Teaching Strategies for Students With Developmental Delays: Tips for Teachers

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When teaching students with disabilities, it is important to realize their educational goals are about more than academics. Although those things are important, students with developmental delays may show signs of inattentiveness, aggression and an inability to socialize with others. Because of their special needs, some specific instructional strategies must be utilized to effectively reach all the students in your classroom.

Seating Arrangements

Children with developmental disorders can have a variety of issues that can effect learning for themselves and those around them. Keep in mind that a student that displays behaviors that are distracting would work better at an individual desk. If there is not a way to seat the students in the classroom in his own space, pairing him with a capable buddy that can assist with keeping the student on track without it being detrimental to his own education would be beneficial. Also, minimizing distractions and the possibility for over stimulation will assist the student with focusing. For example, do not seat the student next to a window facing the playground.


Students with developmental disabilities struggle with becoming more independent. One way to encourage that behavior is to be consistent with classroom routines. By doing the same thing each day the student knows what to expect and can begin following the same actions without additional guidance. For example, if the requirement each day is to come into the classroom, hang up her jacket, empty her back pack and put her lunch away, she will likely begin doing that independently due to the predictability and consistency.


Routines and procedures that provide predictability are important to a student with developmental delays. Predictable procedures will not only help teach skills and promote independence, but also decrease unwanted behaviors caused by not understanding expectations. One way to do this is by providing a schedule of activities that can be understood by the student. This will vary depending on the age and cognitive level of the student. For example, one student might be successful using a daily planner with a schedule written in while another might only be able to understand an object or photo representing the activity.

Another tool to assist with predictability is a visual timer. This lets the student know when an activity will be over and they can move on to the next task. This ability to know when something must be finished can increase attentiveness. Also, by understanding that the current task will be over within a definitive amount of time, unwanted behaviors used by the student to avoid the activity may be avoided.

Things to Remember

When developing your own strategies for your classroom, it is necessary to remember the importance of promoting appropriate social interaction. Do not single out the student by doing things that will make them more of an outsider in the classroom. Using age appropriate materials is one way to avoid that. Use activities that are similar to same aged peers will provide an opportunity for interaction. These steps will allow the student to feel comfortable interacting with others and encourage peers to interact with him. Doing this will make the educational process more enjoyable and beneficial to the student.