What teachers should know

Emma McKinney
By Emma McKinney
3 Min Read

It is important that children with disabilities can access the schooling environment and actively participate in lessons and other activities within the school day

Classroom/building layout
The layout of the classroom should cater fully for a child with a physical disability. Attention should be paid to features such as floor and carpet surfaces, door frames, locker areas and clutter or other potential obstacles, to make sure the learner can move around freely. As a teacher, you need to ensure that all learners can actively participate in lessons regardless of whether they take place at the children’s desks, on the mat, in small groups etc. All children need to have full access to all areas including the blackboard/whiteboard, reading corner, playground, hall, library, computer room and so on.

Classroom set-up
Some children require modifications to their desks. Depending on their needs, some, for example, may require a larger desk to accommodate their equipment, a height-adjustable table to enable their wheelchairs to fit under their desk, a lap tray fitted to their wheelchairs or standing frames, or the table top to be tilted.

Assistive devices
Make yourself aware of the assistive devices that are available. Depending on the age of the child, you may be required to assist them with the setting up or appropriate use of the device. Some devices can be shared among several children, while others are specific to the individual needs of a particular child. Not all assistive devices are costly. Some children require minor modifications or adjustments to materials such as grips, tables, pens and books. Others may require modifications to be made to tasks, such as having their work transcribed by another child, facilitator or parent; taking oral (rather than written) tests; or making use of a computer with appropriate software, including dictation programs. Some children require additional time to complete a task while others need their tasks to be broken down into smaller steps so that they can complete them.

The most important point to remember when accommodating a child with a physical disability is to involve them in decision-making. When in doubt, ask the child or his parents, speak to other teachers who have had experience in this area, and network and collaborate with non-governmental organisations and organisations for people with disabilities.

Dr Emma McKinney is a “children with disabilities” specialist, a post doctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University and owns a company called Disability Included. email: emma@disabilityincluded.co.za

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Emma McKinney
By Emma McKinney Children with Disabilities Specialist
Dr Emma McKinney is a “children with disabilities” specialist, a post doctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University and owns a company called Disability Included.
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