skills!
- Incorporate a visual cue for the new word (draw the word, cut and paste a photo from the website and paste onto an index card, or a picture of something that reminds you of the word. Make a vocabulary book– store it – keep it– touch it, see it, use it.
- Use the word in a sentence that makes sense. Write the sentence below the picture of the vocabulary word. Make sure the sentence has meaning that you understand or it needs to be broken down.
- What is the root of the word? Find out what its prefix or suffix means. What is a good synonym for the word. Write it down and discuss how it’s the same/different.
5) Limit new words to a workable number to ensure success. Make an obtainable goal, maybe its 3 words then later 5. Don’t set yourself up to fail at the task, set yourself up to reach the goal. This will eliminate the anxiety that comes with feeling overwhelmed by too much “undoable” information at a time, and prove that yes, the learning challenged student ( because you are smart) can learn new vocabulary and participate in complex language environments. You can do it.
Janet George is Head of School at Fortune Academy