Some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes. For example, a student with an auditory processing problem may take few or unclear notes. Physical and hearing impairments may also limit speed and make note-taking difficult. A note-taking accommodation is intended to provide information that the student would have gotten on his own, if it were not for his disability. Common ways to provide note-taking accommodations include the following:

  • Guided notes
  • Instructor lecture notes
  • Copies of notes by a designated note taker
  • Audio recordings

Guided notes are outlines, provided by the instructor, with spaces or blanks that the student can fill in during the lecture. Copies of presentation overheads might also serve as guides for note-taking. Guided notes encourage student participation during class and minimize the amount of writing required to keep up with the information being presented. Students should consider using a laptop computer and note-taking software for note-taking. Teachers could then provide outlines electronically.

An instructor can provide their lecture notes to a student prior to the lecture. This allows the student to concentrate on the information given and participate in discussions. For some students, it is helpful to refer to these notes during the lecture.

Copies of notes, from a designated note-taker or volunteer from the class, can be written on NCR (no carbon required) paper, photocopied or shared electronically. While these methods are easy to use, the legibility or clarity of the notes may limit their usefulness. These notes are also the writer's interpretation of the lecture, which may not match what the student needs to help her remember key concepts. For these reasons, it is better if the student can take some notes for herself.

Audio recording is the most accurate and complete way to capture class information, except in situations where the lecture format is highly visual, as it might be in math or science classes (math problems on the board or demonstrations in science). Recordings are also time-consuming to review and not useful for a person with a hearing impairment.

Upon request, most colleges provide note-taking services for students with documented disabilities. K-12 teachers might consider having a designated note-taker in each of their classes for the benefit of anyone who needs notes because of an absence or a disability. Collaborative learning techniques, such as Think/Pair/Share and Jigsaw, can help students grasp key concepts and ensure that notes are complete. Having students summarize their thinking verbally or in a journal may also be useful.

Contact the special education department or disability services office at your school for assistance in providing note-taking accommodations and to get NCR paper for note-takers.