We all worry or feel scared at times, but some students may worry so much that they avoid participating in activities, being with others, or going places. Young people with disabilities and developmental challenges often experience higher rates of anxiety than their peers. Anxiety can take different forms, and some students can show symptoms of a number of types of anxiety. You can learn about the different forms of anxiety below.
Students with ADHD often experience challenges with attention and concentration. They may lose focus when doing tasks or listening to their teachers speak. It can seem like their mind is elsewhere. They may also be hyperactive and impulsive.
Every student with autism is different, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Young people with autism typically have difficulties with socialising and communicating with others. Although they may have social difficulties they are often keen to join in, they just might not know how.
Blind and low vision
Blind and low vision refers to significant and ongoing challenges with the ability to see. Some people may be considered legally blind if they cannot see beyond six metres (compared to 60 metres for a child with normal vision) or if their visual field is less than 20 degrees in diameter (compared to 140 degrees for a child with normal vision).
Cerebral palsy describes a disorder that affects the way a person moves. Cerebral palsy occurs when there is damage to the brain when it is developing, and it affects a person’s ability to control their muscles. It is the most common form of physical disability in childhood.
Communication and language disorders
Communication is the exchange of both verbal and nonverbal information. It includes talking, as well as the understanding of words, visual information, body language, facial expressions, and gestures (e.g., pointing, waving hello, nodding your head to mean “yes”). Some students may need support with communication.
Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing
Deaf (capitalised D) is used to describe individuals who use Australian Sign Language (Auslan) to communicate, and who identify as members of the signing Deaf community. Deaf people often do not consider themselves as hearing impaired.
Students with intellectual disability have challenges with thinking skills, such as reasoning, problem solving, planning, and judgement (e.g. understanding and predicting risks). They may take longer to learn new skills at school and in everyday life.
Oppositional defiant disorder
All young people have times when they might refuse to do something they are asked, disrupt others or not listen. Students with oppositional defiant disorder need support with these behaviours which disrupt their day-to-day life.
Physical disability is a term used to describe any lifelong condition that affects a person’s ability to move, or to control their body movements. Young people with physical disabilities will differ in how much their movement is impacted as there are many different types and causes.
Specific learning disability
Students with a specific learning disability find a specific area of learning very challenging, such as reading, spelling, handwriting or mathematics, but do well in other areas of learning. Some may even excel in other areas of learning. Young people with specific learning disabilities often have other developmental disorders too, such as ADHD. A student can have more than one specific learning disability.
Attention describes being able to concentrate for a long time, being able to stay focussed on one task without being distracted, being able to divide your attention between multiple tasks (e.g. listening while completing an activity), and being able to switch your attention between different ideas (e.g. shifting your thinking to a new task or activity easily).
Sometimes students may behave in ways that disrupt the class and impact their educational progress. This could involve physical actions (e.g. damaging equipment, fighting) or the way that a student interacts with others (e.g., shouting, saying unkind things), or difficulty engaging a student in activities (e.g. not listening to teachers or following instructions, not completing work).
Supporting students to develop emotion regulation skills will be important for many aspects of their lives including their interpersonal relationships and in education and future employment settings, and for their own social and emotional wellbeing. Students with disabilities and developmental challenges often need extra support with understanding and regulating their emotions.
Learning and memory
Learning and memory describe the ability to take in, process, store, and recall information. This may be information that we have heard (e.g. spoken instructions) or seen (e.g. being shown the location of items). Learning and remembering information rely on many different skills.
Planning and organisation
Some students may need support in learning planning and organisation skills. This may include support with completing tasks and assignments, organising bags and lockers, and managing personal belongings and time.
Processing speed is how quickly you can take in and understand information, and respond to that information. Processing speed does not refer to how ‘smart’ a student is – it is about how quickly they can process and respond to verbal or visual information. Students with disabilities may tend to take longer than other students to respond to instructions, or to complete tasks (including tasks they know well).
Sensory functioning describes how the body responds to sounds, textures, lights, smells, pain, temperature and other stimuli or information in the environment. Some teenagers can have reduced sensory awareness, such as teens who are Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing, or teens who are blind and low vision. Other teenagers may find some sensory input distracting or distressing such as those with autism.
Socialising with others requires many skills. These include being able to express thoughts or ideas, listen and understand what others say, show an interest in others, and share or take turns. Non-verbal behaviours are also important for socialising. These include using and understanding gestures, reading facial expressions, knowing how close to stand to others and whether it is okay to touch someone.
Cognition is another word for thinking or understanding. It includes skills like how fast someone thinks, and their attention, reasoning, and problem solving. Cognitive skills will vary for each teenager.p>