How to be a better teacher for students living with disability

Posted 3 weeks ago by Georgie Waters
New research suggests that increasing teacher training to specialise in adapting education for students living with disability could improve their chances of success. [Source: Shutterstock]
New research suggests that increasing teacher training to specialise in adapting education for students living with disability could improve their chances of success. [Source: Shutterstock]

How can we make classrooms more inclusive for students living with disability?

Key points

Results from a recent study suggest that due to insufficient training, some of the best-performing teachers in a school may not be the most suited to students with disability.

Over 77 percent of young Australians between the ages of five and 20 years with autism spectrum disorder reported experiencing difficulty during education, highlighting the importance of developing an understanding of autism spectrum disorder and how this can impact a student’s education.

With this in mind, Professor Iva Strnadová and Dr Joanne Danker from the University of New South Wales have created a new online course for Australian educators with little to no experience in creating inclusive classrooms for students with autism spectrum disorder. 

This online short course, supported by the University of New South Wales, aims to teach participants about developing social and communication skills in children with autism spectrum disorder and understanding sensory issues over four weeks. The difficulties that people with autism spectrum disorder face during school transitions and collaborating with families will also be topics covered.  

The importance of such a course and improving understanding of disability is supported by a study recently published. Researchers of this study found that educators teaching students with disability could improve their methods to suit different needs by receiving more training.

According to the study’s lead author, Professor Scott Imberman at the Department of Economics at Michigan State University believes that teachers are not fully equipped to teach some students.

“Most students with disabilities spend most of their school day in general education classrooms, but many teachers indicate they receive insufficient training and preparedness to educate these students,” said Professor Imberman. 

Professor Imberman is hopeful that the results will enable students living with disability to thrive in general education classrooms.

“We hope that our methods can be used in the future to help school officials better match students with disabilities to the teachers who are best equipped to instruct them and better assess which teachers might need additional training in educating disabled students,” Imberman said.

While educational strategies should be tailored to each student’s needs, some effective methods when working with students living with disability include:

  • providing choice about what order in which activities are completed;
  • ensuring that enjoyable educational activities are available after more challenging tasks;
  • using visual cues when explaining tasks.

In Australia, over 32 percent of students with autism spectrum disorder have a year 10 education level or lower, highlighting the importance of making education more accessible. By increasing specific training for teachers to improve their knowledge of teaching students living with disability, researchers are hopeful that this could improve students’ successes at school. 


Are you a teacher of students living with disability? How will you adapt your teaching methods to make your classroom more inclusive?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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