Teaching Tips for Working with Students with Intellectual Disability
1. Students with intellectual disabilities particularly those on the autism spectrum, may flourish in a very predictable environment. To try to make your class as predictable as possible, you could start and end every class with the exact same warm up and cool down.
2. A large gym or field space can be very overwhelming for some students. To avoid this, divide the space into several unique stations for a variety of activities.
3. Students may easily lose focus, get off task, or become fixated on one thing. To help combat these issues you may want to post a schedule where they can see it, give them a picture book of the day’s activities, or have a video playing or a para-educator there to provide a constant reminder of the task at hand.
4. Providing a schedule or book of the day’s activities may also help reduce some of the anxiety regarding the unknown.
5. The main objective in a physical education class should be for the student to be active. However, sometimes a student may have to remove him or herself from an over stimulating environment and go to a safe place. In your class, be sure their safe place involves some sort of physical activity, such as a stationary bike, a treadmill or an arm bike.
6. Make sure the safe place is always visible to them, or that they know where to locate it.
7. Color code! It may very helpful to get your students familiar with their color. That way, whenever working on a new skill they will know, for example, that the red ball is theirs or that they should line up behind the red line. This will help them quickly identify where they belong and what they should be doing. Color coding can be used for equipment, stations and directional movement – follow the red cones.
8. There may be situations in which the least restrictive environment for the child to succeed is working one-on-one with his or her paraprofessional. However, to ensure social interaction and inclusion, try to structure your class so that this instance does not require the entire class period.
9. Always be prepared with an appropriate reward system for the students. Make sure the rewards do not take away from the end goal or objective. For example, the reward for trying a new activity for a certain amount of time might be getting to do an activity that they enjoy at the end of class.
10. The goals and objectives for these students should include skill learning and regular physical activity, just like other students.