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Students With Disabilities


Teaching Strategies to Accommodate for Specific Disabilities


For your convenience the contents of this webpage have been taken directly from Reasonable Accommodations: A Faculty Guide to Teaching College Students with Disabilities

The below disabilities represent the most common hidden disabilities. For additional types of disabilities, information and resources, please download a copy of the guide at the link above.

Learning Disabilities

Functional Limitations

  • Memory and sequencing difficulties that may impede the students execution of complicated directions
  • Difficulty integrating information presented orally, hindering students ability to follow the sequence and organization of a lecture
  • Slow reading speed, which makes comprehension a difficulty for students with LD, particularly when dealing with large quantities of text
  • Difficulty taking notes caused by difficulty writing and assimilating, remembering, and organizing the material while listening to lectures
  • Difficulty talking, responding, or reading in front of groups, though many students with LD are highly articulate
  • Poor coordination, or trouble judging distance or differentiating between left and right

Teaching Strategies

  • State the day's objectives at the beginning of the class Paraphrase key points from the reading and lectures
  • Provide examples (and identify things that are not examples)
  • Provide written directions
  • Vary your teaching methods (lecture, discussion, small groups)
  • Provide step-by-step directions for class projects, bullet those directions, and give at least 2 weeks notice of due dates
  • Select well-organized textbooks with subheadings, clear explanations and instructions, and appropriate examples
  • Print out and/or digitize copies of overheads and make them available to students
  • Review material regularly
  • Encourage study groups
  • Provide pre-reading questions for each reading assignment or group of related assignments
  • Identify key points in the readings and lectures
  • Do not penalize students for spelling, organizational, or handwriting errors on timed examinations
  • Allow students to use laptop computers for essay exams if they prefer to do so
  • Provide written instructions for classwork and assignments, emphasizing exactly what you want students to do, and go over the instructions orally in class
  • Write out the stages students need to follow to complete an assignment
  • Provide adequate time for students to complete an assignment. Two weeks is good for a standard college paper; four weeks is the minimum for a paper requiring library research
  • Teach students to brainstorm and organize ideas. In most cases, informal outlines are more helpful than formal outlines because the latter can seem so detailed and formulaic that many students fail to do them or spend most of the time allocated working on the perfect outline and never complete the paper
  • Read drafts and give students written and oral feedback
  • Encourage students to read their work out loud, use tape recorders to record their brainstorming, and/or record an oral draft of their papers. Some voice recognition software is both affordable and user-friendly, so students who find this method helpful might consider exploring this type of software
  • Encourage the use of computers at all stages of the learning process.
  • Encourage students to attend regular tutoring sessions, and encourage tutors to focus on organization


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders

Functional Limitations

  •  Difficulty with time management
  •  Inadequate organizational skills, procrastination
  •  Low self-esteem
  •  Difficulty keeping current with assignments
  •  Problems in personal relationships and mood stability that affect academic performance
  •  Distractibility and difficulty focusing
  •  Impulse control
  •  Auditory processing problems
  •  Problems with reading comprehension and memory
  •  Inadequate note-taking or writing skills
  •  Lack of perseverance
  •  Sleep problems

Behaviors: Inattention

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork or other related activities, resulting in work that is often messy and performed carelessly and without considered thought
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties due to inattention and not due to a failure to understand instructions
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort; e.g., homework or paperwork
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities e.g., school assignments notes, books, or tools
  • Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli that are usually and easily ignored by others; e.g., a car honking, a background conversation
  • Fidgets or is always "on the go"
  • Has difficulty regulating attention
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Forgetful in daily activities; e.g., missing appointments

Behaviors: Hyperactivity

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat or is often "on the go"
  • Has difficulty engaging in group activities
  • Often talks excessively

Behaviors: Impulsivity

  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn
  • Interrupts or walks in on others

Teaching Strategies

  • Recognize the issue of compliance versus comprehension, and be able to distinguish between these two types of behavior
  • Supplement oral instructions with visual reinforcement, such that the student can frequently check that they are following instructions (e.g., write the assignment on the board, photocopy printed instructions, use an overhead, or have matched instructions on tape)
  • Modify tests if necessary (e.g., provide extra time, or divide the test into two parts to be completed at different times during the day)
  • Modify assignments, if necessary (e.g., assign fewer questions in math, use contracts for longer assignments)
  • Consider where the student with AD/HD is seated. A quiet seat in close proximity to the instructor may help the student to stay on task
  • Work with the student to develop social interaction skills (e.g., interpreting non-verbal communication cues)
  • Prepare the student for transitions or unusual events by explaining the situation and describing appropriate behavior in advance
  • Address essential academic and behavioral expectations in the class syllabus
  • Outline class presentations and provide written list of key terms and points
  • Repeat and summarize segments of each presentation and review it in its entirety
  • Paraphrase abstract concepts in specific terms and illustrate them with examples
  • Provide concrete examples, personal experiences, hands-on models, and helpful visual   materials as charts and graphs
  • Make required book lists available prior to the first day of class to allow students to begin their reading early and/or to obtain text in an alternate format
  • Keep all instructions concise and reinforce them with brief cue words
  • Repeat or re-word complicated directions
  • Use color codes or supplementary symbols to help students overcome perceptual problems
  • Orient students to the class laboratory and equipment.
  • Label equipment, tools, and material
  • Use cue cards or labels designating each step of a procedure
  • Allow students to use computers with speech output, spell check, and/or grammar check


Autism Spectrum Disorders/Asperger's Syndrome

Functional Limitations 

  • Poor non-verbal communication e.g., reduced facial expression, monotonous intonation, and limited and inappropriate gestures
  • Poor comprehension of other people's verbal and non-verbal expressions
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Clumsiness and poor coordination
  • A preference for repetitive activities, a strong attachment to certain possessions, and distress at a change of whereabouts
  • Problems with abstract thinking and concepts


  • Peculiarities of eye gaze, such as inability to make eye contact and read visual cues
  • Inattention to the listener's needs; clumsy communication and interpersonal interaction
  • Pedantic and perseverative speech (e.g., repeating words and phrases over and over)
  • Unusual language characteristics e.g., exaggerated length of utterances, embedded sentences, or locked in wording
  • Over-focus on precision
  • Written text consisting of continuous, unduly prolonged declarations or statements
  • Special interests and skills are usually dependent on excellent rote memory

Teaching Strategies

  • Prepare the student for all changes in routine and/or environment
  • Use verbal cues, clear visual demonstrations, and physical cues
  • Avoid abstract ideas when possible; when abstract ideas are necessary, use visual cues as an aid
  • Understand that an increase in unusual or difficult behaviors probably indicates an increase in stress, in which case ask the student if would he or she like to talk with you
  • Don t take misbehavior personally
  • Avoid nicknames such as Pal, Buddy, Wise Guy, etc.; idioms ("save your breath," "jump the gun," "second thoughts," etc.); double meanings, sarcasm, and teasing
  • Be as concrete as possible, avoiding vague questions like, "Why did you do that?" Avoid complex essay-type questions, since students will rarely know when they have said enough or if they are properly addressing the core of the question
  • Break tasks down into smaller steps, or present them in more than one way i.e., visually, verbally, and physically
  • Avoid verbal overload
  • Be aware that for some individuals what might seem like ordinary classroom auditory and visual input can, in fact, represent perceptual extremes of too much or too little
  • Use writing if a student uses repetitive verbal arguments and/or questions, requesting she write down the argumentative statement or question, and then writing your reply. Or try writing her argument and/or question yourself, and then asking the student to write a logical reply

 For more teaching strategies for accommodating specific disabilities please refer to Reasonable Accommodations: A Faculty Guide to Teaching College Students with Disabilities

For general inquiries please email or call 718-368-5175 or drop in to room D-205 in the West Academic Clusters