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Study Strategies for Students with Learning Differences


Whether or not students have diagnosed learning differences, every student has a unique learning process. Here at AJ Tutoring, we work to leverage student’s strengths and create individualized learning plans to best meet their needs. Some students may have a 504 or an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to help meet their needs at school, but there are also studying tips and tricks to improve learning at home. We want to offer parents some suggestions to unlock the hidden potential of their child’s abilities. As always, it’s important to maintain a Growth Mindset.


Students with learning differences (LD) are just as capable as everyone else. In fact, learning differences also carry significant strengths. For example, people with LD often have a greater capacity for empathy; people with ADHD are excellent creative problem solvers; people with dyslexia excel at spatial reasoning, and so on.


After navigating an education system that wasn’t designed to work with their strengths, kids with LD frequently internalize their struggles in school. This can lead to anxiety and depression, which further exacerbate the problem. Therefore, it is crucial to build a student’s confidence and their motivation to succeed. Specific, immediate, and positive reinforcement for a student’s effort is key. Remind your student that they have unique strengths, and it is normal to sometimes need help adjusting your learning techniques.


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Some learning differences that AJ Tutoring frequently encounters are ADHD/ADD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia. Whether or not your child has one of these, if they fidget, have trouble concentrating, reading, or writing, there are things you can do to help!


Here are several at-home accommodations that could benefit every student. Again, each learner is unique, and sometimes it takes testing several strategies to find out what works best for him or her. If your student has a significant impairment, it may be useful to see a educational psychologist for further testing and to help create an individualized plan for them. Here is a list of AJ Tutoring-recommended psychologists.


Trouble Concentrating

  • Always study in the same area, so that you associate that space with productivity.
  • If you are losing motivation, change up the space you choose can also help.
  • Take 5 minute “brain breaks” every 25 minutes you study. These can be shorter, longer, or more or less frequent based on your  student’s needs.
  • Play “beat the clock” and set a timer and assign a specific task– this simulates the adrenaline and motivation that are tied to procrastinating.
  • For homework that requires a computer, turn off the Wifi or using a website blocker such as “Stay Focused” to inhibit distracting websites.
  • If possible, work while it is still light out and in a place with natural light.


Trouble Sitting Still, or Fidgeting

  • Utilize stress balls, silly putty, fidget cubes, or other things that you can do with your hands while you study.
  • Stand up and walk around while you study.
  • Chew gum.
  • Use special pens and doodle while listening.


Trouble with Writing: Handwriting

  • Use special pencil grips to increase dexterity.
  • Use a tablet/ computer when possible.
  • Use a smartpen.


Trouble with Writing: Written Expression of Ideas

  • Allow and encourage the student to come up with their own abbreviations for note-taking.
  • Use a speech to text program for writing papers (i.e Dragon).


Trouble with Reading

  • Use a bookmark to follow along on a page.
  • Use a text reader.
  • Some textbooks are available as audiobooks.
  • Have instructions read aloud and talk through the problem verbally.
  • Use a text magnifier for small text.
  • Check for understanding after a student reads instructions to themselves.


General Learning Tips

  • Make sure that you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and are not hungry when you study.
  • Study at the same time each day, and schedule when you are going to complete assignments.
  • Add structure whenever possible, such as to-do lists, schedules, and specific and measurable goals.
  • Study in a clean space with minimal distractions and all necessary tools at hand.

It is crucial, especially with students with learning differences, to provide as much positive reinforcement as possible to help build their confidence in their ability to succeed. Here at AJ Tutoring we weave these study skills and confidence-building strategies into all of our work with students. Our tutors provide much more than content expertise; they help their students have a positive educational experience, increase their motivation and build lifelong habits.


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