How to adapt your didactics for students with developmental disabilities?

A developmental disability has a major impact on the student’s behaviour and, by extension, on the social environment. More than for students with learning disabilities, the teacher must recognise the individuality of the student and the impact of his behaviour on the class and on his school performance. The learning process is more difficult than for other students. Participation in learning is strongly driven by the student’s own perception. For example, a student with autism will react strongly to interests but will also show a lot of resistance to parts of the curriculum that they do not find interesting.

A student with NLD neglects visual information unknowingly.

The remediating process is much more difficult here and also less effective than with students with learning disabilities. Although the student understands quite easily in small groups or individually everything you explain to him, you can notice that there is no implementation of this knowledge in other situations. What is explained is strongly linked on the example or exercise and there is no or very little transfer. The student cannot apply the new knowledge or skill when the context or the issue is different. The mindset of students with developmental disabilities such as Autism and NLD is very rigid by design and relies primarily on memory. They have limited flexible problem-solving abilities and, in contrast to students with a learning disability, have limited mental imagination to develop an alternative solution to a problem.

Students with ADHD and ADD as a behavioural disorder have problems mainly caused by a lack of impulse control and high irritability. Everything seems equally important, and they cannot filter the relevant stimuli out of the many. The bird that whistles outside is just as important as the teacher that plays musical notes for an exercise. These students tend to focus their attention on the product rather than the process. Completing and delivering a task takes priority over its quality with regard to content.The remedial tool is more likely to be experienced as a disturbing factor because it ‘takes too long’. A strongly positive, stimulating teaching approach with a lot of emphasis on the results seen from the student’s perspective perspective is therefore essential.

Pupils with autism react very strongly to their teachers; a good relationship with their teacher can stimulate them enormously. A negative contact is difficult to reverse. These students are often very demanding and sensitive to performance anxiety and self-esteem. Therefore, it is often hard to anticipate their willingness to perform..

Pupils with ADHD perform better when their teacher accepts their inaccuracies and over-enthusiasm and addresses them in a humorous way. Students with ADHD perform better in a group or when there is an audience. The integration of theory will have its ups and downs. The components that make a strong appeal to abstraction, the ability to oversee patterns and connections only rarely succeed. It is difficult to remedy and compensate for this. The components that match the student’s interest or skills do not cause special problems. These students often have a strong memory, which allow them some compensation on those parts that rely on insight and perception.

The behaviour of pupils with developmental disabilities, especially autism and ADHD, can have a major impact on the peer group. Try to contact the parents in due time in order to gain perspective on possible interventions and resources. Make sure that you do not overwhelm the parents with countless complaints. This can provoke a counterproductive relationship with parents who repeatedly are confronted with their child’s dysfunction. Often, parents have already come a long way and they have built up a considerable amount of expertise in dealing with their child. Try to approach them positively and seek their advice. Most of all, act preventively to avoid behavioural problems. Create a clear and predictable situation. Try to react calmly and convincingly.

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BVBA, Zenjoy. ‘Sticordi DKO · Eureka ADIBib’. Eureka ADIBib.