Accommodating Students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD
Allowing specific accommodations gives all students a level "playing field," and allows the student with disabilities an equal opportunity to prosper academically and contribute to society. The careers of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Niels Bohr, for instance, show what persons with learning disabilities can accomplish despite initial difficulties. Although not all accommodations or techniques will work for every individual, below are some time-tested recommendations.
When correcting a students' spelling, punctuation, or misused words, don't simply mark what is wrong, but help the student see the correct version. For repeated spelling errors and word substitutions, it may help to provide the correct spelling for the word above or to the side of the incorrect word, and to underline or circle the letters that are different, particularly if they are transposed. You can also ask the Writing Center tutors to look for and go over such spelling issues with the student (send a written note with the student for the tutor). For patterns of substituted words, you might mention the word the student needs or indicate a dictionary or a grammar handbook chapter that will explain the differences. Many grammar handbooks list the most commonly misspelled and confused or misunderstood words. Such lists can be valuable references for students with learning disabilities.
allowing specific modifications that clarify the background information
needed for the exam. For students who cannot recognize negative symbols,
and so perform mathematical problems perfectly except for treating negative
numbers as positive numbers, all you might need to do is highlight or
circle the negative symbols on exams, thus allowing such students to "see"
the symbols. Or you might allow memory-impaired students a card for exams
that lists the names of characters or other basic information. NB: Allowing
one student but not others to bring in a card immediately identifies the
student as learning-disabled, and may create resentment among the other
students for this "special treatment." You can either allow
all students such cards, modifying the exam accordingly, or give the special
student the exam in a separate room or at another time. Such accommodations
do not allow students to cheat when the purpose of the exam is not memory
recall because they test whether students can use this information to
demonstrate their competence at statistics, economics, or literature.
Such an accommodation becomes more problematic, of course, when you must
test recall, as in foreign-language courses.
having your students demonstrate their knowledge with modes other than
final timed multiple-choice or essay exams. You might substitute short-answer
questions or a combination of written and oral examinations.