- Learning Disabilities/Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADD/ADHD)
- Hearing Impairments
- Visual Impairments
- Physical Disabilities
- Psychological/Psychiatric Disabilities
Learning Disabilities/Attention Deficit/
Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADD/ADHD)
Some of the terms referring to disorders included under the umbrella term specific learning disabilities are: dyslexia (difficulty with reading), dysgraphia (difficulty with writing), dyscalculia (difficulty with mathematics), and ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder).
Although a learning disability cannot be “cured,” its impact can be lessened through instructional intervention and compensatory strategies. Appropriate academic adjustments made for students with learning disabilities may include some of the following examples of strategies, depending upon individual needs/circumstances:
- Clearly spell out expectations before the course begins (e.g. grading, materials to be covered, due dates).
- Start each lecture with an outline of material to be covered that period. At the conclusion of class, briefly summarize key points.
- Speak directly to students and use gestures and natural expressions to convey further meaning.
- Present new or technical vocabulary on the board or use a student handout. Terms should be used in context to convey greater meaning.
- Read aloud material that is written on the board or that is given in handouts or transparencies.
- Give assignments both orally and in written form to avoid confusion.
- Facilitate the use of tape recorders for notetaking by allowing students to tape lectures.
- Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers, including review sessions.
- Announce reading assignments well in advance for students who are using taped materials. It can take two weeks to receive a taped textbook.
- Double-space all material.
- Make the syllabus available prior to the first day of class to allow students to begin their reading early.
- Provide critiques of early drafts of papers.
- When designing multiple choice tests, avoid the use of negative statements. Also, limit the number of choices. Research supports that providing three possible answers to a multiple-choice test offers a valid measure of material mastery (Sechrest, Kilstrom, Bootzin, 1993). Developing tests in this style will reduce confusion, may reduce the need to modify individual tests and will most likely benefit all University students.
The following strategies are suggested in order to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations.
- Circular seating arrangements offer deaf or hard of hearing students the best advantage for seeing all class participants. When desks are arranged in rows, keep front seats open for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their interpreters.
- Write important information and dates (for example, due dates or exam dates) on the board.
- Face the class while speaking. Please try not to speak while writing on the board, since the hard of hearing student may miss that information.
- Avoid lecturing with your back to a window where the glare from outside may interfere with the student’s ability to lip read.
- Repeat the comments and questions of other students, especially those from the back rows; acknowledge who has made the comment so the deaf or hard of hearing student can focus on the speaker. When appropriate, ask for a hearing volunteer to team up with a deaf or hard of hearing student for in-class assignments.
- Assist the student with finding an effective notetaker or lab assistant from the class if requested. If possible, provide transcripts of audio information.
- When working with an interpreter, face and address the deaf student directly instead of talking “through” the interpreter (for more information on working with interpreters, contact the DDS).
- If there is a break in the class, get the deaf or hard of hearing student’s attention before resuming class. If you give test directions/changes after the tests have been handed out, please get the attention of the deaf or hard of hearing student before making the announcement.
- Because visual information is a deaf student’s primary means of receiving information, films, overheads, diagrams, and other visual aids are useful instructional tools. Be flexible: allow a deaf student to work with audiovisual material independently and for a longer period of time. When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her. Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
- Assistive Listening Devices — Monmouth University owns several “Comtek” devices that allow the student to hear voices in the room better by amplifying through a microphone. Professors may be asked by the student to wear a microphone if they are using the Comtek.
A major challenge facing university students with visual impairments is the overwhelming mass of printed material that confronts them (syllabi, course packs, books, time schedules, bibliographies, campus newspapers, posters, and tests). The use of films, videotapes, overhead projectors, and closed-circuit television adds to the volume of visual material to which they must have access in some other way. The following are suggestions to consider when working with visually impaired students:
- Pair up students. Ask for a sighted volunteer to team up with a student with a visual impairment for in-class assignments.
- Keep a front row seat open for a student with a visual impairment. A corner seat is especially convenient for a student with a guide dog.
- Choose books and course packs early, and make the information readily available to the campus bookstore and copy centers so that the student with a visual impairment has time to make the necessary arrangements. To have a text recorded or put into Braille format can take from two to six months.
- Provide students with visual impairments with materials in alternative formats at the same time the materials are given to the rest of the class. The student may need the material in large print, Braille, or audio format. Alternate formats may be obtained through the DDS, however some formats do take considerable time to produce. If notice is not given in a timely manner, the alternate formats may not be readily available for students with visual impairments.
- Encourage students to use the Adaptive Testing Center when appropriate. The DDS has software and hardware designed for students with visual impairments. It may be beneficial to the student to take their tests in the DDS for that reason. The DDS may ask professors to submit tests on a disk so that the alternative format can be obtained easily.
A wide range of conditions may limit mobility and/or energy. Among the most common permanent disorders are such musculoskeletal disabilities as a partial or total paralysis, amputation or severe injury, arthritis, active sickle cell disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Lyme disease. Additionally, respiratory and cardiac diseases, which are debilitating, may affect mobility. Any of these conditions may also impair the strength, speed, endurance, coordination, or dexterity necessary for university life. While the degree of disability varies, it is important to recognize that, for many reasons, some students may have difficulty getting to or from class, performing in-class, taking notes, and managing out-of-class assignments and tests in a timely manner.
Class access is one of the major concerns of the student who uses a wheelchair or crutches. Faculty should be aware that mobility impaired students sometimes encounter unavoidable situations that may cause them to be late for class. Students with mobility impairments require more travel time between classes; they are often dependent on elevators and indirect but accessible travel routes. For all these reasons, occasional tardiness by students with mobility impairments may be unavoidable.
Auditorium and theater-type classrooms may present difficulties unless there is a large enough flat floor space in the front or rear of the room for a wheelchair. There must also be an entrance to and from that level. For students not using wheelchairs, some seats must be easily reached without steps. Classrooms with tables (provided there is an under table clearance of at least 27-1/2 inches) are more accessible to students in wheelchairs than rooms with standard classroom desks. The DDS will handle arrangements for accessible tables and chairs upon a student’s request.
It is difficult to make generalizations about the classroom needs of students who use wheelchairs, because some students may be able to stand for short periods of time, while others will not be able to stand at all. Some will have full use of their hands and arms, while others will have minimal or no use of them.
Students with psychological/psychiatric disabilities may benefit from the following strategies and modifications, many of which would be appropriate for any student with a disability. On a case by case basis, students will determine the accommodations that are reasonable and appropriate for them in consultation with the disability service provider and dependent upon presentation of the required documentation. Academic accommodations require notification to the professor through disclosure letters provided by the Department of Disability Services for Students and delivered by the student.
- Preferential seating
- Extended time on tests, assignments and projects, both in and out of class
- Breaks during testing and classroom lectures
- Testing in a distraction free area
- Substitute assignments if necessary, only if they do not contradict or alter the goals of the course
- Use of a word processor for testing and assignments if fine motor difficulties are present
- Changes in the test format
- More frequent consultation with faculty
- Modifying presentation of in-class assignments
- Tape recording lectures
- Texts on CD
- Tutorial services
- Support groups
- Priority registration
- Monitoring of academic progress
- Counseling support on/off campus
- Identification of “safe” places and people on campus
- Peer mentoring and support
- Assistance in understanding procedures and in completing forms and applications
- Accommodations for disability-related absences based on the course objectives and considered on a case by case basis
- Consideration of the disability in situations where withdrawal from class may be necessary at a late date
- Reduced course load