How to Make Classrooms More Inclusive for Students with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood but there are a lot of variation in symptoms, complications, and degree of disability. Every child with this condition is truly an individual with unique needs, limitations, and abilities. For special and general education teachers that get to work with these children, the variations can make inclusion more challenging. 

The most important way to improve inclusion is to get to know every child as an individual, inclusion gets easier when a teacher really knows his or her students. There are other important ways to make a classroom more welcoming and inclusive for any child living with cerebral palsy. 

Embrace Technology

Children with disabilities can really benefit from appropriate devices in the classroom. For instance, personal response devices are great for ensuring that every child in the room responds to teacher questions and participates in discussions. Each student has a handheld device and can input an answer that will appear—anonymously or not—on a screen or whiteboard. A child with Cerebral Palsy may have speech and language challenges that make it difficult to speak up, but this technology allows them to participate. 

Make Space

Most children with cerebral palsy have some degree of physical disability, from a minor foot drop to needing a wheelchair to be mobile. Even for the more minor disabilities, moving around can be difficult and takes more time than for other children. Providing adequate space between desks, chairs, and other objects in a room is a simple adjustment that teachers can make to ensure no corner of the room is off limits to any child. 

Use Assigned Seating

Children will sit with their friends and those they are comfortable and familiar with if allowed to choose their own seats. To encourage more engagement between students, make assigned seating charts and change them regularly. A child with Cerebral Palsy may be shy and tempted to hide in the corner. Pairing this student with a friendly, talkative child can make a big difference.

Change up Instructional Methods

This is a great strategy to help all children. Teachers know that everyone learns differently, so changing the delivery of content and instruction ensures that each child is included. Variety is especially important for a child with cerebral palsy who may struggle in ways other children do not. Use direct instruction, small group discussions, hands-on experimentation, quiet reading, videos and computer learning, and all types of strategies to reach each child.

Provide Choice

Along with the idea of varying instruction, providing students with choices, when possible, can also help promote more involvement and reaching those with different learning styles. Providing more choices, such as reading a book, doing safe internet research or listening to a podcast to gather information helps students get more engaged in their own learning.

No Tolerance for Bullying

Children with disabilities are far more likely than their peers to be victims of bullying. Teachers can promote a safer environment by having a firm, no-tolerance policy for any kind of bullying behaviours. It helps of course if the school has a policy that teachers can follow, but if not, each classroom can be proactive about this damaging problem. Tackle talk about any discriminatory language, jokes, teasing, and any negative behaviours directed at any student to help create a more inclusive atmosphere. 

Collaborate with Teachers and Parents

Being in communication with parents of children with cerebral palsy is so important in knowing what a child needs. Symptoms and complications can change, getting better or worse, and teachers need to know about them to provide the best inclusion. Parents can also provide advice on how to better reach or engage their child, as they know them best. Of course, working with other teachers is also useful. Collaborating and putting heads together to provide greater inclusion will have better outcomes for students. 

Inclusion is important for every child, as teachers know, but when a child has cerebral palsy and disabilities it becomes more of a challenge. Use these tips and other creative ways to make sure each and every child is included and involved in his or her learning. 

For more teacher tips, here are some useful strategies to help teach phonics using colour and even monsters!
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