A “specific learning disability” refers to a variety of diagnoses such as difficulties with oral or written expression; decoding, fluency, and comprehension; auditory processing; working memory; arithmetic; and executive functioning. There are a variety of strategies that instructors can use to make computing courses more accessible for students with specific learning disabilities. Consider adopting a growth mindset approach that focuses on students’ abilities to learn and grow rather than talent or intelligence.
Many students with disabilities have successfully completed computing courses during their K-12 education. As a result, some individuals with disabilities have successfully completed postsecondary degrees in computing and now have careers in computing fields. However, more work needs to be done in order for all students with disabilities have opportunities to pursue these careers.
The Career and Technical Education Program (CTE) at Seattle Public Schools serves a wide variety of students with different learning needs. Through a collaborative grant from The Boeing Company, CTE staff worked with the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) program to arrange industry tours for students with disabilities.
In an effort to increase computer science awareness among youth with disabilities, the University of Alabama, Auburn University, and United Cerebral Palsy of Birmingham collaborated to host two Computer Science Fun Days. The participants engaged in fun, interactive computer and robotics activities and learned about numerous opportunities in the field of computer science.
DRobotZ was designed to better expose and prepare students who are deaf or hard of hearing to college life and computing careers. With funding from AccessComputing, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) developed and hosted a two-week residential summer camp in Rochester, New York for high school freshmen and sophomores who are deaf and hard of hearing.
To expose high school students with disabilities to computer sciences and related careers, the North Central Florida High School High Tech program undertook the Computer Science Exploration Project. The Project offered a series of nine hands-on events. An event was held once a month and included visits to:
Led by Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) Project E.S.T.E.E.M. (Experience Science, Technology, Engineering, Electronics, and Math) provided youth with disabilities an opportunity to experience programs at TSJC that contain a computer science component. TSJC collaborated with the School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP) to host the full-day event which culminated in an evening in which both students and their parents participated.
Despite legislation established to allow students with disabilities to fully participate in classrooms, there is still a prominent gap in the science performance of students with and without disabilities (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2005). While expectations for students with disabilities have increased considerably, the instructional materials used in the science classroom generally remain limited to printed text and paper-and-pencil activities. Often, these static media pose barriers in learning for students with disabilities, who are often struggling readers.