A fourth consideration for accessibility centers around students who have learning disabilities that can stem from either primary disorders or be secondary to injuries.
Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD) is a condition in which the individual has difficulty paying attention, tends to be forgetful, and is easily distracted. Such individuals are often disorganized and likely to procrastinate. When designing your course, it is good practice to reduce distractions within the presentation and navigation as much as possible. Many of the features noted for helping those with visual deficits on page 4 of this module are also applicable to students with ADD/ADHD. This group of students will also benefit from a schedule that helps to keep them focused and on track for finishing the course in a timely fashion.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Students with Autism generally have some type of social interaction and/or communication disorder. There are a number of forms of Autism, each caused by a problem with neurological development. The symptoms that the individual displays will depend upon the form of Autism that s/he has. These students can, at times, be a challenge in the "live" classroom because the condition can lead to inappropriate or disruptive behaviors, however, this will rarely be an issue in the online classroom.
Like Autism, Cognitive Disabilities are a group of disorders in which the individual suffers from intellectual deficits. These deficits may be the result of:
Intellectual disability appears in the individual prior to adulthood. These individuals will have low IQ scores and functional skill deficits. These individuals will rarely be students in your courses.
Acquired Brain Injuries
Individuals with acquired brain injuries have suffered some type of trauma to the brain. As a result, they will have cognitive impairments that prevent the individual (who otherwise has a normal IQ) from performing certain mental tasks. These individuals may have problems with communication and/or physical mobility. While these neurological disabilities were discussed on the previous page, the student with a traumatic brain injury may also suffer from problems with concentration.
Some students are suffering from neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, among others. These are progressive disorders affecting the nervous system. Such individuals will have increasing or, in some cases, sporadic symptoms that may interfere with their cognitive abilities to learn and remember information. Dementia may also be noted in some (especially older) students resulting in a serious loss of cognitive ability.
While it is rare that over the course of a semester there would be a significant loss of cognitive ability in one of these students, there may be some periodic deficits of cognitive function noted. In addition, students that may have been quite capable in class a semester or two before may have issues now.
Learning Disabilities are a collection of several disorders that make it difficult for the student to learn in a typical manner. Students with learning disabilities may display these disorders only in courses with certain topical content (e.g. math, reading or writing) or may have a more global deficit that impacts courses of any type. Students with learning disabilities may require special accommodations in your course (this will be discussed later in this module). The deficits can occur for many reasons:
Information Input Issue
Information input issues may be caused by a visual or auditory deficit that is interfering with seeing or hearing the information (discussed previously on Page 3). There could, however, be a problem with sequence learning from auditory, visual, or tactile input. Such individuals may have difficulty perceiving time intervals, processing sensory input, or envisioning the next step in a process or sequence.
Some students have difficulty integrating information. Integration of information involves taking the information that has been received and interpreting, categorizing, relating it to a previous experience, or placing into a sequence. Such a disorder may result in an inability to totally comprehend the information. The student may understand certain parts of the process but cannot relate those parts to the whole.
Students with storage issues have problems forming the memory pathways that allow them to retain information for an extended period. For many individuals this more often affects short-term memory. Therefore, in order to get the information into long-term memory, many more repetitions will need to occur than would be needed for an individual with normal storing capabilities.
Information output issues can interfere with an individual's inability to effectively verbalize the knowledge that s/he has about a topic, write out an answer related to that topic, or organize his/her thoughts about the subject. Some students may also have issues with motor skills.