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Designing Lessons for Students with Disabilities

written by: Barbara • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 1/5/2012

For students with disabilities, teachers must design lessons that meet the objectives of the IEP (Individual Education Plan) and the needs of the learners. Students should be provided with accessible content, engagement opportunities and ways to show what they have learned in the classroom.

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    Universal Design of Teacher Instruction

    In the universal design of instruction, teachers provide content access and learning opportunities for students to demonstrate learning outcome. Universal design in instruction parallels the educational needs of students with special learning needs in providing academic access and equity in instruction and implementation. In order to address the myriad of learning styles and modifications of lesson structure in the classroom, teachers must be able to adapt lesson plans and differentiate how they instruct students with learning deficiencies.

    Instruction is designed to be:

    • equitable
    • flexible -- addressing the various learners in a classroom
    • predictable and easy to implement and
    • adaptable for a diversity of learning styles and assessment outcomes.

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    Collaborating on Instruction With Special Needs Students

    In 21st century school communities, laws are in place for students with disabilities to have academic access and effective learning outcomes. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) legislation and IDEA (Individual with Disabilities Education Act) have become the legal mandates in creating a foundation of learning for students with special needs in school classrooms.

    In order to create an educational leveling of instruction for students who have diagnosed learning gaps, teachers must understand that the higher stakes needed in curriculum design and instructional implementation must be addressed consistently in the classroom with active student engagement in the instruction. Students must become active collaborators with teachers in the universal design of learning.

    An effective instructional design for students with disabilities would consist of the following strategies:

    • Accessible curriculum with necessary modifications for students with IEPs (if indicated) or additional challenges for exceptional students.
    • Instructional methods that contain multiple methods for understanding the content unit and its application.
    • Adequate learning time for lesson implementation, practice, process and synthesis of the learning.
    • Consistent engagement in the expected lesson objective for student mastery and academic outcome.
    • Constructive and positive learning environments that motivate students towards educational excellence.
    • Expectation of student completion of necessary outcomes and assessments.
    • Real life application of the learning for students to see the life connection.

    By providing instruction that is designed to meet the needs of the learners, teachers are able to engage students in active involvement and accountability in their own learning. The universal design of instruction creates academic success and access for all students.