Strategies for Learning and Teaching
Students with FA demonstrate a range of cognitive abilities, and many have higher-than-normal intelligence. However muscle weakness and fatigue can make it difficult for students to keep up with the physical demands of handwriting, completing assignments, organising books and materials, etc.
Although each student has different needs, many students with FA experience numbness in their hands and/or feet. and may have great difficulty knowing where their hands and feet are ‘in space’. Bearing this is mind darkness can be very confusing and disorientating for the student with FA. The following are some areas that require particular attention and awareness in relation to the student with FA:
- challenges in keeping up with class/home work
- difficulty with written language and writing tasks
- difficulty paying attention and concentrating
- participating in classroom activities/physical education
- the importance of balancing the need to withdraw the student from whole-class instruction to avail of additional resource teaching.
- physical positioning and special seating
- health concerns, such as infections and the slowed recovery for students with FA
- social skills and peer relations
- physical accessibility of the school, including doorway widths, stairs, heavy doors, water fountains, distances between classes, curbs, aisles between desks and accessible bathrooms
Possible accommodations that can be made to assist the student with FA:
- special transportation
- curriculum modifications
- allocating special needs assistant support to meet student’s care needs
- provision of additional resource teaching
- creating opportunities to engage in un-timed tests
- adapted keyboards, software and calculators
- adaptive physical education
- including rest-time in student’s time-table
- assistance on class outings/trips
- providing for extra time to transition between classes.
- organising for an extra set of textbooks to be kept at home in order to minimise the need to carry heavy loads.
- classroom and school campus accessibility modifications.
- creating structured opportunities to assist student in making/accessing friends and social relationships.
- developing students’ independence and self-care skills, especially as they move to senior classes in primary school and in secondary school through ensuring appropriate management of special needs assistant support, requesting required accommodations, developing wholeschool awareness of students’ needs and enabling students to make choices and decisions that assist students in developing emotional and social independence as their physical dependence increases.
- allowing alternative ways to demonstrate understanding of a concept, such as making an oral rather than a written report. As tape recording work is already available as an accommodation for public exams, students could use this where they feel comfortable with it.
- assigning work buddies and using computer-assisted learning.
- e-mailing homework to student who may not be able to come to school and using available technology to maintain contact with the student.
- including students in social and extracurricular activities.
- emphasising the student’s strengths and abilities.
When teaching students with FA remember that:
- Students experience physical, academic and social challenges.
- Fatigue is a feature of the student’s school day.
- Students with FA may have a general learning disability, however most students with FA are within the normal range of intelligence.
- Students may need to be provided alternative methods of demonstrating their understanding.
- Curriculum activities should be differentiated to ensure accessibility.
- Helping students make friends enhances their school experience and performance, and eliminates the possibility of bullying and teasing. Not all students enjoy large group physical activity and students should therefore be encouraged to engage in other small group games and to share their interests (indoors or outdoors) at break time by affording them the facility of a supervised room if necessary.
- Teachers should maintain high expectations of the student’s school performance.
- Informed, co-operative, accessible schools and strong family-school links are vital in helping students overcome challenges and optimise their educational experiences.
When a teacher shows sincere interest and feels comfortable speaking with the student about his or her abilities and challenges, the student will more likely feel comfortable asking questions and expressing feelings.