Students with physical disabilities, other health impairments, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) may need assistive devices, special classroom arrangement, medical self-care, or modified lessons. Some helps include special pointers, tape recorders, consent to blink as a response, portable reading racks, or extra time or a scribe for tests and assignments (Keller, 2005). Students with traumatic brain injury who have experienced cognitive ability loss may need “a shortened school day, concentrating academic instruction during peak performance periods; frequent breaks; and a reduced class load” as teachers “provide clear, uncomplicated instructions; break multi-step instructions into simplified steps. Pair auditory instructions with visual cues” (Heward, 2006, p. 479). It is necessary that the “effective teacher of students with severe disabilities knows how to use task analysis to breakdown a skill into a series of specific, observable steps. … Without this sort of structure and precision in teaching, a great deal of time is likely to be wasted” (Heward, 2006, p. 489).
Self-medical care for students with health impairments help them become self-determined. Teachers can allow students to give themselves injections or catheters, for example. “It may be difficult, frustrating, and/or time-consuming for the child to learn to care for his own needs, but the confidence and skills gained from independent functioning are well worth the effort in the long run (Ault et al., 2006)” (Heward, 2006, p. 451). But overall, teachers must “encourage the children to develop a positive, realistic view of themselves and their physical conditions, … enable the children to experience success, accomplishment, and, at times, failure, … expect the children to meet reasonable standards of performance and behavior, help the children cope with disabilities wherever possible and realize that, beyond their physical impairments, these children have many qualities that make them unique individuals” (Heward, 2006, p. 453).
The classmates of students with physical disabilities and impairments begin to appreciate them by discussing disabilities and having opportunities to become familiar with special equipment. “Some teachers find that simulation or role-playing activities are helpful. Classmates might, for example, have the opportunity to use wheelchairs, braces, or crutches to expand their awareness of some barriers a classmate with physical disabilities faces” (Heward, 2006, p. 456). It is also important that teachers and classmates treat them with respect, and in a natural manner. Heward (2006) says, “Many children with physical disabilities suffer from excessive pity, sympathy, and overprotection; others are cruelly rejected, stared at, teased, and excluded from participation in activities with nondisabled children” (Heward, 2006, p. 455).
Regarding traumatic brain injury, teachers can teach students about how TBI affects their classmate. Taylor and Kreutzer (2003) recommend teachers explain that their classmate “will act different than before. The person may walk slowly or use a wheelchair to get around. … They may not remember what you say to them. … The person might be upset because of the changes caused by their injury. … If other people laugh or treat the person differently than before, the person may feel sad and cry easily” (Taylor, Kreutzer, 2003, para. 3, 4).
Physical disabilities, other health impairments, and traumatic brain injury do require special instructional modifications in the classroom. Teachers are able to accommodate these students as they understand their special needs. In turn, they have the power to build the self-esteem and self-determination of these disabled students. And they can enable other students to better understand and accept their classmates with disabilities.
Heward, W.L. (2006). Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, E. (2005, April 20). Strategies for teaching students with motor/orthopedic impairments. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from Inclusion in Science Education for Students with Disabilities Web site: http://www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/motor.html#sect0
Taylor, L., & Kreutzer, J. (2003). How to talk to children about brain injury. TBI Today, Vol. 1 No. 3, Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.neuro.pmr.vcu.edu/catalog/article%20reprints/Vol%201_3_Talk%20to%20child.pdf.