Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching

Students with Learning Disabilities

Teaching Students with ADHD

Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Teaching Students with Bipolar Disorder

Teaching Students with Dyslexia

Teaching Students with Hearing Impairments

Teaching Students with Visual Impairments

With appropriate support and motivation, students with learning disabilities can successfully complete all the coursework for college degrees. Symptoms of six learning disabilities, along with recommended instructional strategies, are introduced on this page. However, it is important to realize that each student has specific talents and needs. Therefore, the selection of strategies varies from case to case.

Teaching Students with ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also known as ADD, is the term currently used to describe a behavioral condition of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity (CHADD, 2016). People with ADHD may have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function, and working memory. Therefore, they may present the symptoms of easy distraction, difficulty with organization, avoiding or disliking tasks that require sustained mental effort, difficulty remaining seated, talking excessively, interrupting, and difficulty engaging in activities quietly etc. To learn more about how a person with ADHD learns, please use the following simulations:

Instructional Tips

Students with ADHD could benefit from the following instructional strategies that will help them concentrate and manage difficulty learning tasks:

  • Allow students with ADHD to choose the seats away from doors and windows.
  • Avoid long lectures. Instead, break lectures into smaller chunked sections.
  • Make presentation document available for students to preview and review content
  • Provide written assignment instructions, or allow students to tape-record assignment instructions

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Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a group of complex disorders of brain development. Usually presented from early childhood, ASD causes varying degrees of difficulties in social interaction and relationship building. People with ASD could be non-verbal and engage in stereotypic, repetitive behaviors while others could be high functioning (HEATH Resource Center at the National Youth Transitions Center, 2016). To learn more about what autism means for student, watch the following videos.

Instructional Tips

At college, faculty members usually have students on the higher end of the spectrum. Some recommended instructional strategies are listed below.

  • Provide a clear beginning and end of an activity or task
  • Assist and monitor the proper inclusion of students with autism for pair or group project
  • Provide written rules for asking questions and other classroom logistics (as needed)
  • Allow wearing hats, sunglasses, tinted lens glasses, ear plugs or earphones for students with sensory differences
  • Allow short breaks to leave the classroom
  • Discretely ask the student if something is overwhelming and/or ask if the student needs help or wants to leave in case of disruptive behavior

Read more about strategies in Teaching College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and academic supports for college students with autism spectrum disorder.

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Teaching Students with Bipolar Disorder

Formerly known as manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder is a lifelong or chronic illness that causes revolving periods of mania (the highs) and depression (the lows). These revolving highs and lows are called “episodes”. These episodes may range from mild to severe. To learn more about the types of bipolar disorder and how to recognize their symptoms, please watch the following YouTube videos:

Instructional Tips

  • Allow audio recording class lectures
  • Provide procedures for making up missed work
  • Break assignments into smaller chunks or components
  • Provide safe and quiet areas for students to calm down during times of high anxiety
  • Give alternative homework options if test taking triggers their anxiety too much
  • Provide alternative project ideas if the current one will trigger memories of previous traumas

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Teaching Students with Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a brain-based fluency disorder. It affects up to 1 in 5 people, but the symptoms of dyslexia aren’t always the same. This difficulty in processing language exists along a spectrum. People with dyslexia may experience the symptoms of letter reversals, word reversals, inversions, transpositions, and small words confusion. Therefore, they may experience difficulty in reading, writing, spelling, or understanding spoken language. To learn more about dyslexia, please view the following resources:

Dyslexia Font

The dyslexia font was designed to make the letter unique in their own forms, and as a result decrease the difficulty for students with dyslexia to process them. Instructors and their students can install the font package (home edition) to create and view document with the new font.

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Teaching Students with Hearing Impairments

Listening could be exhausting for students with hearing loss because they have to use other strategies such as lip-reading to follow the conversation. You can simulate hearing loss simply by plugging your ears. People with hearing loss often loose the higher pitched sounds such as women’s or children’s voices. To learn what listening means to people with hearing loss, go to the following resources:

Instructional Tips

When working with students with hearing loss, use the following tips to minimize communication barriers.

  • Encourage the students to choose the best location to maximize sound quality
  • Try to stand 3 to 6 feet from the students with hearing aid
  • Use visual cues such as gestures and facial expressions
  • Try to stand so that you are facing the light
  • Try to stay in one place when talking
  • Keep your hand away from your mouth
  • Speak clearly and slowly
  • Be patient, and give your listener some time to process the information received

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Teaching Students with Visual Impairments

The human brain is loaded with 34GB of information daily, according to the researchers at the University of California-San Diego. For the majority of people, information is mainly processed with our eyes. Students with visual impairments might encounter tremendous difficulties if information is not structured in a way that makes sense to them. To learn more about what it is like to be visually impaired, go to:

Instructional Tips

  • Use large Print textbooks/materials.
  • Avoid using red and green to differentiate (because of color blind related difficulty)
  • Avoid activities requiring extensive visual scanning.
  • Verbalize all information as it is written on the board or overhead
  • Present materials against a plain background
  • Eliminate unnecessary background noise
  • Check text-to-background contrast (Color Contrast Checker) for instructional materials

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Creating Accessible Documents
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