Tips for creating a more inclusive classroom for students with disabilities:
- Use a font that is simple to read. Several are simpler for students with dyslexia to read.
- Someday we will return to field trips. Call ahead. Make sure you field trip locations are accessible to all students. Not only is your location wheelchair accessible, is it accessible to those with invisible disabilities, are you prepared to support students who may not be able to handle the level of sound with headphones, can dietary needs be met at the location in terms of snack/food policies?
- Take the time to learn the root cause of a behavior…behavior is a form of communication. Disruptive behavior is frustrating, but having a student leave class or head to the office is not solving the problem at the root cause of it.
- Offer your notes to students! Pace and handwriting can be a barrier in accessing information. Unless you are practicing note taking, why not offer notes to all?
- Can you offer many reading levels in your classroom library, a variety of leveled station work?
- Model inclusivity. Make sure every student has a mailbox, gets school flyers, is invited to special class events, parties, or rewards. Don’t forget to let them know when schedules change!
- Avoid segregating students. Can work be set up ahead of time with accommodations to make them more independent, not needing a special seat away from others?
- IEP accommodations…yes, those can be overwhelming and yes, they are the responsibility of each and every teacher…but think of them as a tool for you to best meet student needs. You can form a strong relationship with a student while reading a test aloud; you can create trust when you provide them a space for a break.
- Do you have a flexible classroom? Can you accept multiple modes of student responses? Can students learn standing or sitting in a comfy chair? Place expectations on all of your spaces but allow the opportunity for for differing needs to be met without specialized spotlights.
- Curriculum. Are you aware of Standards Extended WITH learning progressions? This is a tool for you to use in order to view strands of standards to support you with differentiation. Here is a template you can use to plan your lessons with learning progressions built in.
What is Universal Design for Learning? https://udlguidelines.cast.org/ These guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.
How do I get this all done?
- Start small. Focus on one change at a time.
- Make the change and stick with it…you know how we create “muscle memory” with activities for our students…it works for adults too.
- Make a snapshot of accommodations…who gets them, and keep it in your view so you don’t forget them!
- Engage with staff who support IN your classroom by planning with them, bouncing ideas off of one another, and using them as teachers, not extra hands.
- If something is not working-figure out why…are expectations set…can you change it up-give tests in the morning, provide accommodations when you have additional adult support built in…build in breaks, model strategies like highlighting notes/text or tapping out words to sound them out-don’t require your strategies to be done in silence-allow multi-sensory approaches!
- Start with being inclusive to your coworkers. Be sure your special education staff is in on conversation, planning, and socializing.
Imagine the possibilities…when you consider these ideas for your students, they truly benefit everyone in the classroom. Need are diverse. Inclusion for students with disabilities is just one step in diversity within the classroom…there is so much more to consider but all means all, right?