Autism Spectrum Disorder, which ranges in severity from relatively mild to extremely severe, is estimated to effect 1 in 166 children world wide. Autism is a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, which adversely affects a child’s school performance. Symptoms are usually visible before kindergarten. Other characteristics of autism include engaging in repetitive activities and movements, resistance to environmental or daily routine changes, and unusual response to sensory experience.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with ASD children include:
Layered grouping – beginning with an easy whole class activity (a song) and progressing to more social interaction, while directing children to an individual assignment if needed.
Parallel activity groups – highly structured areas where autistic students can work on an independent project as part of a group
Transition times are typically extremely difficult for autistic children. This can be made easier by supplying the child with a concrete object to associate with the transition time (i.e. have the child ring the bell for group time, or a star cut out to begin “Twinkle, twinkle” song).
Asperger’s children and HFA students benefit from strong organizational strategies. Daily written communication between parents and teachers.
Color code activities and classes. The concreteness of the colors can help an autistic child intuit that it is time for math, science, social studies without as much reliance on order of presentation or time of day.
Cognitively Impaired (Mental Retardation)
CI or MR defines significantly sub-average general functioning, coexisting with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period which adversely affects a child’s academic performance.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with MR children include:
Positive Behavior modifications to enforce desired developmentally appropriate behaviors.
Life skills lessons with natural consequences, such as using a microwave to pop popcorn.
Hands on activities, when appropriate, such as using non toxic materials to model letters and develop conceptual understanding.
Modeling desired behaviors and repetition, repetition, repetition.
Activities which allow students to develop cause and effect relationships, push something to make it go, taking a puzzle apart and putting it back together.
ADHD is characterized by sustained patterns of inattention and/or hyperactive impulsive behavior. Symptoms include hyperactivity, forgetfulness, poor impulse control, and distractibility.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with ADD / ADHD children include:
Laminated task lists for daily activities, which the child can check off as completed. (Can attach to desk, write in crayon, and erase each day).
Allow ADHD students to complete work standing or fidgeting as needed (at the back of the room, in a specified area), as long as they do not distract other students by talking or moving loudly.
Color code classes (book, folder) and schedule.
Provide guided note takers for lecture.
Provide a set of books at home and ensure that parents are aware of required homework activities either via website, email, phone call, or planner.
Alert with physical presence that you are about to call on them before you ask a question.
Deafness recognizes a hearing impairment so severe that the child can not process linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification that also adversely affects a child’s academic ability.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with deaf children include:
ASL interpreter in the classroom
Provide the student with a written copy of any notes to read ahead of time, so that the student can follow the lecture via the interpreter.
Change verbal assignments to written if the student is uncomfortable with public speaking.
Do not exaggerate words if the student is expected to lip read. Exaggerated lip movements cause a different sound to be read. Do not depend solely on lip reading ability for students to receive information. A GOOD lip reader is only 80% accurate.
Allow for grammatical differences in spoken English and ASL when grading compositions.
HI means a permanent or fluctuating impairment in hearing which adversely affects a child’s performance but is not included under the definition of deafness. (Can process some linguistic information through hearing, with amplification).
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with HI children include:
Provide the student with a written copy of any notes to read ahead of time, so that the student can follow the lecture without distraction.
Change verbal assignments to written if the student is uncomfortable with public speaking.
Provide preferential seating (near the board and the speaker) and away from noisy distractions.
Allow a little extra time when asking group questions, some HI students have trouble formulating an answer while listening to the question.
Alert with physical presence that you are about to call on them before you ask a question. This lets the student focus on formulating a response in a reasonable time frame.
Communicationally Handicapped / Speech or Language Impairment
SL means a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment (such as dysnomia), or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with LI children include:
Allow students to compose written answers, and then have them read them aloud (depending on the LI).
Do not mandate public speaking. Many LI students can do a verbal presentation to an audience of one, but the impairment becomes much more evident when combined with anxiety.
Preferential seating – give the students a position where they can easily get your attention.
Provide time after class to ask questions (alone) without feeling slow.
Encourage LI students to speak, as they are comfortable, in a non threatening environment.
VI, including partial sight and blindness, is an impairment in vision that, even corrected, adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with VI children include:
Computer assisted technologies, i.e. talking word processor, graphing calculator
Preferential seating (near the door)
Modified length in assignments, with significantly reduced visual detail (i.e. no bar graphs, line graphs – stick with tables)
Verbal instruction and testing, as needed.
OI is a severe orthopedic impairment including congenital anomalies, impairments caused by disease (polio, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other diseases (CP, amputations, contractures from injuries) that adversely affect a child’s educational performance.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with OI children include:
Provide a physically accessible environment, with preferential seating as needed.
Provide a written copy of any notes if the OI impairs the ability to write legibly, quickly, or while simultaneously listening.
Provide physically assistant devices as necessary, including but not limited to a tape recorder (for lectures), and a word processor (for dysgraphia).
Modify any physical requirements (standing, running) for activities to allow everyone to participate, or give the student a special job – i.e. time keeper.
Encourage the student to challenge their limitation, as appropriate, to increase functioning in a secure environment.
ED labels a condition exhibiting one (or more) of the following characteristics for a significant amount of time and to a sufficient degree that it adversely affects a child’s performance: Inability to learn that can not be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors, Inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships at school, Inappropriate behavior or feelings under normal circumstances, Pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression, or a Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. This umbrella includes schizophrenia but does not automatically cover children who are generally socially maladjusted.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with ED children include:
Highly structured schedule. For students who have trouble with surprises, or with school in general, a structured schedule lets them acclimate secure at least in the knowledge that it will be the same every day.
Supervise group interaction. Help the student understand normal behavior, and that while some feelings are acceptable, acting on them sometimes isn’t. (i.e. anger, bullying, acting out)
Follow the psychologist’s recommendations regarding allowing an anxious child to call home, or to bring a security item.
Ensure that the school nurse is aware of any medication requirements from home, and notify the SN immediately if a child’s behavior seems more severe or “odd”.
Provide a safe time out spot, where the child can go on their own or under directive, to cool off and prevent unacceptable behavior.
This diagnosis means that a child has more than one disability (such as CI – Blindness or CD – OI), and that this combination causes such severe educational issues that they cannot be accommodated into SPED programs intended solely for one of the impairments. MD does not include deaf-blindness.
Classroom modifications that have been shown effective with multiply disabled children include:
Individually assigned para, if needed, to ensure that child is able to participate in activities.
Reduced pace, to prevent feelings of being overwhelmed.
Team teaching to coordinate activities that use areas in which the child is more able to address cognitive impairments (if applicable)
Provide assistive / adaptive technologies and the training to use them, to address needed areas. (i.e. auditory books for a blind student unable to learn or use Braille)
Encourage participation in activities to the extent of the child’s ability.