A teacher’s personal attitudes will have a real impact on students, including students with disabilities. Always be caring, understanding and think of things from the student’s perspective.
Be aware of how you speak with the parents of a child with a disability, as well as with the child. Words can reinforce negative stereotypes and limit expectations. Some prefer a person-first approach and say ‘child with a disability’ instead of a ‘disabled child’. This puts the focus on the person and not on their disability. Others may prefer identity-first language, such as saying an ‘autistic child’ instead of a ‘child with autism’. Identity-first language can help individuals “claim” their disabilities with pride. Ask each child and family what they prefer and use their language.
Get to know the child
Get to know each child as an individual with their own strengths and interests. Learning more about what a child likes and dislikes can provide starting points to engage them in the classroom. For example, teachers can design developmentally-appropriate learning tasks in which a child’s favourite colours, story characters, animals or sporting heroes are included. Using a child’s interests can motivate them, help them learn new material in a familiar context, and connect them with other children.
Develop consistent routines to support daily wellbeing
Use predictable routines throughout the day. Visual timetables, stories about social situations and structured play activities will benefit all children, especially those who get worried or anxious or don’t like sudden change.
Use each child’s unique strengths and abilities
All children have unique strengths and abilities. Create opportunities for the child to use these to help them experience confidence and success in their learning.
For example, a child may find writing or drawing by hand challenging but be very good at creating diagrams and illustrations on the computer. Allow the child to use their computer skills in some of their projects while encouraging them to keep working on their writing and drawing skills. Asking a child to teach a skill to other children can also reinforce their strengths and boost their self-esteem.
Consider the child's learning style
Get to know how each child learns best. Observe whether a child is most engaged during visual, verbal, musical, hands on/kinaesthetic, social, solitary, active, or problem-solving/logical experiences. Designing experiences that cater to their learning style can help engage them, motivate them, and help them learn..
Have the same expectations
Have high expectations for all children. Tailor the curriculum to each child’s strengths and abilities so that they are challenged yet able to complete the activity.
Support children’s participation in school activities. For example, if everyone is expected to pack up at the end of the class, a child with a disability should also help. If needed, give them more time or a task that matches their abilities and strengths.
Use evidence-based strategies
Use evidence-based strategies, such as those found on AllPlay Learn, when making reasonable adjustments to support the inclusion of a student at school. Evidence-based strategies have been tested in classroom settings or other relevant settings, and are proven to lead to effective change or improvements for students with disabilities or developmental challenges.