Q. A teacher asked, "How do I know how to work with a student with a learning disability in my class? How much do I change things?"
A. These are valid questions that come from your experience in the classroom.
1. First, you need to know the students who have verified disabilities. Invite any student who is requesting accommodations to visit you in an office hour for identification purposes. You can ask the student for some proof of registration with the Disabled Student Programs & Services on your campus, which could be a form for extended time on tests. Alternately, you might ask to see a test report so you can read the "Recommendations" page.
2. Since accommodations are individually determined according to test results, the student and specialists with the student's permission can clarify what is appropriate for the student in question.
Some accommodations can be made in how you deliver instruction and others can be made in how you evaluate the student's work.
The basic rule is to provide multisensory instruction. If you look at the Archives and see the Teaching-Learning Inventory, it gives you some idea of the different abilities we all have. Understanding that a person can excel in many areas and have a limitation or deficit in even just one area helps you to see the need to provide a visual and verbal stimulus when presenting information. In addition to using both visual and verbal modalities, the teacher can help in other ways by knowing a student's learning profile and making convenient adjustments. (See example.)
Eg.) A student may have a problem reading aloud, but is still able to comprehend from silent reading (since the former uses Broca's region while the latter uses Wernicke's region of the brain, and for other reasons as well). Try to avoid calling on people to read aloud who have not raised their hands, or ask the students to identify themselves privately who may be dyslexic.
Students need to follow the same guidelines and fulfill the same course requirements as other students. They may be allowed to show their knowledge in a non-standard way, however, that lets them utilize at least one strong modality, or allows them to compensate for their severe processing deficit(s). You aren't lowering standards by allowing them to express themselves in their strong modality or by allowing them to compensate for a deficit because you are checking their knowledge of the subject matter.
Egs.) When writing, allow use of a computer with a spellchecker, or allow an oral, or taped exam, or multiple choice exam occasionally in place of an essay exam (if written language is the problem).
If oral language (vocabulary or word retrieval) is the area of deficit, allow student to write the answers out rather than be quizzed orally.
Another way of accommodating a student with a difficulty in written or oral language is to allow him or her to do a demonstration using visuals or do a project in lieu of an essay or speech.
Always allow extra time for in class essays, quizzes or exams, or work with the test proctor at DSPS who will give the test to the student in a quiet environment with the proper amount of time.
For further information, speak with your school's specialist, or go to the following link: Classroom Accommodations.
Please send your questions and/or answers for either teachers or students to Gerry Lewin for possible posting.
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