More and more schools are embracing the benefits of inclusive classrooms, and as a result, more and more educators are finding themselves working with students with various learning disabilities, mild autism, and lower proficiency in English. Although these students all face unique challenges, there are some general planning strategies educators can use to effectively handle varying exceptionalities in the classroom. Here are three of our favorite tips:
1. Be mindful of your visual presentations
Students in those three groups and others are all sensitive to the use of visuals in the classroom. With the right thought process, these tools can be a game changer.
Of course, the use of pictures and video can help students grasp concepts better than through the written word alone. And, if you are using writing, on the board and otherwise, be mindful about your neatness. Think about headings, underlining, and color coding to make it easier for students to follow. In other words, think about making your written words as nice as you would if you were using a word processor.
2. Reevaluate your approach to homework
Plainly speaking, students with any sort of exceptionality will tend to have to spend more time completing their homework than their mainstream cohorts. Add in the fact that they likely worked harder during the school day to get the same results as many of their classmates, and you can see why some reconsideration of your homework practices may be in order.
You don’t need to give these students special treatment (that tends to backfire, both academically and socially). Instead, reflect on what’s fair for everyone and what the real goal of your homework is. If you can’t easily answer those questions, it might be time to make a change.
3. Embrace the power of routine
A consistent routine is beneficial even in a mainstream classroom, but it is critical when working with students with varying exceptionalities. Autistic students especially benefit from structure. They tend to feel easily overwhelmed by an abundance of choice and freedom. Established routines can also be very helpful for dyslexic and ELL, as they will have to spend less time decoding written instructions during the day. All of these students (as well as your mainstream students) will also benefit from the advance warning for transitions and other end-of-time signals that routine provides.
Establish reliable routines early in the school year, model them consistently, and intentionally practice them occasionally to make sure everyone is still on the same page. The more predictable the school day is, the more everyone’s brain power can be focused on the real task at hand: learning.
Looking for additional resources to help your students of varying exceptionalities thrive? Check out this post on Five Trending Issues in Special Education!