It’s important that all children reach their full potential – so how can teachers assist learners in the classroom?
Children, regardless of disability, need to be able to reach their full potential at school. One of a teacher’s responsibilities is to assess a learner’s understanding and knowledge in a particular area. Assessments should take into consideration the learner’s needs – and a learner with a disability should be given the opportunity to be fairly and accurately assessed.
An assessment is a useful tool to see what a learner can achieve and which areas require assistance. Several considerations need to be taken into account, and, before any modification to the assessment is made, the child should be consulted to ensure that they are happy and in agreement with how the assessment will take place. Modifications may include:
Extending or adjusting time
Some learners require additional time in order to complete their assessments. You may need to get permission to modify the amount of time a learner may take. This needs to be arranged in advance.
Learners may need to type their answers and use computers that might not be available in the classroom. Others make use of assistive devices such as voice-activated software, which may disrupt other learners and they may feel more comfortable using these in a separate venue.
It can be difficult for a learner to write down their answers. They may feel more comfortable having someone transcribe their answers on their behalf.
Learners who find writing difficult may prefer to give their answers verbally to their teacher, make use of another person as a scribe or to voice-record their answers.
Modifying the assessment
Sometimes it may be appropriate to modify the assessment – by simplifying the questions, cutting the amount of text, breaking the assessment into smaller sections or steps, putting the assignment questions onto a computer so that the learner doesn’t need to turn the page, or allowing recorded, dictated or typed answers.
Breaks and rest
Providing some learners with a break during the assessment may assist in gaining an accurate picture of their abilities. Some learners may need to lie down.
Some learners may require modification of materials. Consider a specialised pencil grip, larger pencil or pen, taping the page to the desk to prevent it from moving, using a height-adjustable table or chair, or using a computer and speech recognition software or an adapted or alternative mouse.
Dr Emma McKinney is a “children with disabilities” specialist, a post doctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University and owns a company called Disability Included. email: email@example.com