Who qualifies as a "student with a disability"?

In order to qualify for special education services under IDEA '97, a student must satisfy two requirements: (1) the student must have one of the disabilities specified in the law; and (2) the disability results in the need for special education and related services. IDEA '97 lists the disability categories that may entitle a child to receive special education and related services:

  • Hearing impairments, including deafness

  • Speech or language impairments

  • Visual impairments, including blindness

  • Emotional disturbance

  • Orthopedic impairments

  • Autism

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Other health impairments

  • Specific learning disabilities


What is the "general curriculum"?

The regulations implementing IDEA '97 describe the general curriculum as the same curriculum as that established for students without disabilities. The general curriculum can be thought of as "the overall plan for instruction adopted by a school or school system. Its purpose is to guide instructional activities and provide consistency of expectations, content, methods, and outcomes" (Hitchcock, Meyer, Rose, and Jackson, 2002). 


* Ask students to clarify any special needs.

* Remember that disabled students are students first, disable second.

* Be flexible about attendance and promptness

* Be sensitive

In my classroom, I will assess the students as individuals and be aware of any students who have special needs and who have an Individualized Educational Program. Also, I will  learn about any students who have visual impairments or problems with hearing or mobility. Develop an awareness of cultural issues and how these may affect the student's learning experience. 

I will keep in consideration about different learning styles and apply these to my teaching. Some students, for instance, learn best by reading to themselves, others by doing something practical. Some students are very visual learners and like to see information presented in posters and diagrams. I will try to use a variety of methods in an approach that is inclusive.

I will assess the classroom from the point of view of a child who has a disability. Make it safe and tidy and inclusive. I will use assessment methods that are fair to all, for instance, a student who is dyslexic may need a support worker to read exam questions to him. Welcome constructive feedback from students and others who are involved in educating.
Students' Learning Needs in the Classroom | Courtesy

Here are some strategies that I will use in my classroom to accomodate students with hearing impair.

  • Kepp in consideration facial expressions, gestures, and other body language will help convey the message.
  • Get the attention of a student with a hearing impairment before speaking and communicating and always face the student.
  • If not facing a student with a hearing impairment, gently touch a student on the shoulder or on the arm to indicate that you want to talk to him/her.
  • Do not be alarmed if the student does not understand and I cannot understand him/her. Generally, I will become accustomed to each other in time.
  • When communicating, always face the student with a hearing impairment.
  • For reinforcement, I will repeat new vocabulary in different contexts.
  • Sequence topics so that new material is related to that previously learned.
  • The use of visual aids is most helpful since vision is the student's primary means of receiving information.
  • Use written announcements (assignments, due dates, exam dates, changes in the class schedule, special event dates, etc.).
  • Provide an outline in advance of the lesson/activity to give to the student in advance, and list my expectations for the class.
  • Write all homework assignments, class instructions, and procedural changes on the chalkboard.
  • Use captioned films, videos, and laser disks.
  • Use an interpreter where needed to accomodate students that do not speak the language.
  • Avoid seating the student in heavy traffic areas.
  • Avoid vibrations and excessive noise.
  • Make chalkboard notes legible.
  • Do not talk while writing on chalkboard.
  • Eliminate background noises. Sounds taken for granted and normally ignored by hearing individuals, are amplified by a hearing aid and interfere with the communication of the person who is hard of hearing.
  • Establish, with the student, a procedure in case of an emergency. For example, agree that for a fire drill the teacher will write on board "Fire drill FIRE--go out backdoor." (Also, if you have a signing student, learn the signs for emergency, fire, go, etc.)
  • Get the attention of a person with a hearing impairment before speaking.
  • If necessary, use written notes to communicate.
  • Supplement audible alarm systems with simple visual alarms such as flashing lights.

Visual Impair Students: 

There are two main functional categories of visual impairments: Low Vision and Blind. Low vision students usually are print users , but may require special equipment and materials.

  • Speak to the class upon entering and leaving the room or site.
  • Call the student with a vision impairment by name if you want his/her attention.
  • Seat the student away from glaring lights (e.g. by the window) and preferably infront of the class.
  • Use descriptive words such as straight, forward, left, etc. in relation to the student's body orientation.
  • Describe and tactually familiarize the student to the classroom, laboratory, equipment, supplies, materials, field sites, etc.
  • Give verbal notice of room changes, special meetings, or assignments.
  • Offer to read written information for a person with a visual impairment, when appropriate.
  • Order the appropriate text books for the students in their preferred medium.
  • Identify yourself by name, don't assume that the student who is visually impaired will recognize you by your voice even though you have met before.
  • If you are asked to guide a student with a visual impairment, identify yourself, offer your services and, if accepted, offer your arm to the student's hand.
  • If a student with a visual impairment is in class, routinely check the instructional environment to be sure it is adequate and ready for use.
  • When communicating with a student who has a vision impairment, always identify yourself and others who are present.
  • Be understanding of the slight noise made by a portable translator.
  • Also use an auditory or tactile signal where a visual signal is normally