Creating Successful Learning Environments for Students with Learning Disabilities


The success of any student can typically be attributed to their own personal aspirations and diligence, parental involvement, and the efforts of talented and dedicated educators. The physical environment in which learning occurs can also play a key role in supporting the learning process. This is of particular importance when creating environments for those students with learning disabilities.  In 2013–14, the number of students aged 3–21 receiving special education services in the United States was 6.5 million, or approximately 13% of all public school students. Among students receiving special education services, 35% had specifically-documented learning disabilities and approximately 21% had speech or language impairments (National Center for Educational Statistics).  Common learning disabilities include difficulties with auditory processing (ADP), numerical comprehension (Dyscalculia), text comprehension and processing (Dyslexia), inability to write coherently (Dysgraphia), and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which, while not a learning disability in itself, often manifests along with other specific learning disabilities.

Students with learning disabilities require an intensive and rigorous, yet flexible, program to support their specific needs and to drive them to succeed. Given the distinct nature of educating students with learning disabilities, it is imperative to prioritize the physical architecture of the classroom to promote educational achievement. 

Methodologies for
21st Century Learning Environments


Educational methodologies have shifted in recent years, with significant research and associated documentation underscoring the realization that traditional lecture and memorization pedagogy is not the most effective method of education for today’s student. The typical 21st-century learner has been born into a world that provides ready access to technology and has, in most cases, been comfortable processing information through problem-solving from an early age.  Active learning engages students in meaningful learning experiences, where students don’t just listen and memorize. The 21st-century learner is enabled to gain knowledge through exploration of core concepts and application of those learned concepts to real world situations, demonstrating a process or analyzing an argument. This type of learning is not experienced by the student sitting alone, listening to and memorizing what is being recited to them. Peer-to-peer collaboration and project-based learning offers the 21st-century student flexible opportunities to explore and experiment with core concepts that can be adjusted to meet the student’s personal educational needs.  In order to best accommodate the creativity and collaboration that actively engages the student in the learning process, the spaces in which that process occurs should be designed to provide the flexibility required to accommodate a variety of learning opportunities.

 The active Hokki stool from VS America is an example of dynamic furniture, which allows for active seating with free movement. 

The active Hokki stool from VS America is an example of dynamic furniture, which allows for active seating with free movement. 

Many students, particularly those with attention-related disabilities, are fidgety and sensory-seeking; the simple act of sitting still goes against their general nature. By allowing for rocking, swaying, or other movement, dynamic furniture allows students to address their individual sensory needs without disrupting the class around them. Providing a variety of furniture options affords students a choice in seating positions and styles to meet their specific requirements for comfort, so they are better able to focus on learning, with less loss of concentration.  In addition to easily movable and reconfigurable classroom furniture, desks and chairs that allow for height, tilt and posture adjustments, along with the option to sit or stand while working and learning, allow students to interact with and have some control over the ergonomics associated with their own physical learning environment. 

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