Students with specific learning disabilities have average to above-average intelligence, but may have difficulties acquiring and demonstrating knowledge and understanding. This often results in a significant discrepancy between age-related achievement levels and actual intellectual ability.
There are a range of medical diagnoses and subsequent health problems that can have a temporary or chronic impact on a student's academic performance. Common diagnoses include arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and asthma, AIDS, and heart disease. Unless the condition is neurological in nature, health impairments are unlikely to directly affect learning. However, the secondary effects of illness and the side effects of medications can have a significant impact on memory, attention, strength, endurance, and energy.
Functional hearing loss ranges from mild to profound. Often, people who have very little or no functional hearing refer to themselves as "deaf." Those with milder hearing loss may label themselves as "hard of hearing." When these two groups are combined, they are often referred to as individuals with "hearing impairments,” with "hearing loss,” or who are "hearing impaired.” When referring to the Deaf culture, "Deaf" is capitalized.
Students who are blind cannot access standard print or visual materials. Accommodations for students who are blind include computer software that reads text aloud, audio books and materials, course materials in Braille, and verbal descriptions of demonstrations and visual aids.
Autism spectrum disorders and Asperger syndrome are neurological disorders characterized by significant difficulties with the use of language in social situations, poor social skills, and the presence of unusual and repetitive behaviors. Students with autism spectrum disorders or Asperger syndrome have normal intelligence and, in some cases, may demonstrate exceptional skills or talents in a specific area. But the social and communicative problems associated with these disorders often make social interactions, relationships, and participation in group situations difficult.
Attention deficit disorder is a neurological impairment characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. Individuals may be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is typically made by psychoeducational or medical professionals following a comprehensive evaluation.
Typical accommodations for students with ADD or ADHD include:
For many students with disabilities, written assignments and exams present significant difficulties. Mobility impairments may make writing physically difficult, while visual impairments may impact a student's access to standard word processing programs and computers. Research (e.g., accessing library resources) and the writing process (e.g., spelling and grammar) may also be difficult due to mobility, hearing, language, or learning disabilities.
Work-based learning experiences can help students make career decisions, select courses of study, develop job skills, and network with potential employers. For students with disabilities, work-based learning experiences provide a unique opportunity to explore different, job-related accommodations, and to practice disclosing their disabilities and requesting accommodations from employers.
The web should be universally accessible, but the multimedia nature of the web and the poor design of some websites make it inaccessible to many Internet users.
Taking tests can be particularly challenging for students with disabilities. Difficulties vary greatly, depending on the disability and the type of test. Individual students and disability service personnel are the best source of information about successful testing accommodations.
General accommodation strategies for testing students with disabilities include: