Different Physical Abilities In The Classroom
The ParaOlympics has just taken place over in Tokyo and the Terry Fox Run just happened as well. This reminded me to think about how we can make accommodations for different physical ability issues in our classrooms. Often this is overlooked as we go about our days unaware of the obstacles that children with different physical abilities must face in school.
A few years ago, I had a student that broke her leg and she needed to be in a wheelchair for several weeks. This was the first time I made it a point to focus my attention on creating an environment that would accommodate kids with physical disabilities so they could participate in our daily activities.
It is important that we consider the physical arrangement of the classroom, especially if we need to allow for equipment such as a wheelchair to maneuver around the room. Accessibility to materials and equipment also needs to be considered.
When I go to the grocery store, there are often things that I cannot reach on the shelves because they are too high, or too far back on the shelves. Imagine how it must feel for those in a wheelchair when they are unable to access things in the classroom for similar reasons.
Being in a wheelchair, on crutches, or perhaps wearing a sling or having a cast on an arm or leg makes it more obvious to us that people need help. But, not all disabilities are readily visible and we need to be reminded to consider these as well.
Accommodating Kids With Hearing Impairments
In many classrooms nowadays, there are children with hearing impairments. Special equipment is now being used to help these children. Amplifiers, microphones, and hearing aids are provided and teachers and students use this equipment when giving oral instructions or for sharing during conversations and discussions. Not only is this helping the hearing impaired child, but it is taking some of the strain off of the voice of the teacher who is speaking to be heard in a classroom and it is helping others to hear better as well.
Using closed captions or a transcript program when required to follow a movie, videoclip, or presentation would be helpful so they can have the added support of reading when things might be difficult to hear.
Learning and teaching sign language would also be helpful if they use sign language. Even if it was only the basics, it could still help with communicating.
Accommodations For Visually Impaired Students
Visually impaired students also need some changes to make their learning successful. It is amazing how much they are capable of doing if given the right environment. The degree of impairment also needs to be considered. Some students may be able to partially see and may just need to have larger fonts, less clutter, and brighter, clearer colors to function successfully. Others may have more severe visual impairment or even be completely without sight. They would need more accommodations to make learning successful. This could be audio recordings of any written material or transcripts in braille. Having a buddy to help guide them when maneuvering around the classroom until they become familiar with where everything is would definitely be useful. It is important that the classroom arrangement stay the same unless the student is prepared and shown when things have been moved around to avoid a dangerous situation. Some students may need to use a cane to help with getting around as well.
Helping Others To Understand The Difficulties
If we want to help those who have different abilities to participate fully, it sometimes takes some understanding of the difficulties they experience to fully get what to do. When my student had to be in the wheelchair, I decided to create some scenarios to help the other students to understand some of the difficulties. We also came up with some solutions together to make things work. I then went further and we talked about some of the accommodations that might be needed to help someone who was blind, or who had a broken arm, who was on crutches, etc.
We did some role playing and set up situations where students had to become the person with the ability issue. I brought in a wheelchair and crutches, we blindfolded students, and we used slings for a broken arm. Kids took turns being the one with the ability issue and the others found ways to help them with various situations. This gave them a bit of an understanding of what it might be like for the person with an ability issue.
Following these activities, the students were able to think ahead and make sure that my student in the wheelchair had the necessary help and they worked together to make sure she was able to participate fully in all activities.
After doing the role playing, they also found solutions to other situations I gave them a reflection sheet to fill out. It was interesting to see how it changed their thinking and how much more aware they were of others and their needs.
There are many other situations and scenarios, but I hope you get the idea. If we want to make accommodations that work for everyone, it is necessary for all the students to work together. This requires understanding the situation and creating solutions together.
Working Together To Create Solutions
I have created an activity booklet that focuses on some of the different physical abilities that need accommodations as simple scenarios that require discussion and possible solutions. Hopefully this will help make all of us more aware of things we can do to make learning successful for everyone. You can find it here in my TPT store. I am giving a sampler booklet to my subscribers.
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These are just a few tips or suggestions to help make it easier for accommodating different physical abilities in the classroom. I am sure there are so many more ways we can make things work better. I would love to hear some of the ways that you have made accommodations in your classroom.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.