I am so excited to have my first guest-post from Beverley Sher Beverley is a Speech Pathologist in Melbourne, Australia.
Riding on trains gave her some valuable insights to accommodate students with learning difficulties.
On her recent visit to the USA, Beverley realised how confusing things could be for children who have learning problems. Her frequent train rides, highlighted a number of things that can be done to accommodate students with learning difficulties.
Here are Beverley’s tips:
Provide brief instructions to children so that the message is clear.
When you get onto a train the message is “Stand Back. Train is leaving.”
They could have said, “Please ensure that all body parts are well within the confines of the train to ensure your ultimate safety as the train will be departing shortly.”
But they didn’t.
That would have been much too wordy and the vocabulary choice would have been much too complicated.
Similarly, they didn’t use an expression like “Please take your seats.” Many students with learning difficulties might interpret this quite literally and respond, “Where should I take my seat to?”
We tend to speak too much when we are working with students. Keep the message brief and talk less.
Many students with learning difficulties have a high level of anxiety. Keep routines and information predictable. Predictable information help students reduce their anxiety because they know what is coming next.
On the train, the information over the loudspeaker was predictable because it was repeated in the same way at every station.
“You are currently at this station. The next station is……. (name of the next station).”
Students with learning difficulties need the information to be repeated because they may not get it the first time or even the second, but sometimes only the third.
The messages on the train were repeated multiple times. Repetition of information ensured that I did not miss out on important information even if I was not attending optimally all the time.
The message told me which station we were approaching, the name of the station once we arrived, and the name of the station once we had left that train station.
Keep it Visual
Visual information is beneficial for many students who have learning difficulties. They may have difficulty processing auditory information. Visual information allows student with learning difficulties to refer back to the information from time to time, as they may not be able to hold all the information in their working memory.
Each train carriage had a screen that showed exactly which station you had just left, where the train was travelling, and how close you were to the next station.
Visual information also allows you to use colour to highlight information.
As the train left the stop, that stop changed to red. The stop that the train was approaching changed to green. It made it easier to understand the information because it was visual.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it was!
Help organise your students, because many students with learning difficulties have difficulty with this area.
Think about all those worksheets that are in your student’s folders or crumpled up in their bags, or in their lockers. If you have finished that section of work, help them to organise themselves so that they are not spending time sorting through irrelevant information. This makes is much easier for them to work out what is relevant.
The screen on the train did not display all the previous stations on the screen together with all the approaching stations. The stations that we had been to were eliminated from the screen. Only the previous station and the station that was coming up next, was shown. This simplified and structured the information to make it organised.
Providing students with extra time enables them to ensure that they have all the necessary materials for their next class, for their homework or to study for a test. Providing extra time creates a sense of being and control and feeling calm.
In New York, everything is rushed and really fast. In Washington D.C. there were a few extra seconds available when we crossed the road to get to the train station. When leaving the train in Washington, the doors stayed open longer. The small amount of extra-time, allowed me to make sure I had all my belongings. As a result, I felt more relaxed and calm.
- Keep it short
- Keep it predictable
- Provide repetition
- Provide visual support
- Help with organisation
- Provide extra time.
If you would like to hear more from Beverley, please follow her on her FaceBook page.