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 a student with a disability and their parents. Words can reinforce negative stereotypes and limit expectations. Some prefer a person-first approach and say ‘student with a disability’ rather than ‘a disabled student’. This puts the focus on the student rather than on their impairment. Others may prefer identity-first language for disability, such as saying an ‘autistic student’ instead of ‘a student with autism’. Identity-first language can help individuals “claim” their disabilities with pride. Ask each student and family what they prefer and use their language.
Get to know your students
Get to know each student as an individual with their own strengths and interests. Learning more about what a student likes and dislikes can provide starting points to engage them in the classroom. For example, teachers can create learning tasks which involve a student’s favourite sport, movie characters or music. Using a student’s interests can motivate them, engage them with the curriculum, and connect them with other students with similar interests.
Develop consistent routines to support daily wellbeing
Consistent routines benefit all students, particularly those who get worried or anxious or don’t like sudden change. Visual schedules and stories about social situations can also help.
Structured activities such as organised games can help include students if they are isolated during recess and lunch.
Use each student’s unique strengths and abilities
All students have unique strengths and abilities. Create opportunities for the students to use these to help them feel confidence and success in their learning.
For example, a student may have some challenges with hand drawing and writing but be very good at creating diagrams and illustrations on the computer. Allow them to use their computer skills in some of their projects, and encourage them to keep working on their handwriting and drawing skills. Asking a student to teach a skill to other students can reinforce their strengths and boost their self-confidence.
Consider the student's learning style
Get to know how each student learns best. Observe whether a student is most engaged during visual, verbal, musical, hands on/kinaesthetic, social, solitary, active, or problem-solving/logical learning activities. 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 students. Tailor the curriculum content so that all students are challenged yet able to complete the set task.
Support students with participation in school activities. For example, if everyone is expected to pack up equipment at the end of the class, a student 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.