Instructional Strategies for Students with Systemic / Medical Disabilities


There is a range of inclusive teaching strategies that can assist all students to learn but there are some specific strategies that are useful in teaching a group which includes students with Systemic/Medical Disabilities.

In considering alternative forms of assessment, equal opportunity, not a guaranteed outcome, is the objective. You are not expected to lower standards to accommodate students with a disability, but rather are required to give them a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.

First Day

  • Include a statement in your course syllabus regarding accommodation issues for students with disabilities. See the Suggested Disability Statement for course syllabi.
  • Students who have been diagnosed with Systemic/Medical disabilities often find it helpful when the course syllabus is written with clearly defined assignment deadlines as organization may be challenging for them.
  • Invite students to self-identify on the first day of class by making a public statement such as: "Please contact me to discuss disability accommodations."

Lectures and Other Teaching Sessions

  • If a student appears to be distracted, it might be appropriate to recommend to the student that they sit in the front of the classroom, away from windows, doorways, heating/cooling systems, or any other sources of potential distraction.
  • Students with Systemic/Medical disabilities frequently find it difficult to stay on task for long periods of time. If a class is longer than the traditional, 50-60 minute session, then offering a break after 45 minutes would be helpful.
  • Keep instructions brief and uncomplicated as much as possible. When repeating instructions, repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in a visual format (e.g. chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Give plenty of notice of any breaks in the usual study routine, especially for activities off-campus, in case students need to arrange support workers etc.
  • Irregular meals and rest breaks may cause difficulties. Allow for flexibility in the time tabling of travel arrangements.
  • Health and safety assessments may need to be arranged for some field trips.

Writing Assignments and Examinations

  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work. Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Encourage the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • Stress can exacerbate many conditions, so extra support in preparing for examinations and assignments will also be beneficial.
  • Flexibility in assessment methods may also be necessary. Some students will be able to manage exams, perhaps with adjustments such as a separate room, with a proctor, if using special equipment or taking frequent rests; use of a suitable desk, seating, use of a computer if writing is difficult; a scribe for written answers; extra time. Some conditions may require access to medication or snacks during exam.

General Ideas

  • Break information into small steps while instructing on new tasks.
  • For students needing other academic assistance, remind them of campus services such as the Writing Center, and the Academic Support Center.
  • Providing review or study sheets for exams is helpful.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Make instructional materials available in text form on FerrisConnect.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
  • Create a climate in which students feel comfortable about disclosing and discussing any hidden disability or medical condition, and letting you know what adjustments they may require; at the same time, respect any request for confidentiality.
  • Planning an even workload will be very important if stamina is affected. Give students plenty of warning of forthcoming assignments, so that they can allow for periods of fatigue. They may require extended deadlines for assignments.
  • Flexible delivery, including use of electronic media, will be very helpful for students who may need to be absent occasionally. Advance notice of topics to be covered is also useful.
  • Email Disabilities Services at [email protected] for general ideas to help individual students.