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Adapting your training to non-visible disabilities: specific language and learning disorders

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The first thing that comes to mind when we think about training and disability is access for persons with reduced mobility (PRMs): is there a ramp, a lift and wide enough doors. Fortunately, the answer to this question is increasingly YES.

However, another type of disability must also be taken into account, one that is more complex because often non-visible: language and learning disorders.

What does this mean?

This often refers to cognitive disorders such as dyslexia (the most common and well-known), dysorthography, dyspraxia, dysphasia, dyscalculia and attention disorder. These cognitive disorders affect around 8% of the population. They are becoming increasingly better detected in young people, but your adult trainees may very well suffer from such disorders without ever having been diagnosed and may have retained a certain bitterness towards school as a result.

These people will therefore be a little apprehensive about embarking on a training course and it is your job as a trainer to make them feel at ease and adapt your training to facilitate the transfer of skills.

What should I do if my trainees present cognitive disorders?

The idea is to design training for everyone that valorizes these individuals’ skills despite the disorder preventing them from accessing certain information.

The same document can, for example, contain a diagram summarizing the targeted content alongside text using more literary phrases, enabling each trainee to choose the method best suited to their learning style. Generally speaking, some people prefer text while others prefer images. Someone who has dyspraxia, for example, may not understand or be able to reproduce diagrams and arrows but may be at ease with storytelling, while someone with dyslexia will learn less well with developed phrases. Mind maps are also a useful tool for verifying that trainees have properly understood your explanations.

What about trainees with ADHD?

These people suffer from attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity. If they are on your training course, it means they have learned to compensate for their disability, but often at a cost. Everyone finds it hard to remain concentrated on a training course and this is even more true for such individuals.

As such, the first thing to do is to vary the sessions in order to retain the trainee’s attention. It also enables all the participants to get up and move around from time to time.

What about group work?

Ideally, each person should take on the role that best showcases their skills. In a group of three, for example. Each team has a common goal and allocates the tasks between them (1 person takes notes, 1 transcribes and 1 gives the oral presentation. In this way, each person’s role corresponds to their abilities). This does not mean we give each person the choice of taking part or not; our role is to support each person’s engagement in the learning process. Bear in mind, furthermore, that people with undiagnosed language and learning disorders have often developed a strategy of total avoidance during their studies (hiding away in the corner, for example) so as not to attract the teacher’s attention and find themselves in a position of failure.

What about course materials?

Feel free to provide learners with a modifiable digital version of the materials. In effect, some people may require double line spacing or a particular font in order to be able to read it better. Likewise, send the trainees photos of the diagrams drawn up during the lesson.

What about my end-of-course multiple-choice questionnaire?

The final multiple-choice evaluation questionnaire, which remains the norm (easy to mark, possibility of compiling statistics, etc.), must not be the only option available to trainees. You can offer them a diagram to complete, open questions to answer or even an oral summary of what they have learned.

The most important thing is to listen and be kind

Trainees will find it easier to fully engage with the training if you have set the right tone and they know they are not there to be judged but to progress and that they can ask or reformulate a question without being ridiculed. Feel free to offer short ‘informal chats’ to those reluctant to speak in public.

Adapting your training to people with language and learning disorders will not require significant extra work but will enable everyone to benefit from your course. And perhaps give some people a taste for learning again!


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