Disabilities Diversity

Disability Diversity at Springs Valley Schools

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizes individual differences, yet acknowledges the value of each individual. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. Springs Valley Community Schools is an equal opportunity education facility that promotes diversity education for all students, including those with disabilities. The information provided here is to educate students, parents, and educators about various student disabilities one might encounter at Springs Valley, now or in the future, to better understand these students’ needs, behaviors, and abilities so that they are valued and given the proper respect and assistance they deserve. Below is a list of common student disabilities that one might find at Springs Valley along with information about each disability.


·         Aphasia is a language disorder sometimes confused with Autism and other learning disabilities. A child suffering from Aphasia essentially faces trouble with either receiving information or forming speech, making the child’s communicative skills ineffective.

·         According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the following are ways to communicate better to the person with aphasia:

1.      Get the person's attention before you start speaking.

2.      Maintain eye contact and watch the person’s body language and use of gesture.

3.      Minimize or eliminate background noise (TV, radio, other people).

4.      Keep your voice at a normal level. Do not speak loudly unless the person asks you to do so.

5.      Keep communication simple, but adult. Don't "talk down" to the person with aphasia.

6.      Simplify your sentence structure and emphasize key words.

7.      Reduce your rate of speech.

8.      Give the individual time to speak. Resist the urge to finish sentences or offer words.

9.      Communicate with drawings, gestures, writing, and facial expressions in addition to speech.

10.  Encourage the person to use drawings, gestures, and writing.

11.  Use "yes" and "no" questions rather than open-ended questions.

12.  Praise all attempts to speak and downplay any errors. Avoid insisting that that each word be produced perfectly.

13.  Engage in normal activities whenever possible.

14.  Encourage independence and avoid being overprotective.

·         Below are links to more information about Aphasia

o   American Speech-Hearing-Language Association

o   National Aphasia Association

Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

·         According to helpguide.org, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that appears in early childhood. You may know it by the name attention deficit disorder, or ADD. ADD/ADHD makes it difficult for people to inhibit their spontaneous responses—responses that can involve everything from movement to speech to attentiveness.

·         Students need to understand that ADHD children are not bad, but have difficulty with attentiveness and impulsiveness. They should be encouraged by the peers to persevere, focus, and work to accomplish tasks in small, simple steps. Below are some study skills for ADHD students from U.S. Department of Education

o   Adapt worksheets.

§  Teach a child how to adapt instructional worksheets. For example, help a child fold his or her reading worksheet to reveal only one question at a time. The child can also use a blank piece of paper to cover the other questions on the page.

o   Venn diagrams.

§  Teach a child how to use Venn diagrams to help illustrate and organize key concepts in reading, mathematics, or other academic subjects.

o   Note-taking skills.

§  Teach a child with ADHD how to take notes when organizing key academic concepts that he or she has learned, perhaps with the use of a program such as Anita Archer's Skills for School Success (Archer & Gleason, 2002).

o   Checklist of frequent mistakes.

§  Provide the child with a checklist of mistakes that he or she frequently makes in written assignments (e.g., punctuation or capitalization errors), mathematics (e.g., addition or subtraction errors), or other academic subjects. Teach the child how to use this list when proofreading his or her work at home and school.

o   Checklist of homework supplies.

§  Provide the child with a checklist that identifies categories of items needed for homework assignments (e.g., books, pencils, and homework assignment sheets).

o   Uncluttered workspace.

§  Teach a child with ADHD how to prepare an uncluttered workspace to complete assignments. For example, instruct the child to clear away unnecessary books or other materials before beginning his or her seatwork.

o   Monitor homework assignments.

§  Keep track of how well your students with ADHD complete their assigned homework. Discuss and resolve with them and their parents any problems in completing these assignments. For example, evaluate the difficulty of the assignments and how long the children spend on their homework each night. Keep in mind that the quality, rather than the quantity, of homework assigned is the most important issue.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

·         “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represents a broad group of developmental disorders characterized by impaired social interactions, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors, or severely limited activities and interests” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2016).   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.”

·         Students, parents, teachers, and those around autistic people should remember that those with autism think differently and sometimes struggle to communicate.   Therefore, it is very important that all of us learn to understand the differences and struggles that ASD students face and how we can support them in a positive manner.

·         Below are some guidelines and suggestions from the Autism Speaks organization for classmates of ASD students:

o   Include

§  Take the initiative to include him - he may desperately want to be included and may not know how to ask. Be specific about what you want him to do.

§  Find common interests - It will be much easier to talk about or share something you both like to do (movies, sports, music, books, TV shows, etc.).

§  Encourage him to try new things because sometimes he may be afraid to try new stuff.

§  Don’t ignore him, even if you think he doesn’t notice you.

o   Communicate

§  Communicate clearly - Speak at a reasonable speed and volume. It might be helpful to use short sentences. Use gestures, pictures, and facial expressions to help communicate. Speak literally – do not use confusing figures of speech (He may truthfully tell you, “the sky” if you ask “What’s up?”)

§  Give feedback - If your friend with autism is doing something inappropriate, it’s OK to tell him nicely. Just be sure to also tell him what the right thing to do is because he may not know.

§  Take time to say ‘hi’ whenever you see him. Even when you’re in a hurry and pass him in the hall, just saying ‘hi’ is nice.

§  Be persistent and patient - Remember that your friend with autism may take more time to respond thanother people. It doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t interested

o   Understand

§  Remember sensory sensitivity - Your friend may be very uncomfortable in certain situations or places (crowds, noisy areas, etc.). Ask if he is OK. Sometimes he may need a break.

§  Find out what his special interests or abilities are and then try to find ways to let him use them.

§  Ask questions – Ask a teacher or aide if you’re confused about something he is doing. There is a reason kids do things. If you figure it out, you might be able to help him.

§  Ask someone at your school for the “Autism Basics” and the “Asperger’s Basics” brochures from Autism Speaks.

§  If your friend with autism is ‘freaking out,’ it’s probably because he is trying to communicate something, not because he’s just being weird. Something might really be bothering him or he might be afraid or frustrated and unable to communicate about it. Try to understand. Ask a teacher or another adult for help.

·         Below are links to more information about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

o   U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

o   Centers for Disease Control

o   Autism Speaks


·         Unfortunately several children in the United States are diagnosed with some form of cancer.   Cancer treatments can be hard on children, both physically and emotionally. It is important for classmates and teachers to support these children with comfort, support, and encouragement. Physical problems after cancer treatment can affect a child’s ability to get around and perform normally at school. Schools may need to accommodate a child’s physical needs after cancer treatment. A child who has had cancer may have physical changes, such as short-term weight loss or gain, hair loss, and skin color changes. This may affect how other children see them and interact with them.

·         Below are some important things to remember when supporting children/classmates with cancer.

o   Cancer is a terrible disease that can make a person feel terrible and often requires treatments that can have terrible side effects. This illness can cause students with cancer to have trouble focusing and communicating. They may be absent a lot due to illness or doctor visits.

o   Cancer is NOT contagious. Students must understand that they cannot contract cancer by being around someone with cancer.

o   Cancer and the treatments for cancer may cause a change in a person’s appearance, such as looking pail or losing their hair. This can make the student feel very self-conscious. Give them encouragement in these tough times.

o   These students may get fatigued easily. Help them receive opportunities for rest and assist them with assignments and instruction that may be lost due to absences or lack of focus.

o   Reassure classmates and friends that nothing has changed in their friendship with the sick child and motivates them to continue to be good friends and to keep in touch, even if they can't visit regularly.

o   Help students to understand the need to treat the student with cancer the same as others.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder

·         According to kidshealth.org, “auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is a hearing problem that affects about 5% of school-aged children. Kids with this condition can't process what they hear in the same way other kids do because their ears and brain don't fully coordinate. Something interferes with the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, especially speech.” The National Coalition of Auditory Processing Disorders gives the following classroom suggestions for children with APD:

·         Placement - in school, in the classroom, into a program.

o   Most children with APD problems can be educate appropriately in a regular educational setting.

o   Teachers should be patient - also consider teachers with accents and different language backgrounds.

o   FM systems to bring the teachers voice via a microphone to the listener via loudspeakers or amplifers.

·         Accommdations

o   Maximize positive listening environments; use visual and gestural cues.

o   Preferential seating: may not always be the front of the room.

o   Pre-teaching - key words, vocabulary, underlying concepts.

Cerebral Palsy

·         What is Cerebral Palsy (CP)? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families gives the following information explaining cerebral palsy:

o   Cerebral palsy—also known as CP—is a condition caused by injury to the parts of the brain that control our ability to use our muscles and bodies. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. Often the injury happens before birth, sometimes during delivery, or, like Jen, soon after being born.

o   CP can be mild, moderate, or severe. Mild CP may mean a child is clumsy. Moderate CP may mean the child walks with a limp. He or she may need a special leg brace or a cane. More severe CP can affect all parts of a child's physical abilities. A child with moderate or severe CP may have to use a wheelchair and other special equipment.

o   Sometimes children with CP can also have learning problems, problems with hearing or seeing (called sensory problems), or intellectual disabilities. Usually, the greater the injury to the brain, the more severe the CP. However, CP doesn't get worse over time, and most children with CP have a normal life span.

·         Cerebralpalsy.org gives the following tips for teachers of students with CP:

1.      Understand the nature of a child’s disability.

2.      Teach from a compassionate point of view.

3.      Make sure students are showing sensitivity.

4.      Call on a special needs student during lectures.

5.      Find ways similar paths for physical participation.

6.      Give children all of the information they need about a classmate’s disability.

7.      Discuss the importance of diversity and social acceptance.

8.      Debunk the meaning of “normal.”

9.      Ask a child – any child – if you can help them out.

10.  Address stereotypes.

Cystic Fibrosis

·         The Mayo Clinic gives the following definition and explanation of Cystic Fibrosis:

o   Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system.

o   Cystic fibrosis affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices. These secreted fluids are normally thin and slippery. But in people with cystic fibrosis, a defective gene causes the secretions to become thick and sticky. Instead of acting as a lubricant, the secretions plug up tubes, ducts and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.

o   Although cystic fibrosis requires daily care, people with the condition are able to attend school and work, and have a better quality of life than in previous decades. Improvements in screening and treatments mean most people with cystic fibrosis now live into their 20s and 30s, and some are living into their 40s and 50s.

·         Students with cystic fibrosis can be as intelligent as any other student; however, their disability can create difficulties that they must overcome. Students and teachers must understand that students with cystic fibrosis require accommodations unnecessary for most students in order to continue with normal daily operations.   Below are some basic accommodations from the Children’s Hospital of Illinois for children with cystic fibrosis:

o   Ability to carry water at all times. Drinking fountains may contain bacteria that is harmful to those with CF.

o   Carry snacks. We all know the importance of extra calories. Many schools will allow students to carry small snacks with them.

o   Unlimited access to bathroom.

o   Indoors if under 32 degrees F. Cold weather can make it difficult for students with CF to breathe.

o   Access to Enzymes.   Some schools allow students to carry their enzymes. However, most schools require students to go to the main office or nurse’s office to take enzymes. Always take enzymes BEFORE eating, and we recommend that social time (lunch/recess) not be missed to take enzymes.


·         What is diabetes?   Jane Kelly, M.D., from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood. This is why many people refer to diabetes as “sugar.”

·         Information for students about classmates with diabetes (from http://www.childrenwithdiabetes.com):

o   We know that diabetes is caused by someone's body losing its ability to make insulin. Children with diabetes need to take shots of insulin each day to let their bodies use the blood sugar (glucose) that feeds each cell and gives us energy to move and think. Our bodies make glucose from the food we eat.

o   If we do not have enough insulin to get blood sugar into the cells of our bodies, the glucose (blood sugar) builds up and does harm to sensitive organs, like the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nerves, kidneys and brain. This is why we try to keep blood sugar at about the same range as people without diabetes. Most of the terrible side effects of diabetes can be avoided with careful control of blood sugar.

o   Sometimes, a person with diabetes has too much insulin compared to the amount of food they have eaten; or when the insulin is working too well, such as when they get more exercise or activity than usual; or when they have skipped or delayed a meal or snack. This is called an insulin reaction, or hypoglycemia, or LOW BLOOD SUGAR.

o   When a person with diabetes has low blood sugar, their body releases the same chemicals. Each person with diabetes may have different signs of the beginning of an insulin reaction, because everyone is different.

o   Signs of an insulin reaction may be unusual anger, fighting, laughing, or crying; confusion, even when doing everyday things; and also headache, sleepiness, or sudden hunger. The symptoms or signs also depend on how fast the blood sugar is dropping.

o   If it is dropping slowly, signs are more likely to be grouchiness, confusion, sleepiness, or headaches. If the glucose is dropping fast during exercise or activity, then shakiness may be the first sign, perhaps with sweating or paleness.

o   Usually, people with diabetes know how they feel when their blood sugar is dropping, or too low, and they can stop what they are doing to eat or drink "quick-acting" sugar, like candy, sugar cubes, soda pop, or fruit juice.

·         If you see a classmate with diabetes acting erratically, get a staff member or nurse, but get help right away.

Down Syndrome

·         What is Down Syndrome?

o   The National Down Syndrome Society provides the following explanation of Down Syndrome: In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.

o   This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm - although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.

·         Some Myths about Down Syndrome from the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan:

o   People with Down Syndrome have severe mental retardation.

o   Adults with Down Syndrome are unemployable.

o   People with Down Syndrome are always happy.

§  People with Down Syndrome have feelings just like everyone else in the population. They respond to positive expressions of friendship and are hurt and upset by inconsiderate behavior.

o   Individuals with Down Syndrome are stubborn.

o   Children with Down Syndrome will never grow up to be independent.

§  Parents and society are coming to understand the aspirations of persons with Down syndrome to participate in all aspects of community life: education, recreation, employment, social and family life.

·         Helping students/classmates with Down Syndrome:

o   Treat them with respect. These students have feelings like all other students and need to be spoken to politely and respectfully.

o   Avoid stereotyping.

o   Include them in conversations and games.

o   Don’t speak down to them or speak condescendingly.


·         Christian Nordqvist defines dyslexia as a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain's processing of graphic symbols. The problem in dyslexia is a linguistic one, not a visual one. Dyslexia in no way stems from any lack of intelligence. People with severe dyslexia can be brilliant. The effects of dyslexia, in fact, vary from person to person. The only shared trait among people with dyslexia is that they read at levels significantly lower than typical for people of their age.

·         Dyslexic students may need the following options/accommodations to help them in school:

o   specialized instruction and special arrangements for tests

o   extra time for tests, homework, and taking notes in class

o   providing extra time to practice reading

o   connecting them with trained tutors

o   giving reading assignments in audio formats

o   offering customized learning aids and computer software


·         According to the Epilepsy Foundation,

o   Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages

o   Epilepsy means the same thing as "seizure disorders"

o   Epilepsy is characterized by unpredictable seizures and can cause other health problems

o   Epilepsy is a spectrum condition with a wide range of seizure types and control varying from person-to-person

·         What students and teachers should know about epilepsy:

o   For most people with epilepsy, using a computer will not trigger a seizure. Up to 5% of people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy, where seizures are triggered by flashing or flickering lights or by geometric patterns such as checks or stripes.

·         What teachers can do:

o   Interventions that teachers can use (and monitor for effectiveness on a per case basis) include:

o   Frequent repetition of material

o   Redirection

o   Cueing

o   Memory learning strategies such as mnemonics

o   Extra time for assignments and exams

o   Non-timed assessments to measure performance

o   Break tasks down into simpler steps

o   Provide several brief tests instead of one long one

o   Use a recognition format for exams rather than a recall format

o   Test for understanding rather than specific facts

·         What students can do:

o   If you see a student have a seizure, get help as quickly as possible.

o   Be nice to epileptic students and help others understand about seizures.

o   Epileptic students sometimes miss class or struggle in class. Classmates can help by keeping them informed of anything they miss and helping teach them material they missed.

Hearing Impairment

·         Accredited Schools Online states that “Students with hearing disabilities face unique challenges inside the classroom. Many common learning modes that people take for granted — lectures, discussion groups and even one-on-one conversations — can be a struggle for those who have any level of hearing difficulty. However, that doesn’t mean a college degree is out of reach. Today’s wide range of tools, devices and systems can help students with hearing impairments thrive in an educational setting. This guide focuses on those resources, tech tools and expert tips that students of all ages — and all impairment levels – can use achieve academic success.”

·         Kidshealth.org states that students with hearing loss may:

o   wear hearing aids, have cochlear implants, or use FM systems, which include a microphone/transmitter worn by the teacher and a receiver worn by the student

o   need to use real-time captioning for any audio-visual videos used in the classroom

o   need voice-recognition software on their computers, which can help with note-taking

o   understand speech by watching the speaker's mouth movements, facial expressions, and gestures, within context. This skill is called speech-reading or lip-reading.

o   use ASL (American Sign Language), Cued Speech, or other sign languages

o   require speech therapy due to delayed speech or language development

o   need to sit closer to the front of the class to read lips or hear more clearly

o   need quiet areas

o   need instructions repeated

·         Kids and teens with hearing impairments may be self-conscious about their condition, especially around classmates. Therefore, encourage students/classmates with hearing loss to participate in activites.

Spina Bifida

·         What is Spina Bifida? The Spina Bifida Association state:

o   Spina Bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States.

o   Spina Bifida literally means “split spine.”

o   Spina Bifida happens when a baby is in the womb and the spinal column does not close all of the way. Every day, about 8 babies born in the United States have Spina Bifida or a similar birth defect of the brain and spine.

o   No one knows for sure what causes spina bifida.

·         Learn Alberta gives the following advice for instructing students with Spina Bifida:

o   Be aware that students with severe spina bifida may have numerous absences due to medical appointments or treatments, or fatigue.

o   Develop a communication strategy between the home and school to stay informed about absences, and to keep the student and family connected to classroom learning.

o   Determine the student's particular pattern of strengths and needs. Students with spina bifida are typically:

§  stronger in language skills

§  weaker in perceptual skills

§  weaker in motor skills

§  weaker in attention, problem solving, organization, sequencing and memory.

o   Provide the student with copies of notes and assignments. Provide the student with two copies of books, one for school and one for home.

o   Provide adapted tools and materials, such as slant boards, adapted writing paper and pencils and specialized computer software, if weakness in the arms and hands make writing difficult.

o   Provide alternative ways for the student to demonstrate learning.

o   Provide additional time for transitions between classes, particularly in large schools. A trolley may assist in transporting books, laptop computers or other heavy items from room-to-room, if this is necessary.

o   In collaboration with the student and parents, discuss the appropriate level and types of physical activity for the student. Alternatives to regular physical education may need to be considered.

o   Take necessary precautions and provide close supervision during physical activities, especially if the student has a shunt. Adapt activities as needed (e.g., one-on-one with peer or assistant).

Vision Impairment

·         Vision impairment can vary greatly among students, from those needing glasses to those that are blind. Therefore the needs of these students will vary depending on the type and degree of their impairment. However, visually impaired students are like other students in the classroom in that they can be very intelligent and talented and they have feelings too.   So treat them with kindness and respect they deserve.

·         Carol Castellano gives the following suggestions for teachers with blind students:


Teachers and teachers' aides who adopt this goal of self-sufficiency will expect their blind students to participate fully and independently in the class. To achieve this goal they will:

o   Keep expectations high.

o   Provide the same or equivalent information, experience, and education for the blind child as for the sighted children in the class.

o   Build in the expectation, the instruction, and the practice time for independence in all areas-academic, social, and personal.

o   The classroom teacher will assume the same responsibility for the education of the blind child as he or she assumes for the education of the sighted children in the room, i.e. speak directl to the child at all times, grade the child's papers, know the child's work, interact with the child daily, discipline the child, and so forth.

o   Understand and respect the alternative skills the child will be learning, i.e. the use of Braille, cane, sound, touch, memory, various special tools, and so forth.


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