Understanding and Help Students with Special Educational Needs A Guide to Teaching

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Understanding and Help Students with

Special Educational Needs

A Guide to Teaching

Education Department




The Hong Kong education policy aims at helping students with special educational needs integrate into the mainstream as far as possible to receive education with their peers. In addition, remedial and support services are provided to meet students' diversified needs. In recent years, the implementation and development of integrated education have drawn much attention and concern.

With the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance in 1996, the Equal Opportunities Commission formulated the Code of Practice on Education in 2001. The Code provides education establishments and educators with practical guidance on how to comply with the principles of equal opportunities as well as to prevent and eliminate disability discrimination in the education sector. The major issues of the Code include: provision of barrier-free school environment, reasonable arrangements in admission criteria and procedures, curriculum adaptation, teaching strategies, mode of assessment, student discipline, school facilities, etc. to cater for the diverse needs of students.

In September 2000, the Education Commission issued the Education Reform Proposal which also expressed its concern on student differences and varied needs. Emphasis has been placed on understanding their learning difficulties, providing appropriate support and guidance to develop their potential to the full. As such, teachers should understand students' special educational needs and acquire the necessary teaching skills and remedial strategies.

This Guide provides some basic teaching principles, methods and suggestions on how to handle different types of special educational needs, so as to enhance teachers' understanding of these students for early intervention and remedial support. It also aims at encouraging schools to formulate the policy of whole school approach and to cultivate in students positive attitudes in supporting students with special educational needs, to establish a school culture with emphasis on concern and support, equality and integration. Hence, students with special needs may fully develop and




Chapter 1 Introduction 5

Chapter 2 Causes and Nature of Special Educational Needs 7 Chapter 3 Positive Attitudes Towards Students with Special Educational



Chapter 4 Helping Students with Special Educational Needs

4.1 Whole School Approach 11

4.2 General Principles 14

4.3 Teaching Principles 16

4.4 Supplementary Teaching Materials and Resources 18 Chapter 5 Teaching and Remedial Strategies

5.1 Helping Students with Hearing Impairment 20

5.2 Helping Students with Visual Impairment 27

5.3 Helping Students with Physical Handicap 33

5.4 Helping Students with Mental Handicap 38

5.5 Helping Students with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties 43

5.6 Helping Students with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder 45

5.7 Helping Students with Autism 47

5.8 Helping Students with Communication Difficulties 53 5.9 Helping Students with Specific Learning Difficulties in Reading and



5.10 Helping Gifted Students 63

Chapter 6 Liaison with Specialists, School Personnel, Parents and the Community


Chapter 7 Conclusion 71


References 78 Appendix 1 Examples of Remarkable Success of Handicapped Persons 79

Appendix 2 Supplementary Teaching Materials and Resources 84

Appendix 3 Related Web Sites on Special Education 88

Appendix 4 Other Reference Books 97


Chapter One Introduction

1.1 The White Paper on Rehabilitation - Integrating the Disabled into the Community: A United Effort (1977) has formulated the policy on rehabilitation and raised increasing concern of the public about the disabled. Since then, more opportunities have been provided for students with special educational needs to integrate into the mainstream schools. People have also recognized the need and value of integrating such students into the regular classrooms.

1.2 The UNESCO World Conference on Special Needs Education was held in June 1994 in Salamanca, Spain. It called upon governments and the community to endorse integration in the schooling system and to support the development of special education as an integral part of all educational programmes.

1.3 In 1995, the Hong Kong Government issued the White Paper on Rehabilitation - Equal Opportunities and Full Participation: A Better Tomorrow for All and reaffirmed the policy of integration. In addition, the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, in force since 1996, safeguards equal opportunities for the disabled in various aspects, including education.

1.4 In September 1997, the Education Department launched a two-year pilot project on integration to explore an effective mode of school-based support for students with special educational needs. Participating schools adopted a whole school approach to provide an accommodating learning environment for students with special needs. The results are encouraging. The Department therefore continues to encourage schools to adopt the whole school approach for integration and provide professional support to enhance teachers' knowledge and skills in teaching and guidance.

1.5 In September 2000, the Education Commission advocated in its Report on Learning for Life, Learning through Life - Reform Proposals for the Education System in Hong Kong, that "we should not give up on any single student".

Appropriate guidance should be given to students with diverse abilities and


learning needs (including those with learning disabilities or difficulties) to help them to learn effectively.

1.6 The Disability Discrimination Ordinance - Code of Practice on Education, formulated by the Equal Opportunities Commission came into effect in July 2001. The Government, all educational establishments, teachers and other education professionals and school personnel are required to comply with the Ordinance and the Code. They should be aware of their roles and responsibilities to ensure equal opportunities in education for students with special educational needs.

1.7 School administrators and teachers play a key role in establishing an accommodating learning environment. Schools may adopt a whole school approach and promote home-school co-operation to instil in the students an awareness of individual differences, and a positive attitude towards their peers with special needs. Only through mutual understanding and support, and collaborative and interactive peer relationship will equality and integration be accomplished in the school.

1.8 Teachers should take every opportunity to attend seminars and training courses on special education to get a better understanding of the students’ special needs and learning characteristics, and to acquire the teaching and guidance skills in helping these students to integrate into the school life for pleasurable and effective learning.

Equal Participation Peer Collaboration


Chapter Two

Causes and Nature of Special Educational Needs

2.1 Students with special educational needs are, generally speaking, those who need special educational support because they have learning difficulties in one way or other. The major types of special educational needs include:

• hearing impairment

• visual impairment

• physical handicap

• mental handicap

• emotional and behavioural difficulties

• attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder

• autism

• communication difficulties

• specific learning difficulties in reading and writing

• gifted

2.2 Different causes may account for a student’s disabilities or special educational needs. Some are inborn or hereditary, others are the result of an accident or illness.

2.3 One of these causes is brain damage. Brain cells may be born defective, or damaged to such an extent that the individual’s intellectual, motor or sensory functions are impaired. Brain damage may occur at any stage of development as a result of genetic factors, effects of drugs, infectious diseases, or injuries, etc.

2.4 There are also environmental causes. Students with behavioural and emotional problems, or without motivation in learning, etc. are mostly related to environmental factors. An unstimulating and deprived environment may have constraints on intellectual development. Yet a stimulating environment will normally be conducive to its development.


2.5 Students with average abilities may have specific learning difficulties in reading and writing. They are considered to have special educational needs.

2.6 Some gifted students may also have special educational needs. They will lose their interest in learning if these needs are neglected. Only through provision of special learning programmes will their potential be developed to the full.

2.7 Some of the students with special educational needs are in a way ‘handicapped’

in their daily life, at home or in school. However, the degree of disabilities varies considerably: from the mildly handicapped with very little daily functions affected to the multi- or severely handicapped with almost every facet of the person’s life affected.

2.8 Students with similar disabilities may react differently in similar situations and adopt different attitudes towards life. Their family life, daily living experience, and ability to adjust to the environment and their disabilities will affect their attitudes in handling problems. However, with necessary support, they can also engage in learning, pursuing hobbies and making friends.

Boost Self-esteem Unlock Potentials


Chapter Three

Positive Attitudes towards Students with Special Educational Needs

3.1 It is important to recognize and accommodate individual differences in establishing an inclusive community. Teachers should accept all students, identify their individual educational needs, and develop mutual understanding and acceptance among students.

3.2 For students with special educational needs, teachers should focus on what they can do instead of what they cannot. At the same time, other students should be made to realize that they also have limitations, as their peers with special needs.

For instance, we may feel helpless when trying to communicate with someone who cannot understand our language. Therefore, students need to encourage and support each other in school learning and personal development.

3.3 If students with special educational needs are enrolled in a regular class, teachers should tell the other students not only about their disabilities but their interests, hobbies and talents. This will let them know about the uniqueness of a person’s character and liking, and the strengths and weaknesses of different students.

3.4 Teachers can take different approaches in learning and communication to encourage students’ active participation. Apart from the formal curriculum, civic education programmes and community services will also help students develop a positive attitude towards their peers with special needs.

(1) Topics on people with special needs are included in the formal curricula at primary and secondary levels, and in the optional curricula at the senior secondary levels. Teachers can promote acceptance of people with special needs, foster the value of care and concern, equality and integration through teaching of these topics 1.


(2) Teachers may introduce anecdotes of successful handicapped persons in relevant topics to heighten students' interest in learning. This will help them understand the potentials and achievements of the handicapped, and inspire them to be strong and persistent (Please refer to Appendix 1).

(3) Teachers may help students establish a positive attitude towards people with special needs through extra-curricular activities. With appropriate arrangements, students with special educational needs can obtain a sense of achievement through participation.

(4) Students should be encouraged to pair up with their peers with special needs in planning and participating extra-curricular activities, such as the Lion’s Sister Schools Scheme, the Community Youth Club, Hong Kong Award for Young People and Summer Youth Programme, etc.

(5) When designing theme-based activities, debates, drama competitions, etc., teachers should provide different roles for students with diverse abilities so that everyone can have equal opportunity to participate. This will improve understanding and establish good rapport among students.

(6) Through joint-school activities with special schools, visits to the disabled persons, and participation in related exhibitions, film shows and performances, students can enhance their understanding of, and concern for the disabled.

(7) Teachers may arrange for students to participate in inter-school activities and competitions to enhance their communication with the disabled.

Students may also participate in activities organized by government departments and non-governmental organizations, e.g. the commemorative activities of the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Recognize Differences Forge Mutual Respect

Public Affairs in Secondary 4 and 5. Community building - the concern for minority groups (such as the physically and


Chapter Four

Helping Students with Special Educational Needs 4.1 Whole School Approach

(1) Rationale

a. The aim of education is to help students to attain whole-person development, cultivate positive attitudes and develop life-long learning capacities. The rationale of the whole school approach is to provide learning opportunities for students in every aspect of their school life.

Students with special educational needs should also have equal opportunities to participate actively in school, to learn in collaboration with their peers, and to look for further improvement.

b. The whole school approach will enhance team spirit among teachers, and encourage other school personnel to share responsibilities in looking after students’ individual differences and special needs. With the acceptance and concern from the school and their peers, and the support from other parents, students with special needs will have a stronger sense of belonging and a better environment for effective learning.

(2) Participants

a. By “Whole School Approach”, we mean that all school personnel, including the school head, teachers, student guidance teacher / officer, non-teaching staff, students and parents, are willing to accept students with special needs. Hence, a harmonious environment with a caring, supportive and inclusive school culture can be established.

b. The school head and other administrative staff are leading personnel to promote whole school approach activities. They have to work closely with other personnel of the school in formulating a whole school


approach policy, and developing a teamwork model to cater for students’ special needs.

c. Teachers should identify students with special educational needs as early as possible to find out their learning difficulties and needs.

Adopting various strategies, such as collaborative teaching, curriculum adaptation, teaching techniques and assessment methods, assistive technology and cooperative learning, teachers can provide appropriate support for them.

d. The student guidance teacher / officer and school social worker can organize tailor-made activities to enhance collaboration, self-management, and social, communicative and problem-solving skills to meet the needs of the students.

e. Through cooperative learning, Big Brother and Big Sister Scheme, peer support or sharing groups, students can learn to interact with their counterparts who have special educational needs. Peer interaction will also facilitate students’ learning and personal development.

f. By participating in school activities, parents can understand the school policy in dealing with student diversity (including learning difficulties and special educational needs). With support from parents, the vision of home-school cooperation, integration and mutual support can be realized. Hence, the role and participation of parents are very important.

(3) Implementation Strategies

a. The whole school approach is based on a common understanding among all members of the school. To help students with special educational needs, the first step is to understand them properly. In planning strategies, schools can make good use of available resources and possible opportunities to promote whole school approach in


learning. This will also help to create a culture of equal opportunity and inclusive learning environment.

b. The school head may propose specific policies and measures in respect of monitoring and evaluation when setting school objectives and development plans. For example, whether special needs of students are taken care of in curriculum planning or activity arrangement may be included in the annual report of the school.

c. Schools should provide professional training for all staff to enhance their understanding of students with special educational needs and to equip them with effective teaching skills. For example, schools can organize talks, seminars and staff development day, and encourage teachers to attend relevant training courses. In addition, staff members can share their experience, develop partnership and enhance mutual support through informal communication.

d. Different communication channels, such as regular meetings, sharing sessions, case conferences and opinion surveys, can be used to provide staff with more collaboration and sharing opportunities so as to enhance their understanding of students. Schools can also devise more thorough plans to support students with special needs through experience sharing.


4.2 General Principles

(1) Students with special educational needs should be treated the same as their peers. Don't try to neglect them or regard them as someone to be ashamed of. It is important to know that disabilities may be caused by diseases, but the disability itself is not a disease and is therefore not contagious.

(2) Like other students, students with special educational needs have different interest and potential. Teachers should help them understand their own abilities and strengths, set their goals and build up confidence.

Furthermore, teachers should also provide them with suitable opportunities for development.

(3) Students with special educational needs should be praised whenever they have achieved something within their capability. One needs to understand that the difficulties they encounter may stem from society’s attitudes and environmental barriers rather than their own disabilities.

(4) The same attitude should be taken towards students with special educational needs and their peers. Over-compassion and over-protection would hinder their development. If necessary, teachers should correct them as they need to know the standards of accepted behaviour.

(5) Students with special educational needs may take a longer time in communication and doing things. Hence, we should be considerate and supportive and let them participate in assessment or learning activities at their own pace.

(6) Appropriate guidance and support should be given to students based upon their individual special educational needs. For example, it is not necessary to use single words to talk to students in wheelchairs if they do not have difficulties in communication.


(7) Methods of teaching and assessment should be applied flexibly to enhance participation and effectiveness of learning of students with special educational needs.

(8) Teachers should collaborate with each other in devising effective teaching and guidance strategies for students with special educational needs.

(9) Schools should communicate more frequently with parents to enhance their understanding and acceptance of students with special educational needs.

(10) Normally, students with special educational needs would prefer to live independently like other people. Hence, they may decline offers to help.

They may also refrain from asking for help even when in need. So be patient and compassionate when offering them help. Don’t give up easily, but at the same time be sensitive to their feelings and preferences.


4.3 Teaching Principles

(1) How teachers behave and act will have a great impact on the value and attitude of students. Since students often imitate the behaviour of adults, teachers should always set a good example to them.

(2) Students with special educational needs may have different characters, interests and abilities. Teachers can help students to understand and accept each other through suitable seating arrangements, classroom learning and extra-curricular activities.

(3) Primary school teachers can help students develop positive attitudes towards disabled persons through project work, role-play, special TV programmes, small group learning and discussion. Secondary school teachers can enhance students’ knowledge and understanding of disabled persons through different teaching approaches and activities, such as educational visits, community services or joint functions with special schools.

(4) Cooperative learning provides opportunities for students with special educational needs to achieve the learning targets with their peers.

Teachers can encourage students to express their views on disabled persons. For instance, students can express their ideas and feelings through activities such as drawing, handicraft, songs, dramas, interviews, speeches, debates, project work, or writing, etc. They can also discuss and share their views in lessons.

(5) If students with special educational needs require extra tuition, teachers may set up a study group where they can learn with their peers, or arrange individual guidance sessions for them. If they have difficulty in observing classroom disciplines, teachers should design a programme for them to rectify their behaviour.

(6) All students should be treated equally. Teachers should not focus their attention only on students with special educational needs. However,


given the diversity of students, different standards and expectations can be applied in regard to their individual needs.

(7) Teachers may apply various means to cater for individual differences of students and to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning. This will help students understand that everyone is unique, and special educational needs are only features of individual differences.


4.4 Supplementary Teaching Materials and Resources

(1) The Education Department has published a number of leaflets and pamphlets to help teachers and parents acquire a better understanding of students with special educational needs and some basic guidance principles (Please refer to Appendix 2).

(2) The Education Department, in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee and the then Health and Welfare Branch, produced two teaching packages1 to promote understanding and acceptance of disabled persons. These two packages, with the theme “Equal Opportunities and Full Participation: A Better Tomorrow for All”, were delivered to all primary and secondary schools as teaching kits for public education on rehabilitation in 1997. Furthermore, the teaching kit on integrated education, produced by the Education Department in 1999, also suggests various activities to help students develop positive attitudes and skills to communicate with their classmates with disabilities.

(3) Under the sponsorship of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for the Mentally Handicapped, a VCD of the TV Documentary Series “Life is Sparkling” was produced by the Radio Television Hong Kong and the Health and Welfare Bureau. Copies of the VCD were distributed to all schools in early 2001. It tells the stories of five remarkable disabled persons. Teachers can, based on these genuine stories and supplemented with effective learning activities, illustrate to the students the abilities of these disabled persons and their positive attitude towards life.

(4) Teachers may also use relevant ETV programmes and special TV programmes produced by the Education Department, the Social Welfare Department or the Radio Television Hong Kong, such as “Treat Them Equal, Treat Them Right”, “IT File II: The Challenge Ahead Digital Divide” and “Hong Kong Connection: My Brother is an Angel - Lou

1 Package 1 comprises winning entries of the inter-school competitions organized by the Education Department to promote public education on rehabilitation in 1994-96. The package also includes some suggested activities for teachers.

Package 2 is a folder with worksheets and games related to the video "Under the Same Sky" produced by the Labour


Zheng”, to help students understand the disabled persons and their classmates with special needs.

(5) The “Kids on the Block” puppet show, jointly organized by the Society for the Relief of Disabled Children and the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, is an educational programme designed to help students understand and accept children suffered from illnesses or with physical or mental disabilities. Schools may invite performance of the show for their students2.

(6) “Commitment for Love” is a guidebook published by the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation to encourage parents of disabled children to accept their children with courage and commitment. It can also serve as a reference book for teachers to enhance their understanding and acceptance of students with special educational needs.

(7) Various publications on people with disabilities are also available for reference at the ReHabAid Centre3 of the Hospital Authority.

(8) Resources mentioned above can be used in various teaching activities, such as story-telling, painting, discussions, debates, role-play, dramas, educational visits, project work, reflection and experience sharing, etc., to help students develop positive attitudes towards disabled persons and their peers with special needs.

Whole School Approach to Participate Integrate and Cooperate

2 The Kids on the Block presents a series of puppetry, including “Learning Disabilities”, “Deafness”, “Mental Disability” and “The Sibling of Disabled Child”, etc. More information is available at the web site (http://www.



Chapter Five

Teaching and Remedial Strategies

Students with special educational needs have learning differences in terms of their interest, abilities, styles and experiences, like their peers. Teachers have to understand their learning characteristics and adopt various models of teaching, remedial strategies and assessment policy to reinforce their participation, and enhance learning effectiveness. The following sections provide some basic teaching principles, teaching and remedial strategies for dealing with the major types of special educational needs.

Schools may refer to these principles and suggestions in developing their school-based teaching and supporting strategies to cater for individual differences and diverse needs of the students.

5.1 Helping Students with Hearing Impairment

The presence of a hearing impairment would have some impact on the cognitive, speech and social development of a growing child. Some hearing impairments are hereditary, others are acquired as a result of an illness, accident, drugs or aging. A hearing impairment can be categorized into mild, moderate, moderately-severe, severe and profound, which may have different effects on the learning of hearing-impaired students.

Besides the degree of hearing impairment, the age of the onset of hearing impairment, the age when the student starts to wear the hearing aids and to receive auditory and speech training will also affect the speech and language development as well as his/her learning ability.

Therefore, it is crucial for teachers to understand fully the characteristics and the educational needs of hearing-impaired students so that they can enjoy learning and develop to their full potential.

(1) Learning Characteristics of Hearing-impaired Students

a. Hearing-impaired students are, in general, weaker in speech reception.

Besides the wearing of hearing aids, they also require speech reading to


help them understand our speech; they may need more prompts to help them follow teachers’ instructions, group and classroom discussions.

b. They may have difficulties in reading and understanding abstract terms, complicated sentences and unfamiliar concepts. This may affect their abilities in comprehension, reading and writing if early guidance is not available.

c. With regard to their cognitive development, their limited language abilities may affect their abstract thinking and analytical power.

Therefore, training on thinking skills is essential for them.

d. Some hearing-impaired students may have poor pronunciation when compared with their normal hearing counterparts. Sometimes they may express themselves with inappropriate words, incomplete or unclear sentences, causing hindrance in their ability to communicate. With encouragement and appropriate training, their communication ability and confidence in social interaction can be enhanced gradually.

(2) General Principles

a. Teachers should try to provide an ideal listening environment for hearing-impaired students, encourage them to use their hearing aids and assistive listening devices, and maximize their use of residual hearing. This will improve their speech reception and enhance their learning.

b. The process of cognitive development of hearing-impaired students is similar to that of ordinary students. Basically, they are able to follow the mainstream curriculum. However, appropriate adaptation to the curriculum materials and teaching methods of some subjects, e.g.

dictation, listening, oral, music, etc. should be made to meet their specific learning needs, so as to minimize their difficulties in learning.

c. If possible, teachers should help their colleagues and students


through experience sharing, seminars or various school-based activities, so that they can give positive support to the integrators in school.

(3) Strategies for Helping Students with Special Educational Needs

a. Creating a conducive listening environment

• It is preferable to place the hearing-impaired student in the middle of the second or third row in class when making seating arrangements.

• Teachers should always encourage hearing-impaired students to wear their hearing aids, and remind them to bring along spare batteries so that optimum amplification can always be obtained.

• In recent years, more severely and profoundly hearing-impaired students have cochlear implants. Cochlear implant is an advanced electronic device, it converts the sound waves received to electrical signals which directly stimulate the nerve fibres within the cochlear. Most of the students with cochlear implants show much improvement in speech reception. However, similar to hearing aids, it cannot restore their hearing. They need long-term training to develop their abilities in sound reception as well as speech and communication.

• Some of the students have to use the FM System or other amplification equipment to reduce the adverse effects caused by the distance between the student and the teacher, surrounding noises and reverberation in the classroom. Teachers should encourage the students to use the system during lessons to improve their ability in listening and communication.


b. Using effective communication skills

• Teachers should speak to the class from a position with the light source on their face and try not to move around when talking.

Hearing-impaired students need to see the lip movements, facial expressions and gestures of the speakers to help them understand the speech.

• Always maintain eye contact with hearing-impaired students and if necessary, draw their attention with a tap on their shoulders, a wave of hand or other gestures.

• Speak clearly, naturally and at a normal pace. Exaggeration of lip movements should be avoided.

• Do not speak aloud intentionally, because loud sound will be distorted after amplification through the hearing aids.

• Rephrase your statement rather than keep repeating a question or a message if the students do not appear to understand it. Some severely and profoundly hearing-impaired students may need physical prompts or the writing of key words to facilitate better communication.

c. Making suitable adaptations to teaching strategies

• Some hearing-impaired students may be reluctant to read aloud or ask questions because of low confidence and defective speech.

Teachers should create an accepting atmosphere and encourage them to participate in classroom activities.

• When hearing-impaired students try to answer questions, no matter the answer is correct or not, teachers should give them positive feedback immediately to reinforce their motivation to learn.


• Teachers can nominate helpful and responsible students to support their hearing-impaired counterparts who may have difficulties in filling homework handbooks, taking notes, assembling after recess or participating in fire drill, etc.

• When a certain topic is changed, teachers can give appropriate clues to help the hearing-impaired students follow the lesson more closely.

• Teachers can use real objects, teaching aids, tables and charts, etc.

to facilitate learning. They can also write down main points on the blackboard to reduce students' difficulty in understanding the lessons. Teachers should avoid blackboard writing while speaking, as this would create difficulty in speech reading.

• Teachers can help hearing-impaired students develop their speech and communication skills through group activities, role-playing and games.

• Hearing impairment limits the students’ listening experience and exposure to speech. Teachers should encourage students to practise more on reading and writing and help them develop respective skills, gradually strengthen their speech and language abilities.

• Teachers can teach students effective learning skills such as phonics, writing skills, use of dictionaries, note-taking techniques and examination skills, etc., so as to reduce their learning difficulties.

• Teachers should communicate frequently with parents, provide them with progress of work in class, in order to facilitate preparation before lessons and revision at home.


• Teachers can give guidance to the students after lessons whenever necessary, or with the assistance of senior-form students, provide them remedial support.

(4) Assessment for Hearing-impaired Students

a. Hearing-impaired students may have special difficulties in some hearing-related subjects like listening comprehension, dictation, oral, music and Putonghua. Having regard to their hearing abilities, teachers can adapt classroom activities and make accommodation in internal assessments when necessary.

b. Provide special arrangements for hearing-impaired students in internal assessments according to the severity of their hearing impairment.

Encourage them to participate in the assessments as far as possible. If necessary, teachers can make adaptations, special arrangements or exemptions. It is essential to employ different assessment methods skilfully and allow the students to display their competencies.

c. In general, no special adaptations are required for students with mild and moderate hearing impairment, but they must sit near the teacher or the sound source. For students with a more severe and profound hearing impairment, adaptations or exemptions should be considered.

d. When making special announcements during examinations, the invigilator should write down the main points on the blackboard and make sure that the hearing-impaired students understand the arrangements thoroughly.

e. Encourage hearing-impaired students to wear their hearing aids during assessments, and if necessary, use the FM System or other amplification equipment to minimize communication barriers.


f. Teachers should discuss with parents the special examination arrangements for their children, so as to meet the needs of individual students.

g. Teachers can contact responsible inspectors when they encounter difficulties in making special arrangements for the assessment of hearing-impaired students.

Provide Support Improve Communication


5.2 Helping Students with Visual Impairment

Students with visual impairment include those who are totally blind and those with low vision. Low vision varies in degree from mild, moderate, to severe, and hinders students' learning.

(1) Learning Characteristics of Students with Visual Impairment

a. The learning abilities of visually impaired students, including listening, tactility, communication, memory, analytical power and logical reasoning, etc. are in general much the same as those of their peers. For instance, they can acquire concepts like shapes and spatial concepts, but learn in a different way.

b. These students will adopt appropriate methods, approaches and media, including braille books, audio tapes, magnifiers, computers and other aids, to help them in learning. Some students with low vision can overcome their visual impairment by using aids such as magnifiers and telescopes.

c. Students with visual impairment will get tired easily because greater concentrate is needed in comprehending instructions or reading braille in lessons. In addition, they may have psychological obstacles and may be reluctant to ask for help. Teachers and classmates should understand their needs and consult them before offering help.

d. Like other students, each visually impaired student may be different in character. Their motivation and ability to learn, and their life and communication skills may also be different. Teachers will be in a better position to help students develop positive attitudes and potentials if they understand individual students' characteristics and learning styles.


(2) General Principles

a. Communication

• To communicate with the visually impaired students, the most important thing is mutual respect. They should not be treated differently. Teachers should help them integrate into the school community, so that they can participate in school activities, give suggestions and provide assistance to others as any other members of the community.

• Teachers should speak to these students in a normal tone. Call their names to start a conversation. Let them know when you want to leave or end up the conversation.

b. Teaching and Learning

• Teachers should identify students' individual differences and varied needs to provide them in learning, and encourage them to participate actively in school activities. For those who refuse to take part, teachers need to find out the cause and help them overcome their psychological barriers.

• Apart from the general subjects, students with visual impairment can also attend lessons on Handicraft, Art and Design and Physical Education. Teachers may adjust the teaching programmes to accommodate their needs.

• As these students have to rely very much on listening to acquire information, teachers should give verbal explanations and clear instructions at an appropriate tempo whenever possible in classroom teaching and demonstration of experiments, so as to enhance students' understanding and learning.

• On seating arrangements, teachers should provide a conducive listening environment and sufficient space to accommodate the


learning aids, such as large print textbooks, tape recorders, three-dimensional diagrams, closed circuit television (CCTV) or computers.

• Appropriate distance should be maintained between the seat and the blackboard, for example, close to the teacher's desk, so that they can see the blackboard and teacher’s demonstrations clearly.

If it is necessary for them to be seated at the back, they should be allowed to move to the front to read the blackboard or use telescopes.

• Sensitivity to light intensity varies individually. Glare is generally not acceptable to most students with visual impairment.

Appropriate distance should be maintained between the seat and the window so that sunlight will not fall directly on the student.

• If the visually impaired students have hearing impairment or other disabilities, learning will be much more difficult. Teachers may arrange individual or peer tutoring for them, and assign classmates sitting next to them, so as to help them participate in classroom activities, such as copying, or handling emergencies.

• Avoid overprotecting these students when helping them to overcome learning difficulties. Appropriate learning and training opportunities will help them to become more independent and to develop problem-solving skills.

c. Life Skills

• Students with visual impairment will have difficulties in adjusting themselves to a complicated environment and a proper directional or positional orientation. They may also be less alert to hazardous situations. When helping these students to move about, teachers should not grab their arms. Instead, they should be allowed to hold


their teacher’s arm and follow by feeling the movement of his/her body.

• Use specific instructions such as “left” or “right” rather than “this side” or “that side”. Tell them of any uneven ground surface or varied physical environment. For example, tell them "Here's a step".

• Lead them to the back of the chairs or the seats so that they will know where to sit and can be seated on their own. Their belongings should be placed in a designated area convenient for them to fetch. Let them know before any objects are moved away.

• In group activities, teachers may encourage these students to choose their partners or assign classmates to pair them up.

Participation in such activities enables them to make more friends and widen their social circle.

• Like their peers, students with visual impairment also like watching television, which is itself a means to understand the world today and to get daily news and information. Suitable programmes will enhance their understanding and communication with the community.


(3) Teaching Strategies

a. When designing teaching materials and learning activities, attention should be given to the learning abilities and styles of the students with visual impairment. If necessary, appropriate adjustments or special arrangements should be provided in teaching and learning as well as assessment to cater for individual differences.

b. Integrate relevant experiences into the teaching programme by adopting flexibly various teaching methods such as multi-sensory approach, experiments, visits, tactile manipulation or hands-on experience. Transform abstract terms into concrete experience so as to consolidate their understanding of subjects and concepts.

c. Learning through tactile perception is crucial to students with visual impairment. Teachers may use colourful pictures, simple diagrams and word cards in large print, raised pictures, three-dimensional diagrams, braille maps, real objects, specimens, models, etc. to facilitate teaching and learning.

d. Using tactile aids with contrasting colours to support teaching will facilitate students' participation in learning and reinforce the use of residual vision.

e. Teaching materials and blackboard writing should be prepared in large print. It is preferable to have words printed in black against a white background. Teachers should supplement the presentation of teaching materials with verbal explanations or audio tapes. Using tactile aids (such as three-dimensional diagrams and braille) with individual tutoring will help these students learn together with their peers.

f. Encourage students to use aids and equipment to enhance their interest and performance in learning. These aids include braillers, tape recorders, magnifiers or CCTV, computer with voice synthesizers and braille display, etc.


g. Apply continuous assessments. Observe students' participation in classroom learning, use questioning to assess their comprehension ability and give them feedback for improvement.

h. In academic assessment, the standard expected of students with visual impairment should in general be the same as that of other students. The arrangements of the assessment, such as examination papers, time allocation, use of aids, etc., should, however, be adjusted to accommodate their special needs.

Devise Multi-sensory Teaching Enrich Learning Experience


5.3 Helping Students with Physical Handicap

Physically handicapped students include those with crippling conditions or chronic health problems. Some may have other disabilities such as problems in hearing, vision, speech, motor coordination as well as intellectual functioning.

Physical handicap ranges from mild to severe and can affect one's movement, self-care or learning.

(1) Implications of Students' Disabilities on Learning

a. Learning Abilities

• Students with disabilities in their hands will write at a lower speed with fairly illegible handwriting owing to their physical constraints.

• The power to control head movement is generally weak among students with physical handicap. The sitting posture and the head control may affect their abilities in perceiving things, having eye contacts and thus acquiring knowledge.

• Students with physical handicap are generally weak in the concept of "mid-line". They are subconsciously reluctant to use their weaker hands and legs.

• Owing to the restraints in movement, they have fewer experiences with the verbs and spatial concepts of certain words in connection with motion and space. Therefore, they are less competent to understand and acquire the meaning of the related words.

b. Speech and Hearing Abilities

Some of the students with physical handicap may not be able to speak while some not able to hear within a certain range of frequencies. The handicap may affect their learning in the classroom.


c. Attention Span

• These students generally require greater strength to maintain or improve their posture. It is therefore difficult for them to focus their attention on teachers' instructions and class activities.

• Students with brain damages may have problems in concentration and therefore are easily distracted by objects and sounds in the surroundings. They are unable to work persistently and are easily irritable and emotional. This will affect their self-confidence and self-image.

d. Emotional Problems

• In the learning process and daily experience, these students have to spend a lot of strength and energy to overcome their physical disabilities. Some may become timid, uncooperative and emotional because of the recurrence of these difficulties and failure.

• Owing to the lack of motivation and self-confidence, they may try to evade taking part in learning, social or personal activities so as to avoid further failure. All these emotional problems will affect their performance in class.

(2) General Principles

a. Teachers should avoid showing too much sympathy or care for the physically handicapped because this may hurt their self-esteem.

b. Do not assume that all physically handicapped students have mental handicap as well. In fact, some may have average or above average intellectual ability.

c. Teachers may encourage students to help each other to cater for their special needs. For example, they may assist in carrying heavy objects,


filling in student handbooks, escorting their peers with special needs to use the elevator so as to establish an inclusive culture.

d. After consulting the doctors, teachers may make arrangement for these students to participate in physical or extracurricular activities as far as possible, so as to provide opportunities to build up their physical strength and reinforce their sense of belonging to the school. If there is no specific advice from the doctors, the school should consult students and their parents to consider the scope or level of participation.

e. Arrange students who are impaired in locomotion to sit next to the entrance of the classroom, and be aware of providing sufficient space for them to move about or place their walking aids, such as wheelchairs and crutches.

f. Allow ample time for those who cannot move around swiftly from one classroom to another between lessons.

g. Allow students with difficulties in using their hands for fine motor activities to make appropriate modifications to their school uniforms.

For instance, replacing the buttons and zips on trousers with elastic bands and hook-and-loop fasteners, etc.

h. If necessary, provide lockers to these students and ensure that the lockers are at a level within their reach.

i. Places such as staircases and toilets should be fitted with handrails.

For the height and the details of the handrails, school may seek advice from the professionals (such as occupational therapists).

j. Teachers should liaise regularly with other professionals to understand students' physical disabilities and make modifications to curriculum design or school facilities to meet their special needs.


(3) Remedial Teaching Strategies

Teachers should understand the various difficulties encountered by individual students in their learning, social and personal activities and provide them with appropriate assistance, care and guidance.

a. Break down the curriculum into small parts, each with well-defined teaching targets and learning activities. Small step teaching will help students grasp the main points easily and achieve the learning target within a short time. During the learning process, a number of learning targets will continuously pose new challenges to students. They will be more attentive in their learning. In addition, successful experiences will also encourage them to pursue their studies actively.

b. When teaching abstract concepts, teachers should demonstrate and explain in detail, and devise learning activities to provide students with first hand experience. If the students' ability of movement is limited, teachers should arrange them to take part in the activities as appropriate. This will help to enhance their interest and understanding in learning.

c. Teachers may display or place the teaching aids in such a position that students have to move their heads to see the aids. This will enable them to practise more in controlling head movement. For example, the teacher may need to put the teaching aids in a higher position to encourage students to lift their heads more often.

d. Provide suitable writing tools such as computers, writing pads with large grids, etc. for students with disabilities in their hands. Teachers should also adjust the amount of homework and the assessment criteria to cater for students' learning abilities. If necessary, teachers should also adjust the mode and time allocation for the tests and examinations taken by students.


e. Encourage students to use both hands in class work and learning activities. This will enable them to exercise their weaker hands and legs, thus reinforcing their concept of mid-line.

f. For the physically handicapped students with hearing impairment, teachers should speak in front of them in the light to facilitate their understanding of the message.

g. If students have speech impairment, teachers should communicate with them in a way appropriate to their language ability and give them ample and diverse instructions.

h. Pay attention to students' performance and strengths, provide chances and feedback for further development. For example, recognize their effort and achievements by giving compliments or encouragement so that students can realize their abilities and feel that they are accepted.

This will increase their confidence in learning and sense of achievement.

i. By laying down clear criteria for award and punishment, creating an environment conducive to learning, etc., teachers can help students know exactly the behaviour and learning performance expected of them.

Address Individual Needs Develop Multiple Intelligences


5.4 Helping Students with Mental Handicap

The intellectual development of students with mental handicaps lags significantly behind average students. They cannot attain the full mental capacity of normal adults even when they grow up. They usually show inadequacy in adaptive behaviour like self-care, communication and social relationship, etc. To help these students learn effectively, we should first understand their learning characteristics before working out suitable strategies.

(1) Learning Characteristics

a. Thinking

Since their thinking ability is less mature than others, they will have difficulty in generalization, classification, association, abstract thinking and application. Due to their lack of flexibility, they always stick to using old ways to solve problems and cannot flexibly apply their knowledge and skills to daily life. They, therefore, may be in a flutter when facing new things and situations.

b. Memory

As these students are less competent in processing information and usually store information by rote memorization, their memory capacity is limited and the memorization process is slow. They have to rehearse repeatedly in order to remember. Also, since their comprehension is relatively weak, they usually memorize concrete information. Systematic retrieval and application of information is difficult for them.

c. Attention

Owing to their weakness in processing information, they can only focus on a small area of things. They may not even pay attention to


some matters. Hence, they have short attention span, which makes it hard for them to concentrate on learning and be motivated to learn.

d. Perceptual Motor

Their incompetence in perceptual motor skill affects their reception of information from the external environment and aggravates the difficulty they have in cognitive learning, while their slow motor development influences the agile movements of their body and limbs as well as eye-hand coordination.

e. Language

Most of the students with mild mental handicap are slower in language development and have difficulty in comprehension and expression.

The vocabulary and sentence structure they use are limited and simple.

They don't often follow grammatical rules and may also have problems in articulation.

(2) General Principles of Teaching

a. Teachers should formulate teaching plans which are suitable for the whole class in general while catering for students' individual differences. Teachers may devise individualized educational programmes according to students' learning abilities and progress.

b. The teaching content should increase its degree of difficulty gradually, so that students can make progress according to their abilities and needs. Each learning target could be broken down into a number of small targets to make them easier for students to follow and enhance their sense of achievement.

c. The learning content should be specific and experiential to align with students' thinking ability. Appropriate teaching materials and aids should be used and situational activities (such as those related to daily


life examples) should be conducted to help students understand abstract concepts.

(3) Class Teaching Strategies

a. In devising class activities, teachers should consider the arrangement of teaching procedures, approaches to demonstrations and prompting as well as assessment standards.

b. Instructions given should be simple, specific and consistent, and the language used should be comprehensible to students with mental handicap.

c. Suitable teaching aids such as real objects, models, pictures, video tapes and computer software, etc. as well as clear demonstrations and presentation, should be used to help students learn about the characteristics of various things and discover the connections between different things.

d. Make use of multi-sensory training to help students perceive things by different senses (such as visual, auditory and tactile, etc.), to suit their different learning styles, and to enhance their knowledge, skills, thinking and memory. Such training can also heighten students' interest in learning and maintain their attention.

e. During the teaching process, teachers should observe how students respond. Correct responses should be affirmed, praised and encouraged immediately while incorrect ones should be corrected. If students do not respond as expected, teachers may try different kinds of prompting including verbal, visual and physical prompts, etc. to help them learn. When they demonstrate progress in learning, prompts should be faded out systematically.

f. Always make sure that teaching proceeds at an appropriate pace and the teaching content will not be too difficult. Review and evaluate


teaching methods and effectiveness regularly, and adjust teaching plans accordingly.

g. Effective revision is a good remedy for poor memory. Different and varied activities can be conducted in each lesson to help students revise in order to reinforce their newly acquired knowledge and help them apply such knowledge to other learning areas and daily life.

(4) Remedial Teaching Strategies

There are several types of teaching approaches commonly used in conducting individual or group remedial teaching, such as task analysis, skills training and multi-sensory teaching. Teachers may combine and integrate these approaches skilfully to help the students to achieve the learning targets. Details of two of the approaches named above are listed below:

a. Task Analysis

y Dvide the learning programme into a sequence of small steps.

y Clearly define the learning elements, performance requirements and yardstick for assessment for each step.

y Divide the task into smaller steps if the student has difficulty in completing a particular task. For students with lower ability, the programme should be divided into even smaller steps which are easier for them to accomplish.

b. Skills Training

y Demonstrate all steps.

y Give appropriate assistance and cues according to the student’s capability, for instance, holding their hands to move, giving


gestural prompts or oral prompts, etc. to help them complete the task..

y Record their performance and give them appropriate appreciation or feedback for rectification.

y Fade out assistance and prompts gradually so as to train them to complete the tasks with their own effort.

Offer Students Chances Guide and Inspire Them to Excel


5.5 Helping Students with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Emotional and behavioural difficulties, in varying degrees, can prevent students from enjoying social and educational experiences at home and in school.

Students with such problems may find it difficult to adjust to the situations of the day. In extreme cases, and if help is not provided appropriately, these students may develop excessively nervous, withdrawn, aggressive or disruptive behaviours.

(1) General Principles

a. Student-centred teaching methods will lessen discipline and management problem. Learning tasks and activities that enlist students' participation in the lesson could help sustain their interest and sense of achievement. Teachers should tailor the curriculum to suit students' diverse needs.

b. Teachers should be amiable and concerned but firm and consistent.

Do not, for fear of being disliked, accept the students' behaviours totally and unconditionally. Help them learn the standards of acceptable behaviour and show your disapproval where necessary.

c. In dealing with their misbehaviours, help students see how such wrong doings might harm themselves and others, and develop appropriate skills in communication with others.

d. In encouraging the students to improve their behaviour (e.g.

implementing the school regulations or any reward scheme), teachers should be fair but flexible. Students may feel stressful if they are evaluated with an absolute standard of conduct. Consider individual differences and needs when setting behavioural goals for students.

(2) Guidance Approaches

a. Teachers may need to spend a little more time talking to the students


them. The feeling being listened to with attention and interest will help them build up a warm and trusting relationship with you.

b. Encourage students to talk about their feelings. Discussion of their feelings and behaviours can shed light on why they behave in such a way and help them understand how his behaviours affect others.

c. Help students build up a positive self-image. They tend to be lacking in confidence, to believe that they are not loved, and to have experienced more failures than successes both socially and educationally. Therefore, teachers should provide opportunities for them to gain the approval of others and to experience a sense of achievement.

d. Leave students alone in a safe environment when they fly into a temper. Teachers should keep calm and allow them time to cool off before attending to their needs or problems.

e. Avoid confrontations with the students as such situations will only breed misunderstanding and aggravate problems.

f. In helping these students to change a specific aspect of behaviour, direct their attention to what they should do instead of what they should not. For example, praise them for being honest instead of punishing them for telling lies.

g. Do not attempt to change their behaviours all in one go. It helps if teachers can make a list of the things they would like the students to learn and put them in order of priority. Begin with one or two things at a time.

Develop New Horizons

Create Space for Growing Minds


5.6 Helping Students with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder

Students with attention deficit have difficulty in concentrating on things even for a short time. They may seem to be restless and daydreaming a great deal and, they may not speak out in defence of themselves. Some may also have hyperactivity disorder. They can become easily distracted by sights and sounds.

Thus they usually have more problems in a group situation than when they are in a one-to-one situation. These students often have difficulty in following directions.

For those with hyperactivity, they go from one activity to another and have trouble with adhering to any one activity. They may talk excessively and would become fidgety. Students with attention deficit may have high level of intelligence and creativity. They do poorly in the classroom. Their short attention span and distractibility make it hard for them to concentrate and complete the tasks.

(1) Teachers should arrange seating for maximum attention. This may require seating at the front of the room or at a quiet corner in the classroom to reduce external stimuli. Try to keep students' desk tops uncluttered.

(2) Make sure they have eye contact when you talk with them. Calling them by their names, using gestures or varying your tone could help maintain their attention. Teachers may ask students to repeat directions to ensure their understanding.

(3) Give clear and specific instructions step by step. Do not give too many instructions at one time and repeat them when required. Teachers must note that the students may often misunderstand what people say.

(4) Give short assignments. Teachers should give assignments one at a time and in small parts.

(5) Alternate desk work with other activities to allow for movement.


(6) Follow up after the students begin a task if necessary.

(7) When correcting papers, state specifically what they have missed and why.

(8) Try to avoid correcting the students in an embarrassing manner. They may not be sensitive to the feelings of others, but they are sensitive to their own.

(9) Teachers should maintain close contact with parents to ensure consistency in management method, and monitor the effect of medication prescribed if necessary.

Facilitate Active Learning Give Appropriate Guidance


5.7 Helping Students with Autism

Autism is a kind of developmental disorder caused by congenital defect that affects the function of the brain. Generally, symptoms can be identified before the age of three. In their daily life, autistic children experience difficulties in three aspects: impairment of social relationships, impairment of social communication and impairment of social adaptive behaviours.

(1) Learning Characteristics of Students with Autism a. Cognitive Ability

Students with autism have difficulty in understanding the interrelations of matters: In general, they do not readily understand the meaning of their life experience. Their world is made up of many independent sessions. They may not be able to link up these sessions to form a meaningful concept and therefore fail to understand the interrelations among the sessions. Once trained, some students can process the information in sequence. However, as it is not easy for them to understand relatively complicated relations, they always have difficulties in cognition.

b. Thinking Ability

• Students with autism find it easier to understand concrete concepts:

Owing to the disorder in some functions of the brain, they may be less competent in processing linguistic symbols and integrating meanings. They can understand concrete concepts and have difficulties in the comprehension of abstract concepts or metaphors. Usually, visual images rather than language can catch their attention.

• Processing piecemeal information: When processing information, these students usually pay attention to part of the information.

They may not be able to understand the picture as a whole.


• Difficulty in processing multiple information at the same time:

Students with autism find it difficult to process multiple information at the same time and they are relatively weak in completing tasks in sequence. Usually, they will react to the situation in a specific way. It is relatively difficult for them to apply the concepts they know to different situations.

c. Attention

Over-focusing on unimportant parts of a matter: Students with autism tend to over-focus on the unimportant parts of a matter while overlooking the important part. Some of them demonstrate a relatively high degree of visual awareness. They will misplace their attention on some trivial matters around them and ignore the normal classroom learning. For example, such students may be totally attracted by the movement of an insect at the corner of the wall and ignore what the teacher is teaching. Moreover, most students with autism are sensitive to sounds. Even light sounds may distract them from paying attention to what the teacher is saying.

d. Concentration

Students with autism are usually weaker in concentration. They react unusually to sensory stimuli. For instance, they selectively attend to what others are saying and would ignore what is happening around them. But they are exceptionally sensitive to certain sounds. These adverse reactions will be a handicap to their normal learning.

(2) Behavioural Characteristics of Students with Autism

Some autistic students may have the following behavioural characteristics:

a. In general, they are rather passive and easily distracted by external stimuli. Usually, they are over-dependent and often need others to teach them how to react.




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