Learners with Exceptionalities and Strategies for Teaching Them

by Lizabeth A. Fogel

Talent, imagination and skill are attributes first-rate teachers possess. When working with children who have diverse needs these attributes must be perfected. Collaboration is an important key in having a successful year with a student with special needs. Speaking with parents is the first place to start. Think about the information I shared with you about communicating with parents and other adults in the child’s life. Remember parents know their kids the best, they can shed light on the behaviors (physical or emotional) you witnessing in the classroom. If the child has a diagnosed learning or behavioral disorder, ask the parents if they will share the information they have with you. Explain that the more you know the more you can help their child be successful. Bear in mind anything a parent reveals to you is strictly confidential.

In education today we call learners who have some type of disability or who are classified as gifted, exceptional. Over the next several articles I will share general information about several specific disorders and how to manage children in an after school or weekend environment. The most talked about disorder is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity. It is a medical condition which includes ADD (inattentive type – sometimes referred to as attention deficit disorder), ADHD-impulsive type and ADHD-combined type. ADHD is a common developmental and behavioral disorder. It is characterized by poor concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are inappropriate for the child’s age. Children and adults with ADHD are easily distracted by sights and sounds in their environment, cannot concentrate for long periods of time, are restless and impulsive, or have a tendency to daydream and be slow to complete tasks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders in children and adolescents, affects an estimated 4.1 percent of youths ages 9 to 17 in a 6-month period. About two to three times more boys than girls are affected. ADHD usually becomes evident in preschool or early elementary years. The disorder frequently persists into adolescence and occasionally into adulthood.

Once you have been informed that one of your students is ADHD you can make some simple changes to the classroom environment and your teaching style that will benefit the entire class.

Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” when working with AD/HD students:


• Place student’s desk near the teacher for close monitoring, unless this is a high traffic area. When seated on the rug, have the student near you.

• Seat students around others, preferably role model-type students.

• Provide a quite study area with few diversions, allow all students to use it.

• Work with parents and specialists to establish continuity between completing school and homework. Suggest a quite place to study at home, a regular schedule for working together, and help organize book bags and school supplies.

• Make eye contact with the student when you want to say something directly to them.

• Be consistent and clear in daily instructions. Have the routine up on the board will help the child mentally and emotionally be ready for the next activity. It removes anxiety.

• If you are assigning homework require an assignment sheet. Parents and teacher should sign off on all tasks to be completed.

• Provide students with extra time and help on assignments. Pairing them with another student can be helpful. Don’t over use that other student they will get resentful.

• Monitor the students. Walk around; close proximity can help them stay on task.

• Remember that these students do not respond well to pressure and stress.

• Break complex instructions down into simple tasks. Give directions one or two at a time. It is also helpful to write the directions on the board or have a piece of paper with the directions on it for the students. It will help everyone.

• Have students repeat directions back to you in their own words.

• Adjust reading level if needed and when possible. Find material about the same topic you are discussing at a lower academic level. Ask the teachers in the other grades for resources and materials.

• Allow student to tape lectures.

• Permit child to submit typed or word-processed homework.

• Schedule periodic parent/teacher meetings.

• Provide parents and students with a duplicate set of texts (if there are any) that they can use at home for the school year. This way parents can review the lessons if they have time or preview the materials before the child goes to class. This will help make the child feel successful.

• Develop weekly progress reports and mail a schedule of classroom and homework assignments to student’s parents.


• Do not place the student’s desk in areas of high distractibility.

• Do not constantly change classroom seating or schedule.

• Do not discourage student interaction during class time. Peer tutoring and cooperative learning.

• Do not give students numerous tasks at once or complicated directions.

• Do not assume that the student understands your directions.

• Do not assume that the student feels comfortable asking for help.

All students are special and it is our job to make sure they succeed and thieve in the classroom and the world around them. Planning for students who have diverse needs takes time and collaboration. Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success.” Try some of these do’s and don’ts with your class and see if they help students keep focus and accomplishment their tasks.