Make your own free website on
e x c e p t i o n a l l e a r n e r s aprendedores excepcionales
Other health impairments, physical disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and blindness
Bilingual and bicultural learners
Attention Deficit Disorder
Emotional disorders
Communication disorders
Physical impairments
Aprendedores bilingües y biculturales
El Déficit de Atención
Desórdenes emocionales
Desórdenes comunicativos
Debilitaciones físicas


How can teachers best accommodate students with physical impairments?  __________________________


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Students with HIV do not generally need special accommodations in regular classrooms.  Teachers should be aware, however, that HIV-positive students may experience neurologic conditions as the virus advances.  It is also important to note that the law forbids schools from disclosing a student's HIV status without parental approval.



To accommodate students with asthma, teachers should establish, with parental help, an action plan for asthma attacks.  Students should be allowed to carry their inhalers with them.  Teachers should encourage students to use their medication as soon as they feel an attack coming, and to notify the school nurse and parents if the medication does not seem to be working.



Leukemia survivors are prone to nonverbal learning disabilities that impinge on their writing and concentration skills.  Teachers can help these students by:

  • reducing time constraints and writing requirements
  • providing worksheets with pre-printed assignments
  • tape recording lectures and instructions
  • supplying dictating machines and word processors
  • allowing use of calculators


To accommodate students with diabetes, teachers should strive for a discussion-oriented, open-minded classroom environment to make such students feel safe.  Teachers should also be prepared to treat students with insulin should their blood sugar level rise to dangerous levels and to call the nurse or trained personnel to administer glucagon should their blood sugar drop to dangerous levels.



As well as knowing first aid procedures for the different types of seizures, teachers can help students with epilepsy identify environmental factors that contribute to their seizures and reduce them.  In addition, teachers should educate the class about epilepsy and avoid singling out the student with epilepsy as much as possible (Turnbull et al., 2002). 


Assistive technology contributes a great deal toward enhancing the ability of students with physical disabilities to move, communicate, attend to daily living skills, attain their best possible physical health, and possess a sense of agency.  By becoming familiar with the assistive technology their students with physical disabilities use, teachers can successfully include these students in their classrooms.  Such assistive technology includes adaptive equipment, augmentative and alternative communication, and medical technology assistance.  Assistive technology can be as low-tech as adapted spoon handles and Velcro and as high-tech as computer-operated devices (Turnbull et al., 2002).


Teachers of students with traumatic brain injuries should address the cognitively based deficits the brain injury has caused.  To help improve these students' brain functioning, teachers can utilize compensatory strategy training (practicing obtaining and retrieving information), component training (practicing processing and organization), and functional retraining (engaging in everyday activities to retrain the brain).  When introducing a new skill or strategy, teachers should model it carefully.  After that, they must allow sufficient time for students to learn and practice the new skill, offering guided assistance and immediate feedback when necessary.  The more active student participation teachers can elicit, the better.  Since students with traumatic brain injury often experience behavior problems, teachers can help them with their behavior by using antecedent behavior management.  If students have sustained injuries to the frontal lobes of their brain, their memory may be affected and traditional approach of positive/negative consequences to behavior management may not work well.  While working with the student's family, teachers should follow five steps for using the antecedent behavior management program:

  1. Discertain how the student's behavior has changed since the brain injury.
  2. Observe and describe the student's current behavior.
  3. Determine the cause of the undesired behavior and apply a strategy to correct it that is followed in both the home and school environment.
  4. Evaluate the strategy's effectiveness regularly, focusing on the student's adaptive and compensatory skills.
  5. Make sure to continually involve the student and his or her family, accounting for the student's wishes, needs, strengths, and ways of learning (Turnbull et al., 2002).

Carole, a special education teacher in Oxnard, CA, suggests that cognitive therapy and self esteem support can prove helpful for children with traumatic brain injury.  These students also often struggle with a good deal of anger, towards which teachers should be sensitive (Interview 6/29/03, Ojai, CA). 


Not a loss -- just a status

Brooke is a recent graduate of Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colorado.  This fall she began Junior High.  A computerized voice interprets the e-mails she receives; she writes and sends messages by herself, having memorized the keyboard.  She apologizes for typos, but her spelling and punctuation mistakes are almost nonexistent.  Although she was born blind, she has always been fully included in regular classes (with the exception of being taught to read in a different part of the classroom).  Asked what advice she'd give to teachers of blind students, Brooke suggests, "Treat us normally!  Like, don't treat a sixth grader like a pre-schooler."  She continues, "I have hardly thought about the fact that I am the only blind person in my class, but I do know one thing.  I am glad that I wasn't put in a school for the blind. I would say if [blind children] want to go to a regular school, go for it.  It's just that everyone has their own opinions.  If someone worries about my getting around, they might as well be worrying about someone with x-ray vision (that is, if I have my cane and brailler).  People think that when they are blindfolded, they can see what it's like to be blind, yet they can't."  

Most people's inability to function blindfolded aside, Brooke doesn't conceptualize those who can't see as distinct from those who can.  "I don't see the difference," she writes, "If you're born [blind], you can do whatever anyone else can. (E-mail interview, 6/4/03).  "Vision is a crutch for us, but for her, it's nothing," Brooke's mother points out.  "[Blindness] is not a loss, it's just a status.  Healthy people don't define themselves by their disabilities."

Before beginning at her public elementary school, Brooke attended the same church pre-school her brothers had attended.  "The teachers tried to accommodate her," Din, Brooke's mother, recalls, "but they were unprepared and had no clue."  As in mainstream society, everything was oriented around vision.  Worse still, Brooke's classmates picked on her because of her disability.  Fortunately, Brooke's parents had a positive experience sending her to a private pre-school for blind and low vision children in Denver.  This school did an excellent job training Brooke for school and life, says Din.

As a parent, "you want your kid's needs to be met and for [your kid] to be challenged," Din states.  The school district makes a number of accommodations for Brooke.  It employs at least one full-time braillist to translate all her assignments into Braille ahead of time.  Brooke uses a Braille machine to complete her work, which a part-time para-educator then transcribes into print.  Furthermore, Brooke arrives at school an hour early every day for orientation and mobility cane work.

The degree to which the school district accommodates her needs, however, didn't happen without a struggle.  If her parents hadn't assertively advocated for her, she would have been given minimum help and "shoved to the back of the room."  Din has observed that many parents of children with disabilities are used to being told to go sit in a corner.  She advises, "You have to be a squeaky wheel or they will run right over you. You cannot be passive."

The emotional difficulty of IEP meetings further intensifies that challenge.  Din finds administrators as well as teachers unbearably insensitive to her child's education.  The farther away from Brooke their job seats them, the less cooperative they tend to be in addressing her concerns.  IEP meetings overwhelm her with the feelings "It's not fair" and "Why my kid?"  Luckily, the district has hired a coordinator of students with special needs, and this coordinator has been instrumental in winning Brooke's accommodations.

"It's a huge challenge for teachers.  The teacher will say to the class, 'Look at this,' which means nothing for Brooke."  Those who end up serving her well look at it as a learning experience.  Those who don't help her are "the struggling teacher who can't make it to the end of the day [even without a blind student in the class] and the administrator who's trying not to rock the boat."  Brooke's teachers have all been relatively good with her because the type of teacher that would want to teach at a bilingual school, Din speculates, tends to be the same type of teacher who adopts an attitude conducive to including a blind student in the class.

Raising a blind child has forced Brooke's parents to rethink everything they do.  "You can't live life the way you do with sighted people," Din explains.  "There's no way you can know before the fact. . . you need to learn along the way."  She advises parents of blind children to take one day at a time.  "Don't get overwhelmed. Don't have pre-conceptions.  Try not to project your worries onto your kid.  Don't get bogged down in the negative details. Your kid is always better off than some other kid.  Don't mourn.  Don't define your child by what he or she doesn't have or can't do.  Focus on the positive." (Telephone interview, 7/31/03)

For more information

(480) 774-9718

American Foundation for the Blind
(800) AFB-LINE

(800) 955-4572

(800) 7-ASTHMA

(800) 332-1000

(314) 991-8004

31 (country code) 23 529 1019

Brain Injury Society
(718) 645-4401


Association for Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired
(703) 671-4500