Unlocking the Potential of Students with Specific Learning Disorders: A Comprehensive Guide to Compensatory and Dispensatory Measures
When it comes to specific learning disorders (SLD), there are often prejudices and little knowledge about what can be done concretely to make the educational experience truly inclusive and accessible to every student. However, starting from 2010, with the law 170, the Italian government has provided a comprehensive guide with various useful tools to ensure that students with specific needs have the same starting point as their peers.
To ensure that every student can truly have an educational path that values them and brings them to the maximum of their potential, it is necessary to have a holistic approach, including elements that go beyond mere teaching. In fact, it is essential to combine the so-called compensatory and dispensatory measures with the care of welcoming and including individuality. Only thanks to this mix it will be possible to create a truly positive classroom/educational environment, attentive to the needs of all individuals within it.
But where to start to address SLD? What are the compensatory tools and how do they differ from dispensatory ones? Can Algor Education be used to improve the educational experience of dyslexic, dysorthographic, dysgraphic and discalculic students? Let's find out together!
In this article we will see:
Exploring compensatory tools and dispensatory measures
Before understanding what compensatory tools and dispensatory measures are, we need to take a step back and analyze the needs of a student with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD). When one of dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysorthography, and dyscalculia is diagnosed, it is necessary to be able to guarantee the student the possibility of reaching the same level as their peers.
SLDs - as emphasized by art. 1 of law no. 170/2010 - constitute real limitations to many activities of daily life, which is why a series of measures are needed to alleviate them if not cancel them altogether. According to the current Italian system, in fact, every student has the right to be autonomous in the learning process, as well as to be valued in their specificities. On the other hand, this line is also in line with our Constitution, which often cites the individuality and personal development of individuals.
It is precisely in this framework that the purposes of compensatory tools and dispensatory measures are inserted. As we will see later, in fact, they are simply the methods made available by educators to students who need personalized teaching, in order to enhance their strengths.
The truth about compensatory tools in the classroom
In the world of DSA, false beliefs often haunt both students and reference adults - be they parents or teachers. It is important to remember that no advantages are being provided to the student, nor are any facilitations that can "favor" him/her compared to his/her peers. Teachers have the task of making this point clear to other students as well, so as to avoid situations of contrast or discomfort in the classroom environment.
Of course, only if the family authorizes it, it is highly recommended to speak openly in class about the compensatory tools adopted for one or more students. In this way, all students will be able to accept a treatment that can otherwise be perceived as "preferential". To explain it in a simple way, you can use a very immediate parallelism:
Compensatory tools are to students with DSA what glasses are to a nearsighted person.
A comprehensive guide to compensatory tools for inclusive education
After this introduction, it is quite intuitive that compensatory tools are all those measures put in place to actively help students with DSA, individualizing the teaching and building a truly inclusive educational path. The goal is never to "cure" or "correct" the student, but rather to optimize their study so that obstacles independent of them can be overcome.
Depending on the specific DSA, there are different compensatory tools that can be adopted. Always following the individual needs of the student, you can decide to adopt the most suitable ones among the following.
Compensatory tools for calculations and mathematical operations:
- Number lines;
- Forms and/or tables;
- Pythagorean tables;
- Calculators, possibly also vocalized;
- Guide grids for column operations;
- Spreadsheets - like Excel.
Compensatory tools for reading:
- A physical guide for isolating the line to be read (to avoid losing the point);
- Software for online concept maps or voice synthesis, like Algor Education;
- Schemes made with the help of an educator;
- Greater spacing of the text;
- Larger and uppercase letters;
- Language dictionaries.
Compensatory tools for writing:
- Recorders that relieve the activity of taking notes;
- Video or audio-writing programs;
- Automatic spelling correction programs;
- Smart pens capable of translating or recognizing text.
Tailoring to individual needs and embracing self-discovery
Without prejudice and without fear of making mistakes, these tools can also be used for short periods of time or alternatively to other measures. In fact, since each student is different, it is important to value their individuality and provide them with something that is truly useful. Do not expect every tool to be universally valid and do not be afraid to experiment!
Following this logic, you should never try to force a compensatory measure on a student that is not suitable for them. Therefore, if there are no improvements in results or the student does not benefit from a specific measure, do not be afraid to modify the strategy to tailor it to their specific educational needs.
For educational reasons, it will be very important to prepare the student with DSA for the use of compensatory tools, trying to approach their individuality without shame or rejection. For a truly formative educational path, the student must be accompanied in the process of self-knowledge, experimenting with their learning channels to make them truly functional for learning.
Empowering students with learning disabilities to succeed
Dispensatory measures are placed alongside compensatory measures, but they assume a "negative" sense of subtraction. In fact, instead of providing additional tools, they are designed to relieve students from specific tasks that may be too complex for them to complete. There are three types of tools in this category:
- Those that exempt the student from some activities - such as mental calculations for a student with dyscalculia;
- Those that provide more time to complete tests;
- Those that provide different materials, designed specifically for the student in question.
The objective of dispensatory measures is to build the educational and evaluation experience tailored to the student with DSA, allowing them to autonomously achieve the set goals. In other words, while compensatory tools optimize the learning process, dispensatory tools ensure that the assessment is fair and takes into account the difficulties of individuals.
The algor education project's multifunctional tools
Born with a special focus on students with dyslexia, the Algor Education project provides a wide range of tools that can be used to compensate for the learning process. In particular, the tools provided by our app can be useful for people with dyslexia, as they significantly facilitate reading.
This does not exclude, of course, that also for all other students, who can benefit from the multiple functionalities of the platform:
- The interactive creation of concept maps from a digital text;
- Speech synthesis and dyslexia fonts, important for listening to the created map without needing to read it autonomously;
- A truly inclusive interface, designed to be intuitive and simply usable by all users;
- The simultaneous sharing of maps, which can allow you to interact live with both your classmates and teachers in creating the schemes.
As the possibilities offered by our platform are numerous, we invite you to experiment with them and try to make them your own in order to understand how to present them best to your students or children with dyslexia. In other words, do not be afraid to dive in and take advantage of the available compensation opportunities, reaching a much more complete and organic educational path.
Article by Nina Komadina, content creator.