Teaching Students with Disabilities (2023)

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Teaching Students with Disabilities (1)

Students of all abilities and backgrounds want classrooms that are inclusive and respectful. For students with disabilities, the classroom environment can present certain challenges that need to be considered and addressed.

Terminology|types of disabilities|resource access|Confidentiality and Disclosure|Inklusives Design|Learn more|references


In order to create an inclusive classroom where all students are respected, it is important to use language that puts the student ahead of their disability. Disability labels can be stigmatizing and perpetuate false stereotypes that students with disabilities do not perform as well as their peers. In general, it is appropriate to refer to a disability only when relevant to the situation. For example, it's better to say "The student with a disability" rather than "The student with a disability" because it makes the student more important than the fact that the student has a disability.

For more information on terminology, see the National Center on Disability and Journalism guide:http://ncdj.org/style-guide/

types of disabilities

Disabilities can be temporary (like a broken arm), recurring and relapsing, or long-term. Types of disabilities can be:

  • deafness
  • visual impairment or blindness
  • Learning disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia or dyscalculia
  • mobility restrictions
  • Chronic health disorders such as epilepsy, Crohn's disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, migraines or multiple sclerosis
  • Mental or psychiatric impairments such as mood, anxiety and depressive disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Asperger's Disorder and Other Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • head trauma

Students may have more or less obvious disabilities. For example, you may not know that a student has epilepsy or a chronic pain disorder unless the student chooses to disclose it or an incident occurs. These 'hidden' disorders can be difficult for students to detect, as many people assume they are healthy because they 'look good'. In some cases, the student may make a seemingly odd request or action related to the disability. For example, if you ask students to rearrange their desks, a student may not help because they have a torn ligament or a recurrent and relapsing condition such as multiple sclerosis. Or a student may ask to have lectures recorded because they have dyslexia and are taking longer to transcribe lectures.

resource access

Upon entering the university environment, the student is responsible for applying for accommodation through the relevant secretariat. This may be the first time the student has to stand up for themselves. For freshmen, this may be a different process than what they experienced in high school with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan.http://purl.access.gpo.gov/GPO/LPS74685

Each university has its own process for submitting documents and the type of documents required. Vanderbilt requires students to request housingDepartment for Equal Opportunities, Women's Advancement and Disability Assistance (EAD)[http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ead/]. As part of the required documentation, the student must provide documentation from a competent medical practitioner stating the diagnosis of the current disability and, among other things, the type of accommodation desired. All medical information provided will be treated confidentially. Only approved forms of accommodation will be discussed with the faculty and administration if necessary.

It is important to note that this process takes time and certain precautions, such as B. an interpreter, must be met within a certain time.

Confidentiality, Stigma and Disclosure

The declaration of a disability by a student is always voluntary. However, students with disabilities can be nervous about sharing confidential medical information with a teacher. Students often have to combat negative stereotypes about their disabilities that are held by others and even by themselves. For example, a recent study by May & Stone (2010) on stereotypes about disabilities found that students with and without learning disabilities rated people with learning disabilities as less able to learn or as having lower abilities than students without these disabilities. In fact, students with learning disabilities are no less able than any other student; they simply receive, process, store, and/or respond differently to information (National Center for Learning Disabilities).

Similarly, students with physical disabilities face harmful and false stereotypes, e.g. B. that wheelchair users must also be mentally handicapped. (Scorgie, K., Kildal, L., & Wilgosh, L., 2010) Additionally, students with "hidden disabilities" such as epilepsy or chronic pain often describe embarrassing situations in which others downplay their disability with phrases such as "Well, yeah , you look good.” (Scorgie, K., Kildal, L., & Wilgosh, L., 2010)

In the work of Barbara Davisteaching aidsShe explains that it's important for educators to "become aware of any biases and stereotypes that [they] may have picked up... Your attitudes and values ​​not only influence the attitudes and values ​​of your students, they can influence the way." , how you teach, especially your assumptions about students... which can lead to inconsistent learning outcomes for the students in your classes. (Davis, 2010, p. 58) To combat these problems, she advises educators to treat each student as an individual and to acknowledge the complexities of diversity.


  • A statement in your curriculum that invites students with disabilities to meet with you privately is a good step to start a conversation with students who need housing and are happy to reach out to you with their needs. Let the student know what times they can meet you to discuss accommodation and how soon the student should do so. Here are two sample declarations:
  • The Spanish and Portuguese Department is committed to providing educational opportunities to all students. In order for your professors to be able to respond appropriately to the needs of students with disabilities, it is necessary for these students to contact their lecturers at the beginning of the semester, preferably on the first day of lectures. They should bring an official letter from the Opportunity Development Center (2-4705) explaining their specific needs so their trainers can identify them early and make appropriate arrangements.
  • If you have a physical or learning disability, or if you learn best with a particular method, talk to me about how I can best meet your learning needs. I am committed to creating an effective learning environment for all learning styles. However, I can only do this successfully if you discuss your needs with me before tests, homework and notebooks. I will keep your learning needs confidential. In this case you should contact theDepartment of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Services for the Disabledfor more information on dealing with disabilities.
  • Provide a detailed and easy to understand curriculum. Provide the menu, texts and other materials before registering.
  • If materials are online, consider colors, fonts, and formats that can be easily seen by students with visual impairments or some form of color blindness.
  • Clearly explain expectations before the course begins (e.g. grade, subject matter, due dates).
  • Make sure all students have access to your office, or arrange to meet somewhere more accessible.
  • On the first day of school, you could give out a short introductory quiz ending with the question, “Is there anything you want me to know about you?” that meets EAD accommodation requirements or that it might be uncomfortable for the student, personally to talk to you when he meets you for the first time.
  • Do not assume what students can and cannot do in relation to participating in class activities. Think of different ways students can participate without feeling left out. The next section, Education for Inclusion, provides some ideas for alternative participation.

Teaching for Inclusion: Inclusive Design

One of the most common concerns instructors have about accommodation is whether they will change the type of course they teach. However, accommodations are designed to give all students equal access to classroom learning. As you plan your course, consider the following questions (from Scott, 1998):

  • What is the aim of the course?
  • Which teaching methods are absolutely necessary? Why?
  • What results are absolutely required of all students? Why?
  • What methods of performance appraisal are absolutely necessary? Why?
  • What are acceptable levels of achievement on these student achievement measures?

Answering these questions can help you define the essential requirements for you and your students. For example, participation in laboratory settings is critical to many biology courses; But is the traditional classroom the only means of delivering instruction in a liberal arts or social sciences degree? Is a classroom writing test the only way to assess a student with limited hands? Could an in-person oral exam or a recorded oral exam achieve the same goal? (Scott, 1998; Bourke, Strehorn, and Silver, 2000)

When teaching a student with a disability, it's important to remember that many of the principles of inclusive design can benefit any student. The idea of ​​"universal design" is a method of designing course materials, content and instructions for the benefit of all learners. Rather than adapting or tailoring a course for a specific audience, Universal Design emphasizes environments that are accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. If you focus on these design principles when creating a curriculum, you may find that most of your course is easily accessible to all students. (Hodge & Preston-Sabin, 1997)

Many of the Universal Design methods emphasize a deliberate teaching style that clearly articulates the learning goals for the semester and for the specific lesson. For example, a curriculum with clear course objectives, assignment details, and deadlines will help students plan their schedules accordingly. By providing an overview of the day's topic at the beginning of a lesson and summarizing the main points at the end, you can help students understand the rationale for your organization and give them more time to record information.

Likewise, some teaching materials may be difficult for students with certain disabilities. For example, if you are showing a video in the classroom, you need to consider your audience. Visually impaired students may have difficulty seeing unspoken actions; while people with disorders such as photosensitive epilepsy may experience seizures from flashing lights or images; and students with hearing loss may not be able to hear the accompanying audio. The use of closed captions, the provision of electronic transcripts, the on-screen description of the action, the ability for students to review the video for themselves, and the explanation of the role the video plays in the lesson of the day all help reduce the barrier to reduce access for students with disabilities and give them the opportunity to be an active member of the class. Additionally, it gives other students the opportunity to engage with the material in different ways, depending on their needs. (Burgstahler & Cory, 2010; Scott, McGuire & Shaw, 2003; Silver, Bourke & Strehorn, 1998)

Learn more

To learn more about universal design or to make your teaching at Vanderbilt more inclusive, the Teaching Center offers workshops and one-on-one consultations. additionallyDistance Learning Officecan help students and teachers answer their questions or concerns (322-4705).

The Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) has a list of resources for implementing universal design principles in the classroom:www.ahead.org/resources/ud

The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), home of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), has a detailed guide to considerations and suggestions for teaching students with disabilities in classroom practice:http://www.rit.edu/studentafairs/disabilityservices/info.php

The United Spinal Association has published a publication with tips for dealing with people with disabilities:http://www.unitedspinal.org/disability-etiquette/


Bourke, AB., Strehorn, K.C., & Silver, P. (2000). Provision of classroom accommodation by faculty members for students with LD.Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(1), 26-32.

Burgstahler, S., & Cory, R. (2010).Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Education Press.

Davis, B.G. (1993).teaching tools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass-Verlag.

Hodge, B. M., & Preston-Sabin, J. (1997).Housing – or just good teaching?: Strategies for teaching students with disabilities. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.

Mai, A.L. & Stone, C.A. (2010). Stereotypes of people with learning disabilities: views of university students with and without learning disabilities.Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43(6), 483-499. doi: 10.1177/0022219409355483

National Center for Learning Disabilities.http://www.ncld.org/

Scorgie, K., Kildal, L., & Wilgosh, L. (2010). Students with disabilities: Questions about empowerment and self-determination.Bulletin on Developmental Disabilities, 38(2010), 133-145.

Scott, S.S. (1998). Housing College Students with Learning Disabilities: How Much is Enough?.Innovative higher education, 22(2), 85-99.

Scott, S., McGuire, J., & Shaw, S. (2003). Universal design for teaching.Curative and special education, 24(6), 369-379.

Silver, P., Bourke, A. & Strehorn, K.C. (1998). Universal Instructional Design in Higher Education: An Approach to Inclusion.Equity and Excellence in Education, 31(2), 47-51.

USA. (2002).Students with disabilities preparing for higher education: know your rights and obligations. Washington, DC: US ​​Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. retrieved fromhttp://purl.access.gpo.gov/GPO/LPS74685

Walters, S. (2010). For barrier-free pedagogy: disability, multimodality and universal design in the subject of technical communication.Quarterly technical bulletin,19(4), 427-454. doi:10.1080/10572252.2010.502090

Wolf , L. E. , Brown , J. T. , Bork , G. R. K. , Volkmar , F. R. , & Klin , A. (2009).Students with Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for College Staff. Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger Pub. co.

Teaching Students with Disabilities (2)
This instructional guide is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


How to effectively teach students with learning disabilities? ›

How To Help Children With Learning Disabilities In The Classroom
  1. Allow extra time for completing class tasks. ...
  2. Use a tape recorder. ...
  3. Reduce need for writing. ...
  4. Keep classroom chatter to a minimum. ...
  5. Use visual aids and multi-sensory learning techniques. ...
  6. Assign them a 'study buddy'
Jun 11, 2017

How do you teach students with different disabilities? ›

Successful Strategies for Teaching and Supporting Students with Disabilities
  1. Lean on others. ...
  2. Stay organized. ...
  3. Don't reinvent the wheel. ...
  4. Know that each student is unique. ...
  5. Keep instructions simple. ...
  6. Embrace advocacy. ...
  7. Create opportunities for success. ...
  8. Don't feel pressure to be perfect.

What is the biggest problem for most students with learning disabilities? ›

These include: Lack of appropriate instruction or being taught in a way that doesn't enable a student to learn. School climate such as bullying or inadequate resources for instruction and support. Low expectations for student success.

What are the most important skills for a teacher of students with severe disabilities? ›

Three common soft skills for a severe disabilities special education teacher are communication skills, patience and resourcefulness.

What is the most effective approach to dealing with learning disabilities in children? ›

Tips for dealing with your child's learning disability
  • Keep things in perspective. A learning disability isn't insurmountable. ...
  • Become your own expert. ...
  • Be an advocate for your child. ...
  • Remember that your influence outweighs all others. ...
  • Clarify your goals. ...
  • Be a good listener. ...
  • Offer new solutions. ...
  • Keep the focus.
Feb 23, 2023

What is the key to success for students with learning disabilities? ›

Frostig Center research uncovered six success attributes that make a difference in being effective in life. They include self-awareness, proactivity, perseverance, goal-setting, using support systems, and emotional coping strategies.

How to make classrooms more accessible for students with disabilities? ›

Use large visual and tactile aids and be sure to provide oral or audio descriptions of visual material. For example, providing a text printout of audio lessons for students who are blind or low vision, or creating space for a student with a speech disability to participate without being rushed.

How can teachers help students with multiple disabilities? ›

Teachers can support students with multiple disabilities by looking at how the daily or weekly schedule could be made more flexible. Providing students with disabilities with individualized schedules that better meets their needs can help establish daily routines that both students and teachers understand and stick to.

How do you teach special needs students in an inclusive classroom? ›

Making Classrooms Inclusive for Special Needs
  1. Review Individual Education Plans. ...
  2. Create a Safe Space. ...
  3. Consider How Students Interact With Their Environment. ...
  4. Differentiate Instruction. ...
  5. Rely on Your Fellow Teachers.

What are the weaknesses of students with learning disabilities? ›

Children with learning disabilities generally have difficulties processing information accurately and automatically, and as a result tend to make more mistakes or take longer to complete tasks than children without learning disabilities.

What are the barriers to education for students with disabilities? ›

Physical Inaccessibility: Students with disabilities continue to encounter physical barriers to educational services, such as a lack of ramps and/or elevators in multi-level school buildings, heavy doors, inaccessible washrooms, and/or inaccessible transportation to and from school.

What challenges do you face when teaching students with learning disabilities? ›

At an individual level:
  • Confused.
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Difficulty in focusing on a specific task.
  • Distracted easily.
  • Unable to express oneself.
  • Recalling a proper instruction.
  • Difficulty in adapting to the environment.
Jun 12, 2019

What are the 3 most important roles of a special education teacher? ›

Special education teachers typically do the following: Assess students' skills and determine their educational needs. Adapt general lessons to meet students' needs. Develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student.

What makes a good special education teacher? ›

A good special education teacher needs to be patient and understand her students better to help them learn. Acceptance : Special education teachers work with disabled students with various problems. Irrespective of the issues, these professionals must accept all the children and interact with love and respect.

What strategies are most commonly used to teach students with disabilities how to manage their own behavior or direct learning? ›

What strategies are most commonly used to teach students with disabilities how to manage their own behavior or direct learning? Picture cues and antecedent cue regulation strategies, self-instruction, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement.

What do people with learning disabilities need? ›

People with a severe learning disability or profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD), will need more care and support with areas such as mobility, personal care and communication. People with a moderate learning disability may also need support in these areas, but not definitely.

What are the teaching strategies that are responsive to learners with disabilities giftedness and talents? ›

Six Strategies for Challenging Gifted Learners
  • Offer the Most Difficult First.
  • Pre-Test for Volunteers.
  • Prepare to Take It Up.
  • Speak to Student Interests.
  • Enable Gifted Students to Work Together.
  • Plan for Tiered Learning.
Apr 1, 2016

What are some strengths of students with learning disabilities? ›

Among people with specific learning disabilities, the top five character strengths scores were love of learning, honesty, fairness, judgment, and appreciation of beauty and excellence. The bottom five character strengths scores were self-regulation, perseverance, zest, spirituality, and leadership.

Why is it important to teach students with disabilities? ›

Working with special needs students gives you the opportunity to impact the lives of children who have disabilities, learning disorders, and developmental delays. Not only are you making an impact in the lives of students by giving them tools and resources to learn according to their learning style.

How can teachers accommodate students with intellectual disabilities? ›

Teaching methods should include concrete examples and visual demonstration whenever possible. Many students who are intellectually disabled learn best through visual and kinetic experiences. Pairing pictures, videos, and demonstrations with hands-on learning opportunities works extremely well.

How do students with learning disabilities benefit from the one to one instruction in this classroom? ›

Without the distraction and overstimulation of a room full of peers, students are able to focus all of their attention on their instructor and the material being learned. One-on-one interactions enable the student to use all of their brain power on school and not on the environment around them.

How do teachers support an inclusive classroom for children with disabilities? ›

The following strategies can help to make the classroom as inclusive as possible: Adapting the curriculum to better serve all students. Creating a sense of community in the classroom by involving all students in each task. Determining and understanding the needs of students with disabilities.

What are some inclusion strategies? ›

10 Effective Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
  • Using inclusive language. ...
  • Challenging unconscious biases. ...
  • Educating leadership. ...
  • Mentoring. ...
  • Cultural events. ...
  • Diversity training. ...
  • Core company values. ...
  • Create an environment that is suited to everyone.

What are two characteristics of students with learning disabilities? ›

What are some signs of learning disabilities?
  • Problems reading and/or writing.
  • Problems with math.
  • Poor memory.
  • Problems paying attention.
  • Trouble following directions.
  • Clumsiness.
  • Trouble telling time.
  • Problems staying organized.
Sep 11, 2018

What are the 5 barriers for persons with learning disabilities? ›

Let's take a look at five of the common barriers to participation that people with a disability may face.
  • Attitude. People's perceptions of what it's like to live with a disability is one of the most foundational barriers. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Physical. ...
  • Policy. ...
  • Social.

What are the 5 barriers for persons with disabilities? ›

Five of the most common kinds of barriers are:
  • Physical or Architectural Barriers.
  • Informational or Communicational Barriers.
  • Technological Barriers.
  • Organizational Barriers.
  • Attitudinal Barriers.
Nov 11, 2019

What barriers do people with learning disabilities face? ›

They may not be able to access services, may suffer health and social care inequalities, and have poorer opportunities in life. They may be at risk from unsafe eating and drinking. People with learning disabilities face a range of communication barriers.

How many students struggle with learning disabilities in the classroom? ›

Key Learning Disability Statistics

At least 1 in every 59 children has one or several learning disabilities. 1 in 5 children in the U.S. have learning and thinking differences such as ADHD or Dyslexia. As of 2021, 2.8 million kids are actively getting services involving special education.

What are the main challenges for teachers in teaching learners with ASD? ›

Autism in the Classroom: Overcoming Challenges
  • Cognitive Processing Delays. Processing delays should never be confused with intelligence. ...
  • Sensory Perception Issues. Any of the senses can be involved. ...
  • Social Skill Deficits. ...
  • Expression Challenges. ...
  • Motor Skill Challenges.

Where do special education teachers make the most money? ›

California and New York offer high salaries (over $78,000) for special education teachers, but the cost of living significantly exceeds the national average in both places.

How do you empower students with disabilities in the classroom? ›

4 Ways You Can Empower Students with Disabilities
  1. Listen Compassionately. When students come to faculty (or other staff) with serious personal concerns and/or dilemmas we have a duty to listen to them without judgement and with an open mind. ...
  2. Disability Accommodations Office. ...
  3. Simplify Instructions. ...
  4. Universal Design.
Jun 17, 2021

Which skill is most important in teaching inclusive education? ›

The findings of the study showed that the most important skills that should be acquired in inclusive classes are self-acquaintance, communication, and empathy. Keywords: Inclusive education, empathic skill, students with special needs.

What are the 7 principles of teaching? ›

The 7 Principles of Teaching – Engage Education |
  • Principle one: Encourage contact between students and faculty. ...
  • Principle two: Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students. ...
  • Principle three: Encourage active learning. ...
  • Principle four: Give prompt feedback. ...
  • Principle five: Emphasise time on task.
Mar 10, 2023

What interventions work best for specific types of learning disabilities? ›

Interventions for Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Intensive teaching techniques. These can include specific, step-by-step, and very methodical approaches to teaching reading with the goal of improving both spoken language and written language skills. ...
  • Classroom modifications. ...
  • Use of technology.
Sep 11, 2018

How to accommodate students with learning disabilities in the classroom? ›

Assisting Students with Disabilities
  1. Include a Disability Statement on Your Syllabus. ...
  2. Follow the Instructions on the Accommodation Determination Letter. ...
  3. Meet with the Student in Private. ...
  4. Protect Student's Privacy. ...
  5. Provide a Safe and Fair Learning Environment. ...
  6. Use Student Disability Services as a Resource.

What strategies can teachers use to help children with learning disabilities? ›

Academics & Organization
  • Break learning tasks into small steps.
  • Probe regularly to check understanding.
  • Provide regular quality feedback.
  • Present information visually and verbally.
  • Use diagrams, graphics and pictures to support instruction.
  • Provide independent practice.
  • Model what you want students to do.

What methods can be used to help communicate with learning disabilities? ›

In person: Many people with a learning disability prefer face to face and one to one communication. In writing: Use bigger text and bullet points, and to keep writing at a minimum. Too much colour can make reading harder for someone as well. On the phone: Speak slowly and clearly, using easy to understand words.

How do teachers deal with learning disabilities in the classroom? ›

Offer alternatives to traditional course work and methods of evaluation (such as an oral exam or presentation instead of a written exam, or an essay instead of multiple-choice and short-answer questions). Allow extra time on tests and/or exams. Provide a separate, distraction-free room for writing tests and/or exams.

How teachers can make their classrooms more accessible for students with disabilities? ›

Be explicitly presented and readily perceived. Provide a supportive learning environment. Minimize unnecessary physical effort or requirements. Ensure learning spaces that accommodate both students and instructional methods.

How do you handle challenging behaviors for students with disabilities? ›

Here are some tips on how to handle challenging student behavior and get back to class.
  1. Get to the Root of the Matter. ...
  2. Reach Out to Colleagues for Support. ...
  3. Remember to Remain Calm. ...
  4. Have a Plan and Stick to It. ...
  5. Involve Administration When Necessary. ...
  6. Document, Document, Document.


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