Best Practices for Working with Students with Disabilities

Working with Students who have Learning Disabilities

  • Pause and ask questions throughout lesson to check for understanding. Access students' prior knowledge. This helps them relate similar concepts.
  • Give examples of key concepts.
  • If possible, provide presentations or lecture materials on line. Guided notes are helpful as well.
  • Provide examples of good projects/papers.
  • Provide a study guide or practice exams that familiarize students with the format of the test.
  • Provide a list of all of the learning objectives that the student is expected to master for the test.
  • Allow time for an early draft of a paper or projects to be turned in for feedback.
  • Use multiple formats: Visual aids, three-dimensional models, charts or graphics, group projects, visual stimuli, audio and video content to accommodate different learning styles.
  • Allow audio recording of lectures.
  • Consider that students with reading disabilities may not wish to read out loud in class.
  • Encourage the student to visit during office hours for clarification of content.

Working with Students who are Blind or have Low Vision

  • If possible, have textbook info and syllabus available early for conversion into alternate format.
  • Consult with OSD staff on any lecture materials, assignments, or tests that can be converted for the student.
  • Consider obstacles in the classroom that might present a problem.
  • Student may need information about the physical layout of the classroom.
  • Consider the impact of lighting on the student's ability to see.
  • Give clear verbal descriptions of visual materials. Allow audio recording of lectures.
  • Address students by name, so they know you are talking to them.
  • Speak in a normal tone and speed of voice.
  • Don't assume that your help is wanted, or needed, rather ask if the student would like your help.
  • Face the student when you speak.

Working with Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • Speak directly to the student and not the interpreter or captionist.
  • Face the class when speaking; don't face the board when you speak.
  • Give the student time to look back and forth between any materials he/she needs to view, the interpreter or the captionist's screen, and you.
  • When students make comments in class or ask questions, repeat the questions before answering, or phrase your answers in such a way that the questions are obvious.
  • Use visual aids and reference whenever possible.
  • Provide videos and slides with captioning. If captioning is not available, supply a transcript of the content.
  • If possible, make any PowerPoint presentations or lecture materials available for student access.
  • Provide a written supplement to oral instructions, assignments, and directions.
  • Encourage students in class to speak one at a time.
  • Consider the impact of lighting on the student's ability to see your face (lips, expressions and gestures).

Working with Students with Attention or Processing Disabilities

  • Use consistent, predictable content delivery in your online environment
  • Encourage the use of a personal planner
  • Provide copies of class presentations in your course shell
  • If the student opens the conversation, ask questions about what strategies they use in class

Working with Students with Cognitive Disabilities

  • Make no assumptions about the student's abilities
  • The student may need extra time to process information
  • Don't take a lack of immediate response personally; information overload can take a few moments to work through
  • Allow for different styles of processing information

Please contact the Office for Students with Disabilities for more information or technical assistance.

For more assistance with working with students with disabilities, please refer to the  Faculty Resource Guide.