Strategies for Teaching Science and Math in the Special Ed Classroom
Learning Challenges for Students Disabilities
Science and math are critical subjects for students preparing for college and challenging careers. High school students with disabilities are often discouraged from taking courses in these rigorous subjects, though.
When they do take science and math courses, students with disabilities face challenges in participating in classroom activities and in completing assignments. These challenges can affect students’ performance in class and dissuade them from enrolling in college courses in science and math and pursuing careers in these fields.
Accommodations and modifications in any type of class must be provided on an individual basis for students with disabilities. Appropriate accommodations depend on the type of disability — whether it is physical, intellectual, learning or sensory. Remember, though, that two individuals with the same disability can differ greatly in the type of accommodations needed.
One student with cerebral palsy (CP) may need a scribe to write assignments, for example, while another student with CP may be able to write, but need a wheelchair-accessible table. In determining individualized accommodations for a student, DO-IT, a project at the University of Washington, has developed a model process centered around these four questions:
- What does this exercise or assignment require?
- What physical, intellectual and sensory skills are needed?
- What components of the exercise or assignment require accommodations?
- What accommodation options exist?
List of Common Modifications By Need
While there are many accommodations and modifications in science and math for students with disabilities, some common ones include:
- Note taker or lab assistant
- Group lab assignments
- Use of scribe
- Adaptive computer to type assignments
- Adjustable tables and lab equipment within reach
- Classrooms, labs and field trips in accessible locations
- Additional time and separate room for test taking
- Additional time for in-class assignments
- Additional time in lab
- Note taker
- Flexible attendance requirements and additional time for tests
- Assignments in electronic format, use of email to facilitate communication, web-based materials and assignments
- Note takers or audio recorded class sessions
- Captioned videos
- Additional time for tests in separate room
- Visual and tactile instructional demonstrations
- Computer with voice output, spelling and grammar checker
- Seating in the front of the class
- Tactile drawings and graphs, and three-dimensional models
- Assignments in electronic format
- Large-print handouts, lab signs and equipment labels
- TV monitor connected to microscope to enlarge images
- Computer equipped to enlarge screen characters and images
- Audio, Braille or electronic notes, handouts and texts
- Braille lab signs and equipment labels
- Raised-line drawings, clay models, 3-D triangles and spheres for geometric shapes
- Verbal descriptions of visual aids
- Auditory lab warning signals
- Adaptive lab equipment (talking calculators, talking thermometers, light probes, tactile timers)
- Staples on sticks to indicate units of measurement
- Computer with optical character reader, voice output, Braille screen display and printer output
- Interpreter or real-time captioning
- Note taker
- Open- or closed-captioned videos
- Visual aids
- Written assignments, lab instructions, and demonstration reviews
- Use of email for class and private discussions
- Visual warning system for lab emergencies
Science and math teachers should collaborate with special education teachers and students themselves in determining the most appropriate accommodations for individual students. Creative ideas and thoughtful collaboration can provide accessible academic opportunities for all students.
University of Washington. (2010). Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking & Technology. Retrieved June 24, 2010, from www.washington.edu/doit/