How To Teach Students With Disabilities In A General Ed Classroom

10 Ways To Help Students With Disabilities In A General Ed Classroom

How to help students with disabilities while student teaching.


One of the greatest fears that a lot of student teachers have is not being able to effectively help a student. This is a fear even professional teachers can have, especially if they notice a student is struggling in their classroom. This is especially the case with students in the classroom who have a disability. At least once during your student teaching experience, you will encounter a few students who have disabilities, and these students won't always be on medication. And if they are on medication, the medication won't always be effective for helping to manage their symptoms.

I remember during my first student teaching experience I had a student in my classroom who wasn't on medication who had a disability and was struggling greatly on his performance in the classroom. This is the reality for most teachers. However, there are ways that you can effectively teach students with disabilities.

Here are 10 ways to effectively help students who have a disability while student teaching in a general ed classroom.

1. Be patient 



When you have a student with a disability in your classroom, you need to be patient with them. If a student has a learning disability and they forget their homework again, be patient. You must always keep in mind that if the student forgets something, it is not their fault. Take a moment to stop and think of how you can provide accommodations for your student that will help the student succeed. If the student is forgetting their homework assignments, for example, you can suggest the student carries a planner or provide more time for the student to complete the assignment.

2. Work with the special education teachers

Special Ed Teacher

Wikimedia Commons

You should always be open to working closely with the special education teachers in the classroom. In some school districts, they will co-teach with the general education teachers. Therefore, if you are student teaching, you will likely be working with special education teachers. They can be very helpful for providing advice on creating an accommodating curriculum and how to best help a student, and they can give feedback on the lesson plans you make to accommodate the students in your classroom. Therefore, you should be open to working with the teachers and listening to any advice they give you.

3. Keep an organized class schedule


Judy Baxter / Flickr

If you have a student who you know has autism in your classroom, then try to make sure you maintain an organized schedule. Students with autism like to have everything organized and tend to have more anxiety when something unpredictable happens. If you are going to have a substitute teacher, a field trip, or a school event that is coming up, let your students know beforehand so that any students in your classroom who have autism will know what to expect.

4. Give immediate feedback


Ilmicrofono Oggiono / Flickr

Students with disabilities do better if they receive immediate feedback. Students with disabilities need to see what improvements they need to make and where they are at in the classroom. According to TeacherVision, students with learning disabilities need to see the relationship between what is taught and learned in the classroom. Therefore, if it is possible, try to give immediate feedback to any student with a disability.

5. Focus on the student's strengths


Engineering at Cambridge / Flickr

If you want a student who may have a disability to be successful in your classroom, don't underestimate their ability. Just because a student may not be able to handle certain things due to their disability does not mean that they are incapable of accomplishing other things. Try to instead focus on the student's individual strengths. For example, if the student has a hard time working with others but is great at doing individual work, consider focusing on creating more assignments in which the student could do independently. Try to play to the student's strengths.

6. Allow time for breaks during class

Student on tablet


This is helpful for both students with disabilities and students without disabilities! Students with a disability can often feel overwhelmed at times and benefit from being given a short break. Consider giving your students a short break during the day, whether it's a bathroom break or a brain break. It will help make sure your students aren't getting too overwhelmed during class.

7. Help boost your student's confidence


U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

A lot of students with disabilities will often lack confidence. They may be struggling with their individual disability not only in your classroom but in other classrooms too. Help the student build their confidence in the classroom through giving specific praise. Try to also find at least one positive comment that you can make about the student's work.

For example, if they did badly on a math problem but seemed to comprehend how to start the problem tell the student "You did a great job on starting the problem but I think you may need some more help with solving the problem correctly." Starting with a positive statement will help any students with disabilities not feel discouraged and will help the students gain a boost in confidence.

8. Be open to making changes in curriculum


World Bank Photo Collection / Flickr

There will most likely be times when you will need to make changes to your curriculum. If one strategy doesn't work, try another! Part of teaching is trying different things until you find something that works, and this can be applied to all students.

9. Use visual aids



When you are presenting a lesson, you should try to incorporate some visual aids that will help students with disabilities understand your lesson better. This could include charts, computer programs, pictures, and vivid pictures. In mathematics, students with learning disabilities may do better through seeing visual demonstrations or pictures in order to help them understand problems better. Include anything that you think will help students with disabilities understand your lesson better during your presentation.

10. Have students work more with peers

Students Working Together

World Bank Photo Collection / Flickr

Allow your students to work with their peers more during activities or assignments in the classroom. Students with disabilities learn better if they are working with another student rather than independently. It also helps to create a more positive learning environment.

If you find yourself struggling to find the right method for helping your student who has a disability, then you should check out some of these tips. It can be hard to know exactly how to help students with disabilities, especially if you just started your student teaching experience. However, there are ways that you can effectively help any student in your class who has a specific disability. If you follow these strategies, you'll not only help the student in your classroom who has a disability, but you'll also help create a positive learning environment for all of the students in your classroom.

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything

I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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It's Time For You High Schoolers To Invest Your Time Into Your Careers

It may seem too early to specialize, but there will be a point where it's too late.


If you're in high school, odds are you're approached by friends, family and more family about your plans after. For many of us, this can mean college. From convincing a college to admit you to convincing them to foot your entire tuition bill, you need to be marketable.

You should start with writing out your resume. Write it specifically oriented towards your career path. My resume, for example, is music themed. If you are anything like younger me, you might have a couple things that fit. I had marching band, concert band, honor band. But the majority might be things you signed up for to round yourself out.

A candidate too well rounded is directionless.

My participation in science club was fun, I will admit. But it didn't do much for me. It didn't teach me leadership, nor cooperation nor did it help with my career path.

High school is a lot more limited a time to both express and market yourself than you might think. Before I knew it, I was sitting in my junior year without much to my musical name.

If you have an extra curricular that you participate in because you enjoy it, you don't have to drop it. If you have developed as a person or as a leader, then it might even be something you can include in your list.

I just want to caution people from getting into the same situation I was in. I spent the first three years essentially of high school to feel out different areas, and this was too much time.

Productive uses of your after school time should be things you talk about when you say what sets you apart from other students in your field. And yes, this means you have to utilize tools outside of your school offerings most of the time.

When I go to apply for college and for musical internships, I plan on listing my participation in Atlanta CV (professional drum corps in DCA), high school marching band and marching band leadership, MAYWE (Metropolitan Atlanta Youth Wind Ensemble, an auditioned honor band), GYSO (Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra), AYWS (Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony), Youth Bands of Atlanta, county honor band, jazz band, twice state applicant for Governor's Honors Program Music, JanFest music at UGA, the Academy of Science, Research and Medicine (Biotechnology certification and science fair), math bowl and HOSA - Future Health Professionals.

When I go to apply for college and for musical internships, I plan on listing the most relevant activities as well as the ones I've chosen to regardless stick with. Relevant activities in regard to my music major include honor ensembles and marching activities.

My most applicable activities for music include marching bands. I am a contracted baritone marcher of Atlanta CV Drum and Bugle Corps as well as trombone marcher and two year Trombone/Baritone Section Leader for the Pride of Paulding marching band. These show relevancy because these organizations provide rapport as well as the marching activity in itself shows another level of musical capability.

My honor ensembles are relevant likewise because they show higher musical skill and provide some legitimacy to your path. I have been involved in Metropolitan Atlanta Youth Wind Ensemble, county honor band, jazz band and I was also a Two-Time State Applicant to the Governor's Honors Program.

I plan to also be with the Symphony of the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Youth Wind Ensemble, Youth Bands of Atlanta and JanFest at UGA. Auditions are coming up for each of these and I hope to be considered for membership. These would round out my music application by showing versatility (via orchestra along with wind ensembles) and more time dedication. Both universities and employers value this level of hard work.

Of course, even I on my soapbox have some activities I've stuck with despite it not being directly related to music. Despite this, you can make them relevant by touting your experience with it. I've been an officer and competitor for our chapter of HOSA - Future Health Professionals despite not going into healthcare and I've been certified in Biotechnology through my school The Academy of Science, Research and Medicine despite not going into STEM.

My experiences in biotechnology and healthcare have provided me a round academic experience, more high rigor classes and leadership opportunities. I was co-treasurer of our HOSA chapter and my Magnet school gave me access to more AP classes and the biotechnology classes. Anything can be useful, but the extent is determined by its relevancy.

The vast majority of my activities are both outside of the school and directly related to my career path. Activities such as these can make any student automatically more competitive than an equally academically-standing student.

Finding these activities involve a combination of involving teachers and mentors in your career field as well as self research. Luckily for me, I was able to fairly quickly compile a list of Honor Bands to audition for due to the abundance in the area. My directors also named a few. Most areas should have something at least tangentially-related to your specialization.

Some opportunities require knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time. For example, my involvement in one of my most valuable activity assets, Atlanta CV, was a result of knowing a guy that knew a guy that knew about an opening for the right instrument halfway through spring training.

What I hope readers gain from my story is to start early. I've found myself struggling to meet the market's standards in the last year of high school immediately before applying for college. Specializing would have been more effective a tad bit longer term and I hope others take my heed.

Moving on from high school can be an intimidating process. It's hard to find the right college, and even harder to convince them they want you. Harder still is convincing them to pay for your education. But all this can be made easier by specializing and becoming marketable.

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