12 Learning and Physical Disabilities That Every K-12 Special Education Teacher Should Know

As I often say, many moons ago, I was a special education teacher, and a professor of special education. In both capacities, I prided myself on being an expert in diagnosing and responding learning and physical disabilities. As an educator, you don’t have to be the foremost expert in this area, but you do have to be a capable professional. In this piece, I want to discuss 12 learning and physical disabilities that every K-12 special education teacher should know.

  1. What is an Articulation Disorder? A disorder characterized by extraordinary challenges when it comes to forming the sounds of everyday communication. This may be due to a structural problem with the mouth or a motor-based issue. Collectively, these difficulties are considered to be articulation disorders. They can make classroom education extremely hard for both teachers and students. However, there are some ways that teachers can help students with articulation disorders still succeed academically.
  2. What is Cerebral Palsy? Is a complicated condition characterized by difficulty with movement. It may cause low muscle tone, poor muscle control, or issues with posture and balance. Every individual can have different symptoms as a result of the brain damage that caused the cerebral palsy to develop. All of these symptoms can make the classroom experience difficult for students and teachers affected by cerebral palsy on a daily basis. Fortunately, we are making great strides when it comes to assistive technology that can help.
  3. What is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)? Students with this disorder often struggle to stay focused on lessons, to perform time-consuming tasks, and to follow instructions during class. Educators can become frustrated by the amount of class time spent prompting students or redirecting them to little avail. However, assistive technology may provide students with the solutions they need to find real academic success.
  4. What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? A disorder marked by an inability to focus. Educators might find themselves continually prompting and redirecting students with ADHD to perform routine tasks. It can be frustrating for the student and their classmates when their need to move around the classroom disrupts the learning experience. Gains in assistive technology could help to promote better learning for students who struggle with ADHD.
  5. What is Aphasia? Students with this disorder have significantly impaired ability to understand or communicate with those around them. This can make the classroom setting more difficult for both the student and the teacher. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to help make learning and communicating easier for everyone. Assistive technology can create a more productive learning environment.
  6. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? Children diagnosed with this disorder usually have difficulty with social interactions including reading facial expressions and following a conversation. They might become easily upset by changes in routine, experience sensitivity to environmental stimuli, and become easily fixated on things. All of these present a problem for teachers, but there are lots of options for assistive technology that can help.
  7. What is Asperger’s Syndrome? This condition is considered to be a form of high-functioning autism with fewer of the language and cognitive deficits. Many of these children primarily struggle with social interactions and an inability to recognize the nonverbal cues of the people around them. However, it may also present itself with a delay in motor skills compared to peers.
  8. What is Visual Processing Disorder? A disorder in which a person has problems and issues interpreting visual information. For instance, not being able to ascertain the difference between two shapes.
  9. What is an Auditory Processing Disorder? Is a disorder in which a child has issues processing and understanding the information that they hear. This disorder makes it hard for them to notice subtle differences in the way words sound.
  10. What is Sensory Processing Disorder? When a child does not display the correct response to sensory activity, such as sudden sounds or bright lights. Children with this disorder sometimes have issues with alterations of their daily routine, the taste or consistency of some foods or the sensation of certain types of cloth on their skin.
  11. What is Pervasive Developmental Disorder? A set of disorders that involves lags in the formation of foundational social and cognitive skills. A  pervasive developmental disorder can make a student act as if they were younger than their true age.
  12. What is Social Communication Disorder? A disorder where kids have problems processing and interacting with the subtlety and nonconformity of communication. They don’t understand the social conventions of communication, such as personal space, the ebb, and flow of conversations, etc.

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