By June Naureckas, CEI Intern
In my recent post I described some of the signs and symptoms that a teacher should watch for in order to recognize students with dyslexia or major visual impairment. Once a disability has been recognized, it’s important to set up formal accommodations as needed through an IEP or 504 plan, but making small changes to the presentation of information can make lessons more productive and less taxing for both the teacher and the student.
Hand-outs and Worksheets As a visually impaired student, hard-to-read worksheets and reading materials have consistently hampered my productivity even into my university-level studies. Fortunately for teachers, every word processor contains the tools to make an assignment more legible.
• Use plain, sans-serif fonts in typed hand-outs and worksheets (Arial and OpenDyslexic work best – I used Arial to write this article).
• Use larger font sizes (standard font size 18 is a good choice, but you may need to type larger depending on the extent of your students’ disabilities).
• Avoid photocopying – text gets fuzzier and harder to read each time it is photocopied.
• Print worksheets on cream-colored or pastel paper instead of white computer paper.
Writing on the Board When writing on a chalkboard or whiteboard, focus on writing legibly and distinguishing each line from the one that follows.
• Use print, not cursive¸ when writing on the board.
• Write with the evenest handwriting possible.
• If students have dyslexia, switch chalk/marker color with each line or underline every other line.
• If students are visually impaired or blind, using a single chalk/marker color is best, but instructors should write large and put space between each line.
In-class Interactions Multi-sensory, easy-to-follow presentations help even able-bodied and neurotypical students to pay attention and learn the contents of a lesson. For students with dyslexia or visual impairment, they are practically a necessity.
• When designing PowerPoints, avoid complicated slide backgrounds and flashy transitions, this clutter can look exciting but distracts from the actual text of each slide.
• Avoid putting too many bullet points on a single slide and restrict yourself to one topic per slide.
• Incorporate more audio or tactile learning into the classroom (music, audiobooks, videos with narration, or touchable models and dioramas).
Small Changes, Big Impact When possible, make assessments more accessible without changing what they’re supposed to assess. Encourage students to continue learning to read, but reduce focus on reading quickly or out loud. Whenever possible, grade on content of a written assignment, not handwriting or spelling.
Students with these disabilities are often eager to learn if given support, so please be patient and encouraging. Poor accommodations for dyslexia and low-vision can permanently mar a child’s perception of reading and school, but simple improvements to accessibility can help even the most frustrated student!
Rao, E. (n.d.) Considerations for low vision students in a classroom. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website.
American Foundation for the Blind. (n.d.). Tips for making print more readable. American Foundation for the Blind website.
Hodge, P. (2000). A dyslexic child in the classroom. Davis Dyslexia Association International.