How teachers can communicate with students with a disability

Did you know that 9% of Australian school students live with a disability? That’s one in 10 students?!

And of those students, did you realise 4%, or one in 20, have a profound disability?

These students make up 4.5 million – or one in five – Australians who live with a physical or non physical disability

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has released a video to highlight how effective communication was, particularly with students living with a disability.

It says effective communication is important for all students, including students with a disability.

This video highlights how effective communication, particularly great communication with school staff, has had positive impacts on students around Australia.

In the video, Aussie Paralympic champion Dylan Alcott says one of the key issues for students with a disability is effective communication, and more importantly, having great communication with their teachers.

“The thing to remember is it is important that students with a disability are not treated differently to the rest of the class as it can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of the student,” he says.

Dylan says based on the above figures, all teachers will require further education to prepare to teach, interact, and work with students with disability now and in the future.

The video features encouraging words and tips from other guest speakers who share their experiences at school and pass on strategies for students to cope and communicate.

The video outlines five key learnings to students living with a disability:

  1. Have open conversations with the student and their carer/parents on the best way to communicate and teach the student
  2. Ask the student with the disability how they will approach a task
  3. Supporting a student with one-on-one assistance in the classroom will help them learn and feel included
  4. Offer more time and assistance to a student with a disability, if needed
  5. Never underestimate the ability of students with a disability.

Kate Doughty says like able-bodied students, bullying can be an issue and even more so for someone who has a disability, especially out of the classroom.

“I experienced bullying in grade three where a kid asked me, “Where’s your hook?” Kate says on the video.

“I knew that the teachers were people I could easily talk to, so that’s what I did.”

“Being able to talk to the teachers I was able to easily resolve the situation.”

“So, with teacher knowledge awareness and the ability to feel confident in talking to me, as well as communicating with other students about my disability, I found that when similar situations occurred throughout my school life, I was able to easily resolve them.”

For teachers of children with hearing difficulties, AITSL has these tips:

  1. When working with deaf or hard-of-hearing students, plan how best to communicate with them, eg: interpreters or other methods they find effective.
  2. Learning basic Auslan can be a huge help for teachers as well as all students
  3. For students with Cochlear Implants it may be helpful to do a sound check with them each morning
  4.  Talk naturally, do not turn your back to the class and ensure students can see your face clearly.

But most of all, teachers are encouraged to be confident when talking about disability with all students and ensure students feel comfortable and confident coming to you to discuss issues in and out of the classroom.

AITSL says teachers should be empathetic to a student with a disability – how they feel will affect how they learn.

This video resource was provided by the AITSL which develops expertise and empowers teachers and school leaders to create better education outcomes for Australian children.

You can find further information on teaching students with disability and the AITSL website.

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