Classroom Strategies

Specific Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities (LD) are generally identified when an individual’s achievement, as measured on individually administered standardized tests, is substantially below that expected given the person’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education.  Learning disabilities affect an individual’s ability to store, effectively process, and/or transmit information to others.  Students with hidden disabilities like LD make up one of SOAR’s largest populations.

Students with learning disabilities may exhibit characteristics such as:
  • difficulty in reading, writing, spelling, and/or using numerical concepts
  • challenges with memorization
  • disorganization
  • trouble understanding or following directions
Suggested classroom strategies:
  • Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  • Identify your textbooks early so students have time to order them in alternate format as needed.
  • Provide students with a rubric for assignments/projects.
  • When possible start each lecture with an oral or written summary or outline of material to be covered.
  • Provide assignment information in written and oral format.
  • For large projects or long papers help the student breakdown the task into component parts. Set deadlines for each part.
  • Provide prompt, explicit feedback, both in written and oral format.
  • Vary the class format; alternate lecture with presentations and class discussion.
  • If someone does not understand a concept, try explaining it in a different way.
  • Structure opportunities for students to apply concepts and information.
  • Practice flexibility in requiring students to read out loud or perform calculations at the board.
  • Be open to suggestions from the students about how to best accommodate their needs.
Possible recommended academic accommodations:
  • Extended time for tests
  • Use of texts/tests in alternate format (books in audio or electronic format)
  • Use of a basic, 4 function calculator
  • Ability to audio record lectures
  • Ability to use laptop or tablet in class to take notes or use on tests

 

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders

Like the population of students with learning disabilities who utilize accommodations through the Student Office for Accessibility Resources, students with AD/HD make up a large portion of the students. There are three types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders.

Type 1 – AD/HD Predominately Inattentive symptoms may include:
  • often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • difficulty sustaining attention
  • does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • does not follow through on instructions/fails to finish work
  • difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  • easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • often forgetful with daily activities
Type 2 - AD/HD, Predominately Hyperactive/Impulsive symptoms may include:
  • fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • often leaves a classroom or in other situations when remaining is what is expected
  • is “on the go”
  • blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • has difficulty awaiting turns
  • interrupts or intrudes on others
Type 3-AD/HD Combined
  • contains symptoms from Type 1 and Type 2
Suggested classroom strategies:
  • Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  • Remind students of deadlines.
  • When possible, start each lecture with an oral or written summary or outline of material to be covered.
  • Provide assignment information in written and oral format.
  • For large projects or long papers, help the students breakdown the task into component parts and set a deadline for each part.
  • Provide prompt, explicit feedback, both in written and oral format.
  • Vary the class format; alternate lecture with presentations and class discussion.
Possible recommended academic accommodations:
  • Extended time for tests. Students may require more time to due distractibility or having to read things multiple times.
  • Alternate location for testing.
  • Priority seating; students may wish to sit close to the instructor or away from others or noisy areas.
  • Ability to record lectures or use laptop or tablet to take notes.

Students with Hearing Impairments

Suggested classroom strategies:
  • Designate an area in the room from which you will lecture. If an interpreter is present, allow them to sit to one side of you.
  • Do not obstruct the students’ view of the interpreter.
  • If lights need to be dimmed, make sure the interpreter is in a well-lit area.
  • When an interpreter is used, speak directly to the student rather than the interpreter.
  • Face the class when speaking. Speak clearly and naturally.
  • Do not stand or sit in front of a window where glare or shadows will impede speech reading and/or facial expression.
  • Use visual cues and media as much as possible in presenting course related information.
  • During class discussions, encourage only one speaker at a time and point out who is speaking. Repeat the question or comment to clarify the point the speaker has made.
  • Use captioned films/videos.
  • Be open to suggestions from the students about how best to accommodate their needs.

 

Possible recommended academic accommodations:
  • Use of an interpreter
  • Use of a notetaker
  • Use of remote captioning services
  • Priority seating

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are neutrotypical disorders characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication. The first section outlines some things you might notice when working with students on the Autism Spectrum. The second section covers some common strengths and weaknesses as well as some strategies that you can implement to work with students most effectively. It is important to note that not all students on the Autism Spectrum are the same and the information below is meant to provide a general overview that we hope will be useful to you.

Information below adapted from Rochester Institute of Technology.

What you might notice:
  • May exhibit awkward eye contact, posture, and/or gestures
  • Difficulty with changes in classroom, setting, and syllabi
  • Sensory sensitivity (lights, smells, sounds, touch)
  • May have delayed responses
  • May misunderstand tone of voice, jokes, facial expressions, sarcasm, and other subtle messages
  • Oddities in vocal pitch, volume, and intonation
  • May be easily distracted, particularly in long classes
  • Strong, narrow interests
  • May come across as argumentative, rude, or monopolizing
  • Displays literal and concrete thinking patterns
  • May use calming or focusing strategies such as rocking, tapping, or pacing
  • May become easily overwhelmed
Strengths
  • Above average to superior intellect
  • Passionate commitment to ideas
  • Strong sense of equality and justice
  • Exceptional talents in one specific area
  • Diligent with routine work and excellent memory
  • Strong pursuit of knowledge within areas of interest
  • Good visual and spatial learners
  • Original ways of solving problems

 

Struggles
  • Initiating/sustaining effort
  • Setting boundaries
  • Working in groups
  • Initiating, planning, organizing, and carrying out tasks
  • Seeing others’ points of views
  • Understanding social rules
  • Assessing priorities and performance
  • Asking for clarification or assistance
  • Interpreting vague instructions
  • Abstract concepts and seeing the big picture
Strategies
  • Provide direct feedback, set clear boundaries
  • Allow breaks during class
  • Avoid cold-calling in class
  • Avoid idioms, metaphors, and sarcasm
  • Consider assigning group roles
  • Provide visual learning tools when possible (pictures, charts, etc.)
  • Supplement oral instructions with written instructions
  • Explain purpose of assignment
  • Utilize syllabus and note changes as soon as possible

Students with Visual Impairments

Classroom Strategies
  • When lecturing, avoid making statements that cannot be understood by people without sight, such as, “This diagram sums up what I am saying about statistics.” Don’t worry about using words and phrases that refer to sight such as: “See you later!”
  • Read what is being written on the board and/or describe what is pictured in the presentation/demonstration.
  • Read aloud subtitles when using media resources.
  • Saying “over there” and pointing to something the student can’t see are not useful with a blind student. Instead, spatial directions must be given from the STUDENT’S perspective. Remember that the student’s left and right are opposite yours when you are facing the student.
  • Address all students by name so that the visually impaired student can learn to associate names with voices of classmates. Address the visually impaired student by name as well, so he or she knows when he or she is being spoken to.
  • Allow the student to submit work electronically rather than requiring a paper copy.
  • Do not return paper copies of graded work. Communicate with the student to determine the best way to communicate this information to them.
  • Students with visual impairments may need preferential seating. Allowing the student to be seated near the front of the class will allow him or her to hear clearly what is being presented and to see as much as possible, if applicable.

Students with Psychological Disabilities

The number of students identifying with a psychological disability is increasing on college campuses. Some individuals arrive at college with a pre-diagnosed disability while others are identified for the first time with a psychological disability due to the typical age of onset occurring during the college years.

Suggested classroom strategies:
  • Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  • Try to be creative/flexible in requiring or assigning group work
  • Discuss inappropriate classroom and interactive behavior with the student in a private and respectful manner, delineating if necessary the limits of acceptable conduct.
  • Be open to suggestions from the students about how to best accommodate their needs.
Possible recommended academic accommodations:
  • Extended time for tests. Students may require more time for a variety of reasons concerning their condition or medication.
  • Alternate location for testing.

 

Student with Chronic Health Impairments

Colleges across the country are seeing an increase in the number of students with various chronic health impairments. Students with this kind of disability present a variety of characteristics and needs.

Suggested classroom strategies:
  • Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  • Allow flexibility in class starting time if students have made known that they may be a few minutes late to class.
  • Be open to suggestions from the students about how to best accommodate their needs.
Possible recommended academic accommodations:
  • Extended time for tests and/or assignments or projects. Students may need extended time for a variety of reasons concerning their condition or medication.
  • Ability to make up work due to medical absences.
  • Flexibility with attendance for medical absences.