Students with Disabilities Essay

An essay I wrote with two of my classmates.

April 10, 2008

Accommodations and Modifications Test / Students with Special Needs

Disability: Asperger’s syndrome

Description: Asperger’s syndrome is a spectrum disorder with characteristics similar to, though more mild than, autism.  Students with Asperger’s often have difficulty with social interactions, and often have an unusually strong obsession (the obsession can be with practically anything).  Students with Asperger’s also “generally interpret auditory information literally and concretely.  They can have difficulty understanding figurative language, jokes/riddles, multiple meaning words, teasing and implied meanings.”[1]  Because figurative language is an integral component of the English Language Arts classroom, a student with Asperger’s will be continuously challenged.  For this particular assessment, students may struggle to understand images that are abstract (e.g., how can you see forgotten knowledge), symbolism (e.g., understanding how a trailer and a mansion symbolize a wealth gap), and puns (e.g., the humor behind a blind man sitting down with a hammer and [seeing]).

Modifications and Accommodations: During instruction, extra amounts of time will need to be devoted to helping a student with Asperger’s grapple with figurative language.  A special education teacher or paraprofessional could be contacted about ways to teach figurative language that might be effective for the student.  With regards to this specific assessment, the student should be able to complete the definition portion of the assessment without accommodations; however, accommodations and modifications for the second part of the assessment will likely be required.  Depending on the student’s ability to grasp figurative language, we would allow the student more time to complete the assignment.    We would also consider modifications such as extracting the examples from the poem so that s/he can focus only upon the sentence with the language, having the student identify when he struggles with language as a way for him to suggest that he believes the author is using figurative language, or – in extreme situations – removing symbolism, puns, and abstract images from the student’s assessment so that he can focus on the seven literary devices more readily understood.

Disability: Cognitive Disability

Description: A cognitive disability refers to any number of disabilities that impede independent learning.  Cognitive disabilities include Down’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, dementia, and mental retardation among others.  Because of the wide variety of cognitive disabilities, it is difficult to generalize about the difficulties a student with a cognitive disability will have.  Still, students with cognitive learning disability often struggle with memory, problem solving, attention, reading, and linguistic/verbal comprehension.  In the ELA classroom, all of these characteristics may provide problems for a student with a cognitive disability. 

Accommodations and Modifications: Depending on the student, common instructional accommodations for a student with a cognitive disability might include such things as modeling activities, reading assessments aloud to the student, placing the student in cooperative groups, providing clear, concise feedback to the student in a variety of forms (e.g., oral, written, and visual), additional scaffolding activities, and additional opportunities for the student to display what they have learned.[2]  For this specific assessment, we would consider reading the assessment aloud to the student, providing the student with examples of each literary device as they take the test, modifying part one of the quiz so that it is matching rather than defining, and providing a feedback session in which we provide direct feedback and guidance to the student based on her performance.  After the assessment, we would continue to review the material with the student through activities such as quick writes or worksheets.

Disability: Learning Disabilities

Description: Our textbook defines students with learning disabilities as “students who achieves less than typical students academically because they have trouble with processing, organizing, and applying academic information.  These students have not been shown to be sensory impaired, emotionally disturbed, or environmentally disadvantaged.”[3]  Learning disabilities may include difficulties with a subject, within a subject, or with a particular skill.  For example, someone may have an excellent vocabulary, but have a reading disability.  Albert Einstein is often cited as someone who excelled in science, but suffered from a learning disability.  According to Learning Disability Online, one in seven people have a learning disability.[4]  Students with learning disabilities often function well under nontraditional means of instruction.[5]

Accommodations and Modifications: It is a truism that you must know the student rather than the disability to effectively instruct a student with a disability.  With learning disabilities, this truism is even more undeniable.  For any particular assignment, a student with a learning disability could have any number of expected or unforeseen challenges.  Still, there are a number of accommodations that one might try with a student with learning disabilities.  These include altering the way you present the material to the student, how the student will respond to the material, the amount of time or breaks a student receives, the setting in which a student takes the assessment, and test scheduling.[6]  For this assessment, we would consider reading the assessment aloud, allowing for verbal responses, allowing the student to take the test in sections, or allowing the student to work with another student who displays similar struggles.


[1] Special Education Services. www.specialed.us.  4.10 2008.

[2] Friend & Bursuck. Including Students with Special Needs. Pg 179.

[3] Friend, 241.

[4] Learning Disability Online.  www.ldonline.org.  4.10 2008.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

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