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Motor Impaired/Orthopedic Disabilities Strategies

Motor impaired/orthopedic disabilities includes a heterogeneous grouping of conditions with a wide range of causes. Examples of some of the more common causes are: Nervous system disorders Traumatic spinal cord injury Stroke Muscular Dystrophy Cerebral Palsy Epilepsy Muscular-skeletal disorders Rheumatoid arthritis Cardiovascular disease Coronary heart disease Respiratory Disorders Emphysema Asthma Endocrine-metabolic Diabetes Amputation of all types.

One of the first considerations in the effective science education of individuals with motor/orthopedic impairments is a brief understanding of his/her impairment and the degree of educational limitation it causes. With such information, a set of mitigative strategies can be derived that are fully appropriate to that particular student, however, some of the strategies may not work for every student. (After "Mainstream Teaching of Science: A Source Book", Keller et al.)

General Courtesy

  • Accept the fact that a disability exists. Not acknowledging this fact is not acknowledging the person.
  • Ask the student to tell you when he/she anticipates a need for assistance.
  • Don't lean on a student's wheelchair. The chair is a part of the body space of the student who uses it.
  • Don't patronize students who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head. This is a sign of affection that should be reserved only for small children, and most of them do not like it either.
  • Encourage students who use crutches or canes to keep them within easy reach and make such a space available.
  • Only push a wheelchair when asked.
  • Have custodians use non-skid floor polish for students who use crutches and wheelchairs.
  • If spills occur, keep floors clear of liquids.
  • If writing is difficult, use a tape recorder.
  • Speak directly to the student with a disability, confidentially, as you would other students.
  • Students should be encouraged to talk confidentially with their instructors during the first week of classes to discuss their functional difficulties and needs, and to talk about ways to accommodate.
  • Using a wheelchair when the person can walk with the aid of cane(s), brace(s), crutch(es), or a walker does not mean a student is "feigning" the degree of disability. It may be a means to conserve energy or move about more quickly.
  • When it appears that a student needs help, ask if you can help. Accept a "no thank you" graciously.
  • When talking to a student who uses a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, or so, sit down or kneel to place yourself at that student's eye level.
  • Reserve parking space that is accessible and close to the building.
  • Allow course waiver or course substitution for certain students.
  • Always plan any field trip in advance to ensure accessibility.
  • Words like "walking" or "running" are appropriate. Sensitivity to these words is not necessary. Students who use wheelchairs use the same words.

General Strategies

  • Bring to the student's attention Science Role Models with Disabilities with a similar disability to that of the student. Point out that this individual got ahead by a combination of effort and by asking for help when needed.
  • If the functional limitation involves the lack of arm use then the use of Dragon-Dictate may be extremely useful. It may be used for such things as computer aided drafting and design(CADD) and other computer applications.
  • Arrange for library personnel to assist access to card catalouges, bookshelves, and microfiche and other equipments.
  • Consider accessibility factor to classroom so that student is able to get to class on time.
  • Be familiar with the building's emergency evacuation plan to assure that it is manageable for the students.

Teacher Presentation

  • If breaks between classes are short (10 minutes or less), the student who has a mobility impairment may frequently be a few minutes late. Students and instructors may want to plan for these occasions, so students don't miss important material.
  • Observe potential obstacles so you can be aware of what is accessible and what is not accessible to students in wheelchairs.
  • Students may need to tape lectures (difficulty with writing or unable to write).
  • Table-type desks, with adequate leg space, which have enough clearance for wheelchairs can be moved into classrooms.

Laboratory

Adaptations such as: latching devices, keylocks, headmaster, and light talkers that simplify access to computers can greatly help the motor/orthopedic science student.

  1. Consider alternate activities/exercises that can be utilized with less difficulty for the student, but has the same or similar learning objectives.
  2. Allow more time for the student to complete the lab activities.
  3. Alter the height of tables to "fit" the students (e.g., a small ramp to a flat platform for high desks).
  4. Anticipate areas of difficulty in access and involve the student with disability in doing the same. Together, work out alternate procedures while trying not to disengage the student from the activity.
  5. Assign a lab partner who can help to reach or manipulate objects as needed.
  6. Be aware of, and prevent the possible overheating of students who have poor heat regulation.
  7. Have students in wheelchairs participate in activities as fully as possible.
  8. Built-in lab tables (or small ramp/platforms) may need to be modified to accommodate wheelchairs.
  9. For students who cannot fully use a computer because of physical limitations in their hands or arms, explore avenues for obtaining adaptive access software, altered keyboards (including Unicorn keyboards), special switches (latching devices, keylocks), and Power Pads, eye-controlled input systems, or touch-screens in conjunction with a light talker, trackballs, footmice, and other special equipment.
  10. If appropriate, provide assistance, but also provide positive reinforcement when the student shows the ability to do something unaided.
  11. If breaks between classes are short (10 minutes or less), the student who has a mobility impairment may frequently be a few minutes late. Students and instructors may want to plan for these occasions, so students don't miss important aspects of the activity.
  12. In the laboratory, place water, gas, and electric facilities in accessible locations.
  13. Increase size of wheels, dials, handles, and buttons on lab equipment.
  14. Lower supplies and equipment for easier access, or simply give them to the student as needed.
  15. Perhaps a change in aisles (by relocating desks and/or chairs) is needed for wheelchair access.
  16. For hoods in laboratories, have operating knobs and switches within easy access.
  17. Provide an accessible means for the recording of data, charts, or graphs.
  18. Select non-manual types of laboratory teaching techniques (e.g., electronic probes vs. pipette bulbs).
  19. Table-type desks, which are high enough for wheelchairs can be moved into labs.
  20. Use a peer-buddy system.
  21. Use electric hot plates instead of Bunsen burners as heat sources.
  22. Use laboratory sinks that are accessible from 3 sides for those with one side or those who are paralyzed.
  23. Use low-force electric micro switches for lights and equipment.
  24. Use modified lids on the tops of containers (wider and bigger).
  25. Use a portable eye wash.
  26. When information gathering involves a physical action that the student cannot perform, try using a different type of experience that will yield the same information.

Group Interaction and Discussion

  • Include student in open discussions.
  • Allow more time for the student to complete activities.
  • Use ramps and raised platforms for student's access.
  • Lower chalkboard and/or corkboard.

Reading

  • Acknowledge understanding by blinking, nodding, or a pointer.
  • Use a tape recorder.
  • Use small sections of large text or readings.
  • Use easels, portable reading racks, a standing table, and adjustable seats and desks.
  • Allow more time for the student to complete the activities.

Field Experiences

  • Anticipate areas of difficulty and involve the student with a disability in doing the same. Together, and in the planning stage, work out alternate procedures while trying not to disengage the student from the activity.
  • Consider alternate activities/exercises that can be utilized with less difficulty for the student, but has the same or similar learning objectives.
  • Be sure students in wheelchairs can fully participate in activities.
  • When the activity involves field work or field trips, many of the students using a wheelchair will probably need other travel arrangements because they often need to rely on attendants, ramp adapted vans for transportation, or power lift vans for transportation to and from field activities.
  • In the field, provide assistance, but also provide positive reinforcement when the student shows the ability to do something unaided.
  • Increase size of wheels, dials, handles, and buttons on field equipment.
  • Use a peer-buddy system.
  • Use modified lids on the tops of containers (wide, bigger, and easier to open).
  • When information gathering involves a physical action that the physically impaired student cannot perform, try a different experience yielding the same information.
  • Make special advance arrangements with curators during passive visiting field trips.
  • Make sure that field activity sites are accessible. Check the following:
    • Are there nearby parking spaces reserved for persons with disabilities?
    • Is there a ramp or a step-free entrance?
    • Are there accessible rest rooms?
    • If the site is not on the ground floor, does the building have an elevator?
    • Are water fountains and telephones low enough for a student in a wheelchair?
    • Arrange with curators of museums, science centers, etc. for alternate activities if it is not possible to have the student in a wheelchair do the activities.
    • Discuss any needs, problems, or alternatives with the student.

Research

  • Review and discuss with the student the steps involved in a research activity. Think about which step(s) may be difficult for the specific functional limitations of the student and jointly devise accommodations for that student.
  • Depending on the site of the research check the previous two sections.
  • Use appropriate laboratory and field strategies.

Testing

  • Allow more time for the student to complete the activities.
  • Provide a seperate place for the test if necessary.
  • Give completely oral tests or completely written tests, whichever is more appropriate to the students needs.
  • Allow students to tape record answers to tests or type answers, as needed.
  • Writers should be provided for test-taking if the student is unable to write (or give oral tests out of the earshot of other students).
  • Students may write slowly and need extended time for tests.
  • Develop a portfolio of the student's work, both singly and as part of a cooperating group. Orally quiz him/her to establish the extent to which the student contributed to the group-based accomplishments.

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