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#BeReady: Back-to-School Tips to Make Classrooms Inclusive

The 4 #Bs help students with learning differences start the school year strong

Back to school is here and along with it the first-week frenzy to learn students’ names, organize classrooms, create lesson plans, and distribute books. As you go through your checklist, remember to consider the needs of students with learning differences and how your classroom can be inclusive for all types of learners.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), one in sixteen students has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for specific learning disabilities (SLDs). One in fifty receives accommodations for a disability through Section 504. The number of students with learning differences is significant, and their needs can affect various aspects of learning. Fortunately, research by the National Center for Educational Outcomes shows that as many as 85 percent of students with disabilities can master general-education content if they receive educational supports.

In the area of reading, students with learning differences often struggle to decode words and comprehend sentences because of dyslexia, see words because of a visual impairment, or even hold books and turn pages because of a physical disability. These challenges affect their ability to learn, gain self-confidence, and improve academic performance. For example, NCLD reports that eighty-five percent of fourth grade students with SLDs perform below basic proficiency level for reading compared to students without disabilities.

#BeReady with the 4 #Bs

How can you celebrate, challenge, and support students with varying needs and make your classroom inclusive? Whether you are a general education teacher, special education teacher, specialist, or school librarian, these tips will help you prepare ALL your students for a successful back to school.

#BeResourceful – explore ways that assistive technology (AT) can level the playing field for students with disabilities such as dyslexia, visual impairments, or physical disabilities. For example, ebooks that offer accessible features like text-to-speech (TTS) audio and highlighted text provide valuable multisensory support for reading and writing.

#BeFlexible – find solutions that can be adapted to support learners’ diverse needs. You may need to experiment with several tools before you find the right one. In other cases, it may take several attempts for the student to acclimate, or you may simply need to adjust settings. Teachers have told us that by simply changing colors of a screen or text, a light bulb will go off, and the student becomes engaged.

#BeOrganized – as schools increase the number of special education students included in push-in programs for instruction, teachers need to expand the curriculum and offer accommodations ranging from alternative ways to present information to the ways students complete assignments.

#BeAnAdvocate – collaborate with other members of the educational support team to make sure that students with IEPs or 504 plans have the instructional supports they need.

As you evaluate different options, consider Bookshare as a resource for your students with reading barriers. With Bookshare, students can read in ways that work for them with ebooks in audio, audio + highlighted text, braille, and other easy to read formats. Teachers can sign up their schools and qualified students for FREE through an award from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, and access over 750,000 titles, including textbooks, educational materials, children’s books, and young adult titles.

My students absolutely love Bookshare. They went from dreading reading time to asking me if they could read when they finished an assignment. One student was always down on himself, but when he started Bookshare his self-esteem went up. He realized reading was fun. As a teacher, I feel like many of our students would benefit from this program.

-Ruby Milburn, Second Grade Reading Teacher, Livingston, TX

See how Bookshare can help you and your students #BeReady.

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