Classroom and Instructional Modifications to Assist Students with Social Challenges and Learning DisabilitiesBy Lorraine Millan, MA
- Maintain as supportive and positive a classroom environment as possible. Anxiety decreases the student's ability to attend, concentrate and tolerate frustration. The student must feel emotionally safe to make a mistake or display handicap.
- Emphasizing the student's strengths and appropriate behaviors gives them a sense of mastery and encourages them to work in areas that are more challenging for them.
Model respectful behavior. If the teacher shows empathy for the student, peers will manifest the same behavior.
- Classroom seating should always be considered carefully. Seating close to the teacher or around quieter students is important to reduce distraction and improve attending.
- Provide a structured routine for students to follow. For example, present homework assignments at the same time every day, in a consistent format.
- Give instructions visually (written form), as well as verbally, for assignments and projects. Be specific in your instructions and clear about acceptable format. Giving an example of what an acceptable answer might look like helps greatly.
Allow student to place an assignment sheet at the beginning of their notebook or at the beginning of each days notes. Getting out a separate assignment book may be too distracting.
Make sure you have the student's attention before giving instructions or directions. Reminding students of the relevance of information is always helpful. For example, "Everyone needs to write these facts down, because they will be on the test."
- Focus on the reason for the rule, not the rule. For example, "When you speak loudly in class it is distracting to the people around you and keeps them from being able to concentrate."
- When redirecting a student, you will get better results if you tell them what to do, instead of not what to do. For example, "You can ask a question after I finish reading." Instead of, "You're not supposed to interrupt."
- Reading comprehension is often an area of difficulty. The student will have difficulty with tasks involving inferencing and interpreting information. Assisting the student in finding information within text and deciphering main ideas from details in a selection is quite helpful and often a necessary step in getting them started.
Many students have fine motor issues, including low muscle tone in hands and/or dysgraphia (handwriting difficulties). Students can become overwhelmed if assignments require lengthy written responses. Consider the extent to which writing is necessary for the student to exhibit comprehension in the subject matter. Minimize writing requirements whenever possible.
- Students shouldalways be encouraged and reminded to ask for help. Appropriate strategies for gaining attention should be reviewed regularly.
Reduce off-task behavior by using a previously agreed upon signal to jump-start attention and encourage persistence.
Provide student with a safe place to go if they become agitated or overwhelmed. Teach the student a prearranged signal to use when necessary.
Allow the student to choose a mentor, such as a guidance counselor, with whom to share concerns. This individual should be responsible for assisting the student in developing strategies for improved organization, problem-solving and also for providing emotional support.
Make regular attempts to understand student's behavior. Concentrate on why they can't meet the expectation.
- If student is not attending it may be because the language or concept is too complex.
- If the student is becoming agitated it may be because they recognize they can't do what they're being asked to do.
- If student is avoiding interaction with others, it may be because he or she feels unaccepted.