When it comes to dyslexia, one of the most helpful ways to make life easier for students in the classroom is to provide them with the right materials. Many students with dyslexia struggle with the high contrast of pure black text on a pure white background, which can produce a visual distortion that makes the text seem to blur together. That can create a glare that makes words harder to read, and long pages of text in particular can exact an additional mental strain on students.
One good way to avoid this is through the use of coloured backgrounds on whiteboards, exercise books and handouts. These tinted backgrounds effectively reduce the contrast present on black and white materials, alleviating the visual stress and making it easier for dyslexic students to concentrate.
In addition, it’s always useful to make learning visual where possible. Pictures, diagrams, timetables, spidergrams, and mindmaps are all useful ways to do this.
Autistic students face a wide range of challenges in the classroom, many of them related to the risk of sensory overload. Unpredictability and busy, noisy environments can all be particularly stressful to students with autism, and inconsistency often causes anxiety and frustration. These feelings are frequently compounded by the fact that some autistic students struggle to verbally communicate how something may be causing them stress, which can lead to the misguided perception of ‘challenging behaviour’.
To avoid this, one good place to start is by establishing clear structures and routines in the classroom, and taking care to ensure that these are properly understood by everyone. (All students benefit from having this kind of structure in place, but especially autistic pupils.) If you know in advance of any likely disruptions to familiar routines, such as fire drills, try to give warnings to your class as early as you can. It’s also a good idea to give clear advice on what to do during free or unstructured time.
Some autistic children may benefit from working in a quiet space if necessary, so if this is something that you’re able to accommodate, consider offering it to them as a potential option. However, you may need to exercise your judgement on this to a degree, as you’ll ideally want to avoid putting them in too much long-term isolation from their classmates.
BESD stands for behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, and encompasses a varied range of educational needs. In terms of general strategies, some of the more effective ones tend to share aspects as those used to make things easier for autistic children – namely setting clear routines, and planning carefully for unstructured times.
Another thing that can be helpful for children with BESD is to try and remove any unnecessary distractions that aren’t directly related to their learning. (Of course, this might not be possible in every case – it often depends on the nature of the distractions in question.)
Don’t forget to maintain positive body language when teaching – so avoid crossing your arms if you can, for example. On a similar note, make sure to use positive phrasing for your instructions; emphasise the benefits, rather than threaten with consequences. Throughout it all, take care to always show a consistent interest in your students, and build positive individual relationships. If you notice a trend in a certain number of students – like an enthusiasm in a recent film, for example – then consider implementing it into your lesson plans. Not only can it help students with educational needs stay engaged, but it can bring similar benefits for the entire class, too.
It’s worth reiterating: this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive guide to accounting for individual educational requirements, just a few ideas to get you started. And if you ever get stuck, don’t forget one of the most crucial (but often overlooked) ways that you can get some insight – ask your students themselves. Some may have difficulty articulating the finer details, but they can still help you get on the right track to providing them with exactly what they need.
And when it comes to classroom materials, that’s exactly where we can help here at EPSL. We provide a fantastic range of lined exercise books, plain express exercise books and personalised exercise books, and with more than 40 years of experience behind us, we’re top of the class when it comes to producing resources and learning solutions for schools. If you’ve got any questions, you can count on us to provide answers in as much or as little detail as you need. Feel free to give us a call on 01254 686 500!