LBS Practitioner Training

Professional development support for Literacy and Basic Skills educators in Ontario

3. Learning Disabilities

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This course, Learning Disabilities, is designed to help LBS practitioners become more confident and successful in working with learners who have learning disabilities (LD).

Researchers agree that approximately 10% of the general population have some sort of learning disability. Of the number of adults who attend adult literacy classes, experts tell us that the percentage rises to between 30% and 60%. LBS instructors recognize that learners face tremendous challenges in trying to upgrade their literacy skills when they have learning disabilities, and practitioners want to become better skilled at offering learners the right kind of help.

A recent Learning Disabilities Training Needs Survey showed that LBS practitioners in school boards put these three training priorities at the top of the list:

  1. to be able to identify the various types of learning disabilities,
  2. to be able to use a quick screen method for assessing for suspected learning disabilities,
  3. to know what strategies and accommodations are best suited to various learning disabilities.


This course will lay a good foundation for understanding different learning disabilities and how they affect literacy learning and will help practitioners develop skills for selecting appropriate strategies for particular LD difficulties. Readers will explore:

  • approaches for identifying possible learning disabilities,
  • specific learning disabilities and how they affect learning,
  • particular strategies for particular problems,
  • helping learners with LD move towards self-advocacy.

The course is organized into six units of study.  In each unit you will find course notes, hotlinks to files with related readings from various sources, links to online materials and resources, and opportunities for self-reflection. Guided self-reflection through journalling will help you examine the impact these materials have on your own thinking, and what implications follow for your day-to-day teaching practice.

Course Content

3.1 Understanding Learning Disabilities
  • definitions and descriptions
  • where did they come from
  • how learning disabilities affect an adult’s daily life
  • what do instructors and learners need to know first?
3.2 Identifying Possible Learning Disabilities
  • what LD screening and diagnostic testing can tell you
  • signs of possible learning disabilities
  • how to talk with learners about possible learning disabilities
  • what kinds of screening tools we can use
  • how do we use them?
3.3 Specific Learning Disabilities
  • different kinds of learning disabilities
  • learning disabilities in visual and auditory perception, and in organization.
  • literacy problems associated with each

3.4 Finding the Right Strategy
  • building on strengths and working around problems
  • strategies to put in place at the planning stage
  • strategies for when problems arise in reading, writing and math for people with specific learning disabilities
3.5 Moving Towards Self-Advocacy
  • what kinds of accommodations do LD learners need?
  • what accommodations do we use in the classroom?
  • how do we help learners advocate for themselves after they leave the program, so they can take control of their own learning?
3.6 In the Classroom
  • effective teaching for all kinds of learners

3.7 Final Assignm




Understanding Learning Disabilities

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