Teaching Children with Learning or Behavioral Challenges

“Teaching Children with Learning or Behavioral Challenges,” Ensign, Sept. 2005, 71

Teaching Children with Learning or Behavioral Challenges

In working with children of varying cognitive and physical abilities, I am often reminded of the Savior’s admonition that “all [the] children shall be taught” (3 Ne. 22:13). I know that making a difference to a few who need extra help blesses us all.

Do you have a child with learning or attention difficulties in your Primary class? Then maybe you’ve wondered how to create a spiritual learning environment that will benefit all the children. During my work with children who need specialized instruction, I have found the following strategies helpful in focusing their attention—along with the rest of the class.

First: Develop order and routine. All children benefit from well-prepared lessons with clearly explained vocabulary and key points. Those with learning challenges need extra cues to help with any transitions. Visual cues, such as a picture, can indicate where to sit. Auditory cues, such as prelude or postlude music or the chime of a quiet bell, help to signal dismissal time or a change in activity.

Second: Stop the lesson when disruptions occur. Use simple visuals to explain or remind the children of behavioral expectations before resuming the lesson. For instance, a picture of an eye can remind them to look at the speaker. Children with learning or attention difficulties often don’t understand hints or suggestions as well as body or facial expressions.

Third: Sit on the floor. Active children sometimes can’t tell where their body space is, so they wiggle to provide the brain with more feedback. Sitting on the floor allows more of their body to be in contact with a stable foundation. Providing a blanket for them to sit on offers a visual seating cue.

Fourth: Try “crossover” exercises. Any physical movement causing the arms and legs to cross the midline of the body seems to help focus wiggly children. Try having the children march in place while touching their right elbow to their left knee and vice versa. They can march eight or ten steps in this fashion before sitting back down, cross-legged on the floor.

Arthella Starke, Lakeridge Ward, Lake Oswego Oregon Stake