By Alice Thomas and Glenda Thorne
NOTE: This article is written for the child. We strongly recommend that an adult read it with his/her child/student.
First, a student needs to understand that he/she can learn despite the problems he or she may have with language.
Second, a student needs to have a good understanding of what kind of problems he has. How are they affecting him in school? Is it hard to follow directions? Does he have trouble speaking? Is reading his problem? There are a number of strategies that will help him with some of these problems. A few are listed below.
Use non-language strengths to compensate for language weaknesses. The expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words” may become especially important for the visual person who has difficulty expressing himself verbally. If a student is good at art, for example, he may use pictures to explain or illustrate his ideas rather than words.
- Make diagrams, lists, charts, or drawings to illustrate what you are reading in a textbook in order to help you remember what you have read.
- Sit close to the teacher so that you can listen better. This arrangement may also permit you to watch the facial expression of the teacher when s/he is talking. This may help with the comprehension of verbal instructions.
- You may need directions given to you at a relatively slow pace, and you may need directions repeated to you. Examples of what needs to be done may also be useful for you.
- If getting your sentences together quickly is a problem for you, you should not be “put on the spot” by being required to answer questions during class discussions, especially without being forewarned. Rather, your participation should be on a voluntary basis (when you raise your hand). Talk to your teacher privately about this.
- Practice summarizing or elaborating on your thoughts in a place where you feel “safe” to practice these skills. For example, you may ask your parents to listen to you to elaborate on a TV program or a movie you have just watched.
- If you have problems with your primary language, it is likely that you also will have difficulty with a foreign language. If this is a requirement in your school, it may need to be waived. Talk about this with your school counselor.
- You may need individual remediation using methods that have been shown to work with people who exhibit characteristics of what is commonly referred to as “dyslexia.”
- Learn to sort out the words that you might need for writing a paper or taking a test by writing them on a list beforehand.
- Even though it may be difficult for you, read aloud as much as you can. Find someone with whom you are comfortable doing this.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have not understood verbal directions for an assignment. Or ask for a printed copy of the directions so you can read them again until you understand them. You may benefit from directions that are written in addition to being given orally.
- Get extra help from your teachers and, if necessary, get additional help from a tutor or a language specialist.
- If you have difficulty reading orally, you should not be made to read out loud in front of the class. Talk to your teacher privately about this.
- Reading comprehension is often helped by summarizing or paraphrasing the material. Learning to outline and to emphasize the main idea and supporting details will help you. It may be helpful to provide key words to orient attention to the appropriate details (e.g., who, what, when, where, why).
- When reading, have a pencil or highlighter in your hand. Underline key words and phrases and paraphrase them in the margins. If you can’t write in your book, use Post-It notes for the main words or ideas.
- Try to run a “mental movie” of what you are reading by forming pictures in your head, especially when you are reading stories.
- Try a staging procedure for writing assignments. Stage 1: Generate your ideas. Stage 2: Organize your ideas. Stage 3: Check spelling. Stage 4: Check mechanical and grammatical rules. Stage 5: Proofread and edit.
- Students who have receptive language problems may use up a lot of energy listening, and, therefore, tire easily. Short work times with frequent breaks or quiet periods may be useful for you.
- Students with reading problems often benefit from using books on tape. It is helpful is the student will not only follow along in the text, but also if he will read out loud as he listens to the tape. Audiotapes of some books are available in public libraries. A larger selection is available from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, 20 Roszel Road, Princeton, NJ 08540. A list of available tapes can be obtained by completing an application form and obtaining a certifying letter from a clinician.
- Keep a positive attitude. Don’t get discouraged. You can do it!