How Understanding Multiple Intelligences Can Help People With Learning Disabilities, by Michelle

By November 12, 2020 November 16th, 2020 NVLD Bloggers

I can remember the beginning of each school year and having to complete a test that would help us find our own unique learning style. I wanted to know how to learn best and do well at school. I never had one particular learning style that helped me to learn. I often felt dumb with my peers, who had more of a set learning style and academics came easier for them. I was boxed into “one way of viewing” learning, that I did not realize that intelligence is not measured by a narrow set of standards, but a wide array of thinking. “Multiple Intelligences” is a theory that Howard Gardner views intelligence that people are smart in different ways, rather than a limited approach to thinking.

Howard Gardner lists eight different types of intelligences. Each type of intelligence is unique and has value to learning. The Eight types are Linguistic, Logical mathematical, spatial, body kinesthetic, musical intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, Intra-personal Intelligence, and Naturalist Intelligence. 

Linguistic intelligence involves being able to use words well. A person with Linguistic Intelligence is good at writing stories, poems, and plays. People who identify with this type of learning understand how language works and may be better at taking a foreign language. One of my biggest strengths has been Linguistic. I remember learning to read came easily and I loved reading. I struggled with reading comprehension and was placed in Learning support Language arts to make sure that I could grasp those concepts. I did not take a foreign language, because I was discouraged to do so because of my disability.

Logical Mathematical Intelligence is the ability to understand how numbers work. People with this type of intelligence are good at math. Individuals with a good math sense are able to make sense of logical patterns and calculations. Math makes sense to people who are Logical Mathematical. I am not logical or mathematical. I have Dyscalculia which is the math disability. My dad recalls at the meeting when I was first diagnosed, the school psychologist said that I would never grasp math. My dad is logical and had trouble grasping that I would struggle with these concepts. The school was right that I would never get math. Despite many years in learning support math and endless flash cards I can’t grasp math. I struggle to read an analog clock and a ruler. I have no concept on how much my total will be at the store. Using a calculator is little help because I can put the numbers in but not the formula.

Spatial Intelligence is the ability to understand how spatial concepts work. People who have this type of intelligence are visual thinkers. They can draw well, and can assemble things together. Visuals such as maps and graphs make sense to them. I am not a spatial thinker. I struggle with putting things together and graphs make little sense to me. I struggled with maps and directional concepts make little sense to me. I can remember groaning when we had to do maps in school and talked about longitude and latitude. I also struggle to assemble things. I can read the directions and try to put things together but it doesn’t turn out right. My husband is the official assembler of book shelves, laundry sorters and other household items.

Body Kinesthetic Intelligence is students who learn best by doing and moving. People who have Body Kinesthetic learn best from hands-on courses such as shop, art or science class. Kinetic learners need to take a hands-on approach to learning. Dance and sports come easily and find it hard to sit still. I struggle with my eye hand coordination, but I love to do physical activities such as aerobics. I also find it easier to see how things work such as copiers, and computers by exploring on my own.

Musical Intelligence is a person who learns through music. They are people who can tell the differences between pitches, and can keep a beat. I do not have great musical intelligence. I can remember a teacher that wanted us to learn how to play a song on the piano. He had the peers who were musical teach us. I bombed as I played in front of the class and had the teacher scream at me that I was doing it wrong.

Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to identify the emotions, feelings, moods, and the motivation for the actions of others. People who have Interpersonal Intelligence can read facial expressions and body language. Individuals with Interpersonal Intelligence have good people skills and are good at motivating and leading others. I am good at gaging how others are feeling based upon facial expressions and body language. I remember when my grandparents were sick and had limited communication skills, I could tell what they wanted. Part of this was reading their facial expressions and also being able to understand mumblings. I had fluid in my ear as a child and much of what I heard was muffled. I knew my grandma was thirsty when she puckered her lips together. She smiled gratefully and thanked me when I handed her a glass of water.

Intra-personal Intelligence is being able to know one’s self effectively. People who have this type of self-awareness have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Individuals with strong Interpersonal Intelligence are aware of their own feelings, intentions, and motivations for what they do. I am well aware of what my weaknesses are and I’m beginning to see what my strengths are as well. Confidence was something that came much later with my disability. For many years all I could see was what I couldn’t do. Now I try to focus on what I am able to do. I can also describe my disability and the support I need. I am also aware of what my feelings are and have found positive outlets to express them. I never agreed with people who would tell me you shouldn’t feel that way. I can’t change how I feel, but I can choose to act on those feelings in a positive manner.

Naturalist Intelligence is nature smart. People with this type of intelligence can recognize and classify things in nature. Naturalist intelligence is how the person identifies with the environment around them. A person who grew up in an urban setting can tell the difference between cars, streets, and cell phones. A person who grew up in a rural area can tell about things in nature such as cloud formations, change in seasons or mountains. Despite growing up in the country, I prefer to live in a city. I do like to garden and to take nature pictures though. I can remember not testing well on problem solving skills at my Learning Disability evaluations. They asked me what I would do if I got lost in the woods. If only they would have asked me what I would do if I got lost in the mall. I can find the elevators, bathrooms and the sales rack with ease.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence shows that everyone is smart. Intelligence is not confined to a narrow box of intelligence in the academic setting. Intelligence can be found in many different ways. As a person with a Learning Disability, I need to find different ways to do things. I may not be good at math, music or spatial kinesthetic. I am much better at Linguistic and Interpersonal. and Intra-personal intelligence. Instructors who use a differential of instruction have a better chance of reaching each person’s intelligence, not just the traditional academically smart students. The world has a need for all types of thinkers and abilities. People with disabilities have strengths and weaknesses the same as people without disabilities. Oftentimes, there is an emphasis on the difficulties, not the strengths. Individuals with Learning Disabilities have brains that work differently than others. I had to find new ways to do things and use different learning styles. Finding the unique gifts of the person with a disability, can help to unlock the potential they have to do great things.


Michelle has a Learning Disability but has not let it stop her from being successful! She has been published on The Mighty, Imagine the World as One Magazine and The Reluctant Spoonie. She wants to educate, empower and encourage people with and without disabilities.

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