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Increasing the support system of a student with a disability can enhance academic success.

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Group Work/Discussions

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Some students with disabilities face challenges participating in small group discussions and other interactive activities. Specific needs vary greatly. However, some general teaching strategies that benefit all students include:

  • Establish clear ground rules for discussion.
  • Provide electronic supplementary course/discussion materials.
  • Give clear descriptions of visual materials.
  • Paraphrase questions and answers and highlight key points throughout discussions.
  • Create options for electronic discussions.

Accommodations for Specific Disabilities
The following strategies can be used to facilitate participation of students with specific disabilities in discussions and other interactive group work.


Learning Disabilities
Students with learning disabilities may have difficulty processing, organizing, and remembering large amounts of spoken information. Taking effective notes may also be challenging due to poor writing and organizational skills. Some students may also have difficulty communicating verbally.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with learning disabilities include:

  • Audiotaped class sessions.
  • Notetaker.
  • A laptop computer in class for notetaking.
  • Options for electronic discussion via e-mail or the World Wide Web.

For more information about students with learning disabilities, consult the Learning Disabilities section of this website.


Blindness
Students who are blind will not be able to see a presenter, visual aids, printed materials, nor demonstrations.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with blindness are:

  • Audiotaped class sessions.
  • Brailler or computer for notetaking.
  • Electronic course materials which can be converted to speech output.
  • Having students state their names prior to speaking during discussions.
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids and demonstrations.
  • Handouts in Braille or on tape.

For more information about students with blindness, consult the Blindness section of this website.


Low Vision
Students with low vision may have difficulty seeing visual aids, handouts, and demonstrations.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with low vision are:

  • Notetakers.

  • Audiotaped class sessions.

  • Electronic course materials which can be converted to speech output.

  • Preferential seating.

  • Large-print handouts and visual aids.

For more information about students with low vision, consult the Low Vision section of this website.


Hearing Impairments
Students with hearing impairments or deafness are challenged by verbal discussions. Students with residual hearing or who use hearing aids may require amplification. Other students may need to lip read or use sign language interpreters. Some students with hearing impairments may also have speech impairments. Certain environmental conditions may also impact a student's ability to hear or read lips effectively. For example, hearing aids may pick up extraneous background noise and interfere with the clarity of sound. Poor lighting may make it more difficult to lip read. Likewise, background lighting from a window can cast shadows on a speaker's face.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with hearing impairments are:

  • Sign language interpreters.
  • Real-time captioning which allows immediate transcription of words to a computer screen.
  • Captioned videotapes, films, etc.
  • Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) which combined with a student's personal hearing aid can augment and amplify sound in a group setting. Microphones for these devices can then be accessed by the instructor and students.
  • Preferential seating during the discussion for optimal listening or lip reading.
  • Options for electronic discussion.

Communication strategies that can facilitate access to students with hearing impairments include:

  • When speaking, face the student directly.
  • When speaking, avoid obscuring lips or face with hands, books, etc.
  • Repeat discussion questions and statements made by other students.
  • Write discussion key points, questions, and answers on the board or overhead.
  • Speak clearly and at a normal rate.
  • If the student uses an interpreter, speak directly to the student, not the interpreter.
  • Indicate who is speaking by gesturing or pointing.

For more information about students with hearing impairments, consult the Hearing Impairments section of this website.


Mobility Impairment Physical access to the discussion location may pose a challenge for a student with a mobility impairment. A student who has difficulty using their hands will have difficulty taking written notes.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to facilitate maximum participation of students with mobility impairments are:

  • Preferential and accessible seating.

  • Notetakers.

  • Audiotaped class sessions.

  • Laptop computer for notetaking.

For more information about students with mobility impairments, consult the Mobility Impairments section of this website.


Health Impairment
Students with various health conditions may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily and/or have difficulty taking notes due to physical problems. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize participation of students with health impairments are:

  • Options for electronic discussion.

  • Notetakers.

  • Audiotaped class sessions.

  • Laptop computer for notetaking.

  • Flexible attendance requirements.

For more information about students with health impairments, consult the Health Impairments section of this website.


Psychiatric Impairments
Students with various psychiatric conditions may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily and/or have difficulty taking notes. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention for learning.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with psychiatric impairments are:

  • Options for electronic discussion.

  • Notetakers.

  • Audiotaped class session.

  • Laptop computer for notetaking.

  • Flexible attendance requirements.

For more information about students with psychiatric impairments, consult the Psychiatric Impairments section of this website.


Other
Students with speech impairments may have difficulty speaking in discussions. Some students with speech impairments use augmentative communication. Many of these devices are computer-based and can be programmed to provide speech output.

Typical accommodations that can be used in discussions and group work to maximize the participation of students with speech impairments are:

  • Options for electronic discussion.

  • Adequate wait time to allow the student to speak.

For more information about students with speech and other disabilities, consult the Other section of this website.


Check Your Understanding
Consider the following example. A student with a hearing impairment has enrolled in your course which includes a weekly discussion section. The student has a hearing aid and speaks without difficulty. What would be the best way to ensure the student can fully participate in the interactive discussions? Choose a response.

  1. Provide preferential seating near the instructor to reduce environmental distractions.

  2. Use an assistive listening system with multiple microphones for the student and instructor.

  3. Use a notetaker during the discussion.

  4. Use real-time captioning.