Disability Information & Guidelines for Lecturers & Staff

NEW: AHEAD, the Association for Higher Education, Access & Disability, have some excellent resources aimed at teaching/lecturing staff, on inclusive teaching practices. Click here for more information. ‌

Dyslexia, the most widely recognized form of Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD), is mainly associated with difficulties in processing language-based information including difficulty with reading, writing and spelling.  

Others forms include dyscalculia (difficulty with numbers); and dyspraxia (difficulties in fine motor coordination).   Individuals may have a combination of these, and the following notes are relevant to any of these students. 

Disabilities & their Impact on Students

Please click on one of the links below for detailed information on different disability categories and the impact they can have on a student's academic progress. This list is not exhaustive, and will be added to as further resources/information becomes available.

Click to read online Click to download a copy
ADD/ADHD ADD/ADHD Information
Autistic Spectrum Disorders (inc. Asperger's Syndrome) Asperger's Syndrome Information
Blind/Visually Impaired Blind/Visually Impaired Information
Deaf/Hard of Hearing Deaf/Hard of Hearing Information
Dyslexia Dyslexia Information
Dyspraxia (Developmental Co-ordination Disorder) Dyspraxia Information
Mental Health Conditions Mental Health Conditions Information
Neurological Conditions Neurological Conditions Information
Physical Disabilities Physical Disabilities Information
Significant Ongoing Illnesses Significant Ongoing Illness Information
Speech/Language Difficulties Speech/Language Difficulties Information

 

ADD/ADHD

What is Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)?

ADD/ADHD is characterized by a pattern of behaviour, present in multiple settings (e.g., school and home), that can result in performance issues in social, educational, or work settings. Symptoms will be divided into two categories of inattention and hyperactivity and impulsivity that include behaviours like failure to pay close attention to details, difficulty organizing tasks and activities, excessive talking, fidgeting, or an inability to remain seated in appropriate situations.  (Diagnostic Statistic Manual, V)

Students with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • Student may not be able to complete tasks/assignments.
  • Student may miss information in lectures/classes because of poor concentration/leaving early due to restlessness.
  • Student may be late or have poor attendance due to poor time planning.
  • Student may lose focus of lecture due to distraction from stimuli in the environment.
  • Student may find it difficult to self organise.
  • Student may have difficulty attending to daily tasks.
  • Student may have difficulty meeting deadlines.
  • Student may have difficulty waiting to take turns in group activity.
  • Student may have inappropriate behaviour in class / social settings.

 What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • People with ADD/ADHD are easily distracted.  Try to remember this when giving instructions or directions.
  • Be patient; remember that unusual or inappropriate behaviour is not their fault.
  • Lecture, tutorial and lab notes/PowerPoint slides should be available in advance of the lecture and ideally in an electronic format.
  • Provide reading lists in advance to facilitate early reading and planning.  Indicate the most important books on a reading list and direct students to key points in their readings.
  • Provide an overview when introducing a new topic so students know what to expect – highlight the main argument and key points.  Provide a summary at the end of a lecture/topic.
  • Provide a list of new terms and vocabulary, providing explanations where necessary.
  • Introduce new topics and concepts overtly – clarify new language.
  • Ensure that students receive advance warning of any changes to their normal routine.
  • Assignment topics should be provided early.  Additional follow-up may be required to reinforce the deadline and to clarify what is expected.
  • The instructions for and structure of examination papers should be discussed with students well in advance of the exam.

 Useful Websites:           

Download a copy of this information: ADD/ADHD Information

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Autistic Spectrum Disorders (inc. Asperger's Syndrome)

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome (which is an Autistic Spectrum Disorder)  is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects social interaction and communication and is marked by severe difficulties in communicating and forming relationships with people, in developing language and in using abstract concepts and significant difficulties in the area of sensory processing indicated by either a hyper or hypo-sensitivity across any or all of the five senses.

Students with Asperger’s Syndrome may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • Student may have difficulties in using and understanding nonverbal communication including eye contact, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures.
  • Student may have difficulties reciprocating social or emotional interactions including establishing or maintaining conversations.
  • Students may adhere to routines and ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behaviour.
  • Students may have interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus.
  • Student may have an extreme intolerance to loud noises or crowds, visual stimulation, or things that are felt.
  • May have difficulty with concept of time – deadlines, dates, may sometimes mix up class times etc.
  • Dislikes noisy or crowded environments.
  • This student will probably be quite withdrawn initially and is likely to stay on his/her own.
  • Maths – difficulty applying mathematical formulae unless (s)he fully understands the reasoning behind the formulae.
  • Spend a lot of time on subjects/tasks (s)he enjoys and may get stuck or ignore subjects/tasks (s)he does not enjoy.
  • This student may find abstract language and metaphors impossible or difficult to understand.
  • May lose focus of lecture due to distraction from stimuli in the environment / poor concentration.
  • Poor organisational skills.
  • May ask a lot of questions
  • May use direct language (recipient may feel offended, but this is not intentional).

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • Be patient; remember that unusual social behaviour is not their fault.
  • Introduce new topics and concepts overtly – clarify new language.
  • Ensure that students receive advance warning of any changes to their normal routine.
  • The instructions for and structure of examination papers should be discussed with students in advance of the exam.
  • Be flexible on attendance as this student may miss some classes due to unusual sleeping pattern.  Consistent absence should be highlighted and discussed with this student.
  • Please provide this student with written notification of assignments and deadlines as (s)he is unlikely to understand or grasp these deadlines if they are communicated verbally.  Additional follow-up may be required to reinforce the deadline and to clarify what is expected.
  • This student may be unable to sustain concentration for an entire lecture/may be absent from some lectures.  Please ensure that lecture notes are available electronically in advance of the lecture.
  • Meetings – choose a quiet venue, avoid having to reschedule and minimise distractions (put phone on voicemail etc.).
  • This student will find abstract language and metaphors impossible or difficult to understand.  Try to use literal language whenever possible and be explicit about precisely what you mean.
  • When giving instructions do not assume the student has understood.  Patient questioning and listening, a willingness to rephrase questions and added explanations may be necessary.
  • Be careful about making jokes – students with A.S. are often unable to perceive that a joke is a joke.
  • Some students may find it difficult to work in a group.  If it is possible and appropriate consider alternative ways of completing group assignments e.g.  a specific piece of work/task as part of the group.
  • Make the environment as distraction free as possible.
  • The instructions for and structure of examination papers should be discussed with students well in advance of the exam.
  • Lecture, tutorial and lab notes/PowerPoint slides should be available in advance of the lecture and ideally in an electronic format.
  • Provide reading lists in advance to facilitate early reading and planning.  Indicate the most important books on a reading list and direct students to key points in their readings.
  • Provide an overview when introducing a new topic so students know what to expect – highlight the main argument and key points.  Provide a summary at the end of a lecture/topic.

Useful Websites:  

Download a copy of this information: Asperger's Syndrome Information

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Blind/Visually Impaired Students

Students who are Blind/Visually Impaired

Students who are blind or visually impaired have loss/impairment of vision in one or both eyes, of varying degrees. This can impact their participation in lectures, labs and tutorials. Those registered with the Disability Support Service have been identified as requiring special assistance to enable them to manage their academic and vocational goals successfully. Vision Impairment can be congenital or acquired; fluctuating, degenerative or static; and temporary or permanent.

 Students who are blind or visually impaired may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • The student may have difficulty seeing print, presentations and blackboards.
  • The student may have difficulty following lectures with a heavy emphasis on visual aids (i.e. diagrams, tables, pictures and overheads).
  • The student may have slower speed of reading, or difficulty reading for long periods.
  • The student may have slower speed of work when using magnification or specialist software.
  • The student may have problems with orientation and mobility (laboratories, field trips). Changes to the timetable or room changes can be problematic.
  • The student may have adjustment problems if diagnosed recently (both practical and emotional).

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

The effect of a visual impairment varies widely, depending on the condition, its progress and the person’s coping skills. Depending on the individual, it may be appropriate to consider some of the following guidelines: 

  • Greet a person by saying your name, as he or she may not recognise your voice. Do not ask or expect them to guess who you are, even if they know you.
  • NEVER make a fuss of, or feed, a guide dog – he or she is working and should not be distracted when in harness. Always ask the owner’s permission first.
  • Reading lists should be provided well in advance to allow for conversion of books into the appropriate format for the student.
  • Reading lists should be prioritised, as conversion of books into an alternative format is a time consuming and expensive task.
  • Lecture notes and hand-outs should be provided in advance and, where possible, in the student’s preferred format or in a format that can be easily converted by the student.
  • Convey orally whatever you have written on the board or shown on overheads.
  • If you are planning to use a video tell the student and discuss alternative ways to approach the information that the student may miss.
  • Allow the student to record your lecture if necessary.
  • Ensure that notes and printed materials are clearly produced so that they can be more easily read, scanned or magnified. Lecture notes and hand-outs should have a clear plain font type, for example Arial, and a large font, minimum size 16. Hand-outs should use paper with a matt finish to reduce reflection and glare.
  • Produce large, clear, bold diagrams with a strong contrast in colour between the diagram and the paper.
  • Allow additional time to deliver assignments as students with sight loss may take extra time to read written material.
  • If in doubt about anything, ask the student.

 Useful websites:

Download a copy of this information: Blind/Visually Impaired Information

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Deaf/Hard of Hearing Students

Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing experience hearing loss, either unilaterally (one ear) or bilaterally (both ears) of varying degrees from mild to profound. This can impact their participation in lectures, labs and tutorials. Those registered with the Disability Support Service have been identified as requiring special assistance to enable them to manage their academic and vocational goals successfully.

Hearing loss can be congenital or acquired; fluctuating, degenerative or static; and temporary or permanent.

Students with hearing loss may use a variety of methods to accommodate their disability, including:

  • Electronic hearing aids
  • Cochlear Implants
  • Audio loops
  • Sign Language
  • Lip-reading
  • Note-takers

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • The student may miss chunks of information in lectures, especially if the pace is quite fast, if the volume of material is quite heavy, if there is a lot of new and unfamiliar terminology, if there are abstract concepts that require explanation.
  • It may take the student some time to determine who is speaking in a group situation and this means (s)he may miss some of the information being communicated.
  • Background noise may distract or confuse a person with hearing loss.
  • Due to restricted auditory input the student’s language development may have been affected.  Difficulties with English which may occur include:
a) Reading for meaning; including lecture notes, assignments and reference notes.
b) Linguistic difficulties and an inability to write fluently and expressively in English.
c) Restricted English vocabulary, errors in grammar and spelling.
d) Misinterpreting information which is presented particularly where there is possible ambiguity in terminology.
  • Hearing is essential for speech development and, as a result of hearing loss, the student’s speech and pronunciation may be affected.

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • The student may use a radio aid (aka Audio Loop). A radio aid is a personalised induction loop system that works in conjunction with a hearing aid in order to amplify sound for the user. Before each lecture the student may hand the radio aid to the lecturer for the duration of the lecture.  The radio aid is clipped to the lecturer’s belt and the microphone is clipped to the lecturer’s collar (close to the mouth).
  • The student may use a sign-language interpreter in class, who will stand at the front of the room and sign the oral material being delivered by the lecturer.
  • The student may also use a note-taker, whose role is to take accurate notes during the lecture, but not to participate in (e.g.) class discussions, or to offer opinion on the material being delivered.
  • Students who lip-read may sit near the front, in close view of the lecturer, to ensure that (s)he can lip-read during the lecture. It is important that, where possible, the lecturer speak only when facing the room, as otherwise the student may miss important information.
  • The lecturer should ideally keep their face within view of the student and speak in a natural tone.  Explain new concepts as they introduce them and write key words on the board.
  • Wait until this student is looking at you before you attempt to communicate with him/her directly.
  • Provide this student with class outlines, lists of new technical terms etc.
  • The student should have access to lecture notes in advance of each lecture so that (s)he can familiarise him/herself with the content of the lecture to aid understanding.
  • Repeat questions or remarks of other people in the room.
  • Use visual aids to reinforce spoken presentations when possible.

Useful Websites:   

Download a copy of this information: Deaf/Hard of Hearing Information

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Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is manifested in a continuum of specific learning difficulties related to the acquisition of basic skills in reading, spelling and/or writing, such difficulties being unexpected in relation to an individual’s other abilities and educational experiences. Dyslexia can be described at the neurological, cognitive and behavioural levels.  It is typically characterised by inefficient information processing, including difficulties in phonological processing, working memory, rapid naming and automaticity of basic skills. Difficulties in organisation, sequencing, and motor skills may also be present.                              

From the Task Force on Dyslexia (2001) 

Students with Dyslexia may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • Poor Written Expression:
    • lacks coherence
    • phonetic spelling
    • lapses in punctuation
    • poor handwriting
  • Reading and Comprehension difficulties:
    • slow and laborious
    • poor comprehension, re-reading
    • inhibiting meaning
    • poor retention of meaning
  • Stress when reading/writing under pressure
  • Lack of confidence with the written word
  • Short Term Memory- Difficulties in auditory /or visual sequential memory
  • Working Memory- the ability to hold and manipulate information is hindered
  • Difficulty remembering and following instructions / directions
  • Difficulty with taking notes during lecturers
  • Difficulty with Organisation/Meeting Deadlines
  • Difficulty remembering and following instructions / directions
  • Poor Self-esteem/Learned Helplessness

 What can Lecturing Staff do to support these students?

  • Use a wide range of teaching methods/materials to increase accessibility for all students
  • Provide an overview when introducing a new topic so students know what to expect – highlight the main argument and the key points.
  • Provide a summary at the end of the lecture / topic.
  • All lecture/tutorial/lab notes / slides / handouts should ideally be available in an electronic format in advance of the lecture.  This will decrease the amount of writing a student has to do during the lecture and will allow the student to scan the text when using literacy support software.
  • Provide reading lists in advance to facilitate early reading and planning.  Indicate the most important books on a reading list.
  • Introduce new topics and concepts obviously – clarify new language.
  • Assignment topics should be provided early and students may require extra time to complete assignments.
  • Keep oral instructions concise.
  • Rephrase and repeat information.
  • Be sensitive to possible self-consciousness by the student about speaking or reading aloud in lectures and tutorials.

Useful Websites:

Download a copy of this information: Dyslexia Information

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Dyspraxia (Developmental Co-ordination Disorder)

What is Dyspraxia?

  • Dyspraxia causes difficulties in motor coordination, orientation, concentration and short-term memory.
  • There may also be difficulties with time management, organisation and fatigue.
  • Learning difficulties such as difficulties with handwriting, mathematics, reading and writing and personal organisation and sequencing may also be affected.

Students with Dyspraxia may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • Very poor handwriting, possible use of laptop
  • Meeting deadlines and organising his work.
  • Difficulties with hand-eye coordination, e.g., at a younger age had a lot of difficulty catching a ball, opening locks, doors and windows etc.
  • Difficulty with taking notes during lecturers
  • Difficulties with mathematics in particular subtraction, long multiplication and division.
  • Difficulties with concentration and lapses of attention
  • Remembering and following instructions / directions

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • Allow use of Assistive Technology to take notes in the lecture hall (i.e. laptop, recording devices)
  • Use a wide range of teaching methods/materials to increase accessibility for all students
  • Provide learning aims at the beginning of each lecture– highlight the main argument and the key points.
  • Assignment topics should be provided early to help student’s meet deadlines on time.
  • All lecture/tutorial/lab notes / slides / handouts should ideally be available in an electronic format in advance of the lecture.  This will decrease the amount of writing a student has to do during the lecture and will allow the student to scan the text when using literacy support software.
  • Introduce new topics and concepts obviously – clarify new language.
  • Try be sympathetic with regards to punctuality and general organisation.
  • Students may require extra time to complete assignments.
  • When giving instructions about assignments, simple language can be useful.
  • Presenting sample answers to the class and individual feedback for assignments can be helpful.
  • Rest breaks may be needed during long classes which require note taking.

Useful Websites:             

Download a copy of this information: Dyspraxia Information

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Mental Health Conditions

What is a Mental Health Condition?

Mental health conditions represent a serious on-going difficulty across aspects of everyday life. Those registered with the Disability Support Service have been identified as requiring special assistance to enable them to manage their academic and vocational goals successfully.

Poor mental health affects our ability to cope with and manage our lives, particularly during personal change and through key life events, and decreases our ability to participate fully in life. Many mental health difficulties are temporary, responding to medication, therapy, and rest. Some people may experience more long term difficulties which have periods or relapse/remission or may be permanent. 

There is a wide range of mental health difficulties that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. Types of mental health diagnoses include: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. Mental health difficulties can affect a student’s ability to live their day-to-day life.

Students with Mental Health Difficulties may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • This student’s disability may require medication, which can affect concentration.
  • This student’s condition may be variable and (s)he may experience periods of particular difficulty.  This may require some understanding and flexibility.
  • May miss information due to inability to concentrate during class.
  • May be unable to organise time effectively.
  • If absent from College this student may be unable to complete assignments on time.

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • This student’s condition may impact on his/her ability to attend lectures, complete assignments on time and study to the same level as other students (if absent for prolonged period due to depression).  If this happens please give clear guidelines to the student on areas for revision, essential texts to read, important lectures in the module etc.  This will ensure that this student is utilising his/her available time productively.
  • On occasion this student may require extra time to complete assignments.  This should be pre-agreed with the student and a new deadline should be set for the assignment.
  • This student should have access to lectures notes electronically if absent from College.
  • Provide reading lists in advance to facilitate early reading and planning.  Indicate the most important books on a reading list.
  • The combined effects of medication (where applicable) and the disturbed sleeping patterns of many people with depression, can affect a student’s ability to participate and to keep up-to-speed with College work.  Flexibility around deadlines is recommended.

Useful Websites:      

Download a copy of this information: Mental Health Conditions Information

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Neurological Conditions

What is a Neurological Condition?

Neurological Conditions include a large number of conditions and illnesses, which may have an impact on a student’s ability to achieve their academic potential. There are many examples including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic migraines, Parkinson’s Disease and so on. There are a huge number of conditions and disabilities which come under this category; one of the most common such conditions is epilepsy.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological condition defined as a tendency to have recurrent seizures, the term seizure is preferable to fits. Seizures are a symptom of the condition not the cause. There are many types of epileptic seizures, which may be generalised (involving the whole of the brain) or partial (where only part of the brain is involved).

When a person experiences a major convulsive seizure he or she will lose consciousness completely and fall to the floor. An observer can help by cushioning the head, and after the seizure put the person into the recovery position. Do not push anything into the person's mouth. In a non convulsive seizure, there is very little that an observer needs to do, other than guide the person away from any danger if he or she is wandering and gently reassure the person after the seizure has finished.

Photosensitive epilepsy is a form of epilepsy where seizures are triggered by flashing/flickering lights and certain patterns. However, there is only a very small percentage of people with photosensitive epilepsy who are sensitive to VDU screens. For people who are sensitive to VDU's it is possible to obtain VDU screens which do not flicker.

Some people have brief seizures of five to fifteen seconds known as absences. These do not usually cause the person to lose muscle tone and you may not even notice anything, but you may get the impression he or she is not listening to you or is daydreaming. It can mean that the person misses several parts of a sentence or lecture and therefore finds a session confusing because of inadvertently missing key points.

Students with epilepsy may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • Stress caused by anxiety of sudden seizures due to uncontrolled epilepsy.
  • Poor concentration due to absences and disorientation after seizures.
  • Isolation, fear of prejudice from peers.

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • Ensure students safety in Labs etc by discussing student’s needs relating to equipment.
  • Encourage communication.
  • Respect confidentiality.

Useful Website:

http://www.epilepsy.ie/

Thanks to our colleagues at UCC for this information.

Download a copy of this information: Neurological Conditions Information

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Physical Disabilities

What is a physical disability?

Physical disabilities can arise from conditions namely arthritis, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis or accidental injury.  Students with physical disabilities are more likely to be challenged by the physical environment.  It may not always be obvious that a student has a physical disability. 

Students with a physical disability may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • Considerable energy is required to negotiate his/her environment.
  • May experience fatigue and/or pain leading to difficulties with completing exams / lectures etc.
  • May need to manage pain which can mean taking days off course work or taking medication. The latter may affect concentration.
  • Difficulty with physical access to classrooms and other college facilities.
  • Difficulty writing, holding or manipulating objects, and carrying out specific tasks.
  • Difficulty getting from one location to another in a short period of time, especially within the time constraints imposed by timetables.
  • Difficulty accessing adequate transport.
  • Student may be absent from college for hospital appointments.
  • May be unable to attend events or course related activities outside of the classroom.
  • May require the use of a Personal Assistant (PA) during college hours.

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • Allow the use of assistive technology in class, for example, recording devices.
  • Provide slides/notes prior to lectures in order to reduce the amount of handwritten notes for the student.  Providing this material also helps students who may be required to be absent from class as a result of hospital appointments, reviews, for example.
  • Ensure that students receive advance warning of any change of classroom/venues.
  • Allow for the time and fatigue factors that may arise as the student moves between lectures.
  • Be understanding if a student is late to class; it may take them longer than others to get there.
  • Offering breaks during longer classes or lectures can help students who are experiencing fatigue and concentration difficulties. 
  • Never push or lean on a student’s wheelchair without their permission.
  • Offer help if you think it is required but do not impose it.
  • When talking to a student who uses a wheelchair, sit down (if possible) so that you are both on the same level.
  • Try to keep walkways, corridors and aisles free from obstructions.
  • When walking with a person who uses crutches or a wheelchair adjust your pace to match theirs.
  • If you’re unsure how to support a student, ask them!

Additional information

  • Personal Assistant (PA): a personal assistant may be provided for students who require assistance during the day.
  • Please feel free to contact our Disability Support Service if you have any queries in regard to support the student.

Useful Websites:           

Download a copy of this information: Physical Disabilities Information

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Significant Ongoing Illnesses

What is a Significant Ongoing Illness?

Some students will have long term or permanent medical conditions, which may have an impact on their studies. There are many examples including diabetes, ME, haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis, asthma, heart/kidney/liver disorders and other chronic conditions.  There are a huge number of conditions and disabilities which come under this category; two examples of significant ongoing illnesses are included below – Diabetes Type-1 and Cystic Fibrosis.

Diabetes Type-1

Diabetes affects about 1/200 of the population. People with diabetes do not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control their blood sugar level. This can be treated with diet, exercise and often, injections allowing the person to lead a regular active life, although some people are prone to variations in mood and concentration. The condition can lead to other complications such as visual impairment, and if it is not stabilised a student may require time to adjust to a changing lifestyle.

On rare occasions someone with diabetes can suffer from low blood sugar levels. The person becomes drowsy and confused and if left this can lead to unconsciousness. If the person suffers from low blood sugar levels he/she should immediately eat some sugar or glucose. If he/she becomes unconscious emergency help is needed.

Students with Diabetes Type-1 may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • The effects of all the conditions mentioned above are likely to be light in some students and very great on others. This will depend on the student's age and circumstances and often, levels of stress.
  • Stamina is most affected. This has implications for completing assignments on time as well as examination performance.
  • People with some of these conditions may also face considerable prejudice from those around them and this again means that they may not disclose their condition or needs.
  • Tiredness caused by condition may lead to difficulties in note-taking at lectures.

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • If a student has variable stamina or is affected by stress, arrangements need to be sorted out in advance to accommodate this.
  • Some students may need a place of privacy to take medication including injections. Medical services should be contacted if a student suffers a 'Hypo'.

Cystic Fibrosis

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited genetic disease. The defective gene predominately affects the lungs, pancreas and sweat glands. Modern treatment (antibiotics, physiotherapy, exercise, diet, etc.) has enhanced the life experience of people with Cystic Fibrosis. Heart-lung transplant techniques are also improving and offer real hope for long-term benefits. Nevertheless Cystic Fibrosis remains a progressive condition.

People with Cystic Fibrosis may suffer breathlessness or wheezing which can be exacerbated by environmental factors. Lung infections left untreated can cause permanent damage. The digestion is also affected. Enzymes essential for digestion are not secreted by the pancreas and have to be replaced in order that fats, protein, starchy foods are digested.

Students with Cystic Fibrosis may experience one or more of the following difficulties:

  • People with Cystic Fibrosis must pay great attention to their everyday health including a rigorous daily programme of physiotherapy, drug therapy, diet, and enzymes taken with food, vitamins, exercise and regular hospital assessments.
  • Any infection has to be treated urgently. It is important to understand that most people with Cystic Fibrosis can, despite the fact that their illness requires considerable daily management, lead a full and active life. However they are likely to suffer from tiredness, particularly after a bout of infection if they overdo things or if their diet needs regulating.
  • A student with Cystic Fibrosis may find that fitting in studies with health management is very difficult at times. Meeting deadlines and getting to the college regularly may not always be possible.
  • Attendance at field courses, extended visits, etc. could be a source of concern and it is possible that the student with Cystic Fibrosis may prefer not to go. A lot will depend on her/his confidence in coping away from home and the availability of a helper familiar with the physiotherapy regime. Adults with Cystic Fibrosis can sometimes be temperamental in nature due to the fact that they never feel one hundred percent well. They can also become depressed - often at times coinciding with infections.

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • Since the student's time may be even more of a premium than the average student, help with prioritising information will be helpful in keeping up-to-date with studies.
  • Skills, which will help students to study more efficiently, will be a great help and should be developed prior to commencing study and throughout their first year.
  • There may need to be flexibility with assignment deadlines.
  • If tutorial attendance proves to be difficult then special session support in some form will be desirable. This may be critical following a period of infection when the student may have fallen behind and be experiencing considerable fatigue.
  • Understanding, encouraging support from the lecturer/tutor and regular contact throughout the year will be invaluable.

Thanks to our colleagues at UCC for this information.

Download a copy of this information: Significant Ongoing Illness Information

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Speech/Language Difficulties

What is a Speech/Language Difficulty?

Speech/Language Conditions cause difficulties in reading, writing and spelling and such difficulties may intensify in challenging academic situations. Auditory processing and reasoning skills may also be affected. 

Students with Speech/Language Difficulties may experience one or more of the following:

  • Lack of confidence with written / printed word
  • Stress when reading / writing under pressure
  • Difficulty with oral expression when under pressure to convey specific information
  • Misreading questions
  • Difficulty meeting deadlines / organising work
  • Limited vocabulary knowledge
  • Short-term memory difficulties
  • Difficulties processing sequential information
  • Poor handwriting
  • Slower writing speed
  • Lack of coherence in writing
  • Phonetic spellings
  • Lapses in punctuation
  • Remembering and following instructions / directions

What can Lecturing Staff do to support these Students?

  • All lecture/tutorial/lab notes / slides / handouts should ideally be available in an electronic format in advance of the lecture.  This will decrease the amount of writing a student has to do during the lecture and will allow the student to scan the text when using literacy support software.
  • Provide reading lists in advance to facilitate early reading and planning.  Indicate the most important books on a reading list.
  • Provision of chapter outlines or study guides that direct the student to key points in their readings.
  • Provide an overview when introducing a new topic so students know what to expect – highlight the main argument and the key points.
  • Provide a summary at the end of the lecture / topic.
  • Introduce new topics and concepts obviously – clarify new language.
  • Assignment topics should be provided early and students may require extra time to complete assignments.
  • Keep oral instructions concise.
  • Rephrase and repeat information.
  • Be sensitive to possible self-consciousness by the student about speaking or reading aloud in lectures and tutorials.

Written Material

  • Keep writing style clear and concise.
  • Try to use printed text rather than handwritten notes.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid patterned backgrounds.
  • A clear font such as Arial or Comic Sans is easier to read than a serif font such as Times Roman.
  • Don't use too many font styles.
  • Try not to use dense blocks of text – use paragraphs, headings and subheadings, bullet points numbered lists etc.
  • Highlight text by using bold font, rather than underline or italics.
  • Avoid red and green ink as these colours are particularly difficult to read (this will also benefit those students who are red-green colour-blind).
  • Use alternative ways of presenting information as well as text — flow charts, diagrams, graphs etc.

Download a copy of this information: Speech/Language Difficulties Information

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Guidelines for Marking Academic Work

Summary of Guidelines

  • Agree an appropriate level of correction with the student;
  • Correct for content following a defined and written marking scheme
  • Read fast, looking for ideas, understanding and knowledge;
  • If presentation is part of the marking scheme then the percentage for presentation should be indicated separately
  • Identify main difficulty i.e. spelling, grammar, syntax and highlight examples
  • Make constructive comments;
  • Explain your comments straight-forwardly;
  • Write legibly;
  • If you have marked only for content and ideas, say so; use two pens, neither red; use one for content/ideas and the other for structure;
  • Be sensitive, many students with SLD have had bad experiences in both primary and second level education because of a lack of awareness among teaching staff of the specific issues impacting on them in education.

Download Guidelines here: Guidelines for marking written work

Specific Errors to look out for:

  • Word endings left out, e.g. 'ed', 'ing', 's', 'ment', 'ly'
  • Small words omitted especially pronouns ( I, it, a, an, etc.)
  • Phonetic spelling
  • Words that sound the same, but are spelt differently, e.g. there/their/they're

 

General suggestions for lecturers/tutors

Tutors often ask how they can help a student with dyslexia.  Here are a few suggestions.  Some may seem too obvious to mention and others too difficult to implement.  What can be done must depend on the circumstances and the ingenuity of the individual lecturer/tutor.

DO

  • Praise wherever possible
  • Encourage
  • Consider allowing shorter assignments
  • Mark written work on content (not on spelling) where possible
  • Mark an oral response when possible
  • Encourage him/her to sit at the front so he/she can catch your eye
  • Ensure regular and individual tutorial times
  • Give plenty of time to copy from the board or from overhead transparencies etc.
  • Give resume of lecture if possible at the beginning of the lecture Allow the student to record lectures
  • Encourage word processing

 

DO NOT

  • Don't make a student with dyslexia read aloud in public if reluctant
  • Never ridicule
  • Don't correct all mistakes in written work - it is too discouraging
  • Don't refer to his/her problems in public

 

REMEMBER

A student with dyslexia:

  • Tires more quickly - far greater concentration is required
  • May read a passage correctly, yet not get the sense of it
  • May have great difficulty with figures, reading music or anything which entails interpreting symbols
  • May be  inconsistent in performance Experiences a constant nagging uncertainty
  • May not be able to take good notes because he/she cannot listen and write at the same time
  • May have great difficulty finding the place again if he/she looks away from the board or book (as in copying)
  • May work slowly because of his/her difficulties, so is always under pressure of time
  • May be more than usually disorganised Is likely to have difficulties following a string of instructions
  • Is likely to be very creative
  • May be able to 'see' the answer to a problem but find it difficult to explain his/her reasoning

Teaching Students with Disabilities: Guidelines for Academic Staff

 

The DAWN booklet 'Teaching Students with Disabilities: Guidelines for Academic Staff' (acvailable for download below) is intended as a resource for third level academic staff wishing to develop their awareness of disability issues and to improve practice in relation to students with disabilities.

The broad aims of the booklet are to focus academic staff on the individual student rather than on the disability, to develop an understanding of appropriate methods of communication and to create awareness of the need to be proactive in developing a curriculum which is accessible to all students.

Specifically, the booklet looks at disability in the context of higher education in Ireland, the role of Disability Support Services within our colleges, and best practice guidelines for supporting students with disabilities in lectures, tutorials and examinations.

This booklet was a collaboration between DAWN, the professional organisation of Disability Officers in Ireland, AHEAD, the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability, and a number of organisations that advocate on behalf of people with disabilities in Ireland.

Download the DAWN guidelines:  Dawn Guidelines

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