Intellectual Disability Accommodations in the Classroom

Instructor: Derek Hughes

Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.

In your teaching career, you will have many different kinds of students in your classroom. You will need to make accommodations for those learners who have an intellectual disability. This lesson will provide some examples of these accommodations.

Intellectual Disability Accommodations

For students diagnosed with an intellectual disability, learning in the classroom can be quite a challenge. It is your job, as the teacher, to accommodate that student's needs so they can better access and learn the content. An accommodation is an adjustment to how information is presented to a student so they can better engage in learning. This is different from a modification, which would be an adjustment in the actual information itself (less material would be taught, for example). This lesson will provide several examples of how you can accommodate a student who has an intellectual disability.

There are several broad categories of accommodations that will be used in this lesson to outline the examples. These are accommodations in instruction, response, and timing and setting. But first, a short explanation of what an intellectual disability is will help you understand why these accommodations are necessary.

What Is an Intellectual Disability

People who are diagnosed with an intellectual disability often experience difficulties with intellectual capabilities and behavior. These may include:

  • Slow development of certain skills, such as language and motor
  • Slow development of intellectual capability
  • Difficulty with learning social skills
  • Slow development of practical life skills (such as self-care, safety, travel, etc.)

Because of these delays and difficulties, people diagnosed with an intellectual disability often struggle to learn and keep up in school. That is why providing accommodations is so important.

Instruction Accommodations

Students with intellectual disabilities may struggle to engage with and comprehend material if it is presented in a traditional way. For example, reading from a textbook can be a challenge for these students. Therefore, you should provide them with various accommodations in your instruction to help them better engage with and learn information. Some of these accommodations include:

  • Provide an audio version of textbooks: this will help students with reading difficulties access the same material as their peers (either someone could read the book to them or they could listen to a recording).
  • Provide an outline: students with intellectual disabilities often struggle to follow the logic and progression of learning. A clear picture of learning will help them keep up.
  • Pre-written notes: students with intellectual disabilities may struggle with taking notes and listening to information being taught to them. Pre-written notes will help them listen and learn without having to focus on writing.

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