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Back to School: Fostering Confidence and Inclusion: Strategies for Supporting Students with Disabilities

equity diversity and inclusion Sep 01, 2023
Five students in an art class engaged and having fun.


As we begin a new school year, it's crucial to ensure that students with disabilities, feel confident, involved, and social within the classroom. Setting clear expectations and employing effective strategies in the first week can lay a strong foundation for an inclusive and supportive learning environment. Let’s explore some strategies that educational assistants and teachers can implement to encourage students with disabilities for engagement.


  1. Establish Clear Communication Channels:

Start the year by establishing clear communication channels with students. Encourage them to express their thoughts, needs, and concerns openly. For students with speech or communication difficulties, utilize alternative communication methods such as picture boards or assistive technology.

Foster an environment where questions and discussions are welcomed and valued. Make it known that everyone's voice matters.


  1. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs):

Collaborate with special education teams to develop/review IEPs tailored to each student's needs. Be clear on the actions to be taken by the EA and teacher to achieve the students’ specific goals.

Share IEP information with students and their peers (with permission) to promote understanding and empathy among classmates.


  1. Encourage Peer Support:

Implement buddy systems or peer mentors to pair students with disabilities with their peers. This promotes social interaction, builds friendships, and helps students feel included. Remember to overtly talk about what gifts and supports each student can give to the other. This is an important opportunity for reciprocity.

Conduct group activities and projects that encourage teamwork and collaboration, emphasizing the value of diverse perspectives.


  1. Accessible Learning Materials:

Ensure that all learning materials are accessible to students with disabilities. This includes providing alternative formats like audiobooks, large print materials, or digital resources with screen reader compatibility. Ideally with a variety of ways that students can access materials so that all students can choose how they can best access materials. Gotta love universal design!

Teach all students about the importance of accessibility and inclusivity to create an environment where everyone can participate fully.


  1. Promote Self-Advocacy:

Teach students with disabilities self-advocacy skills. Encourage them to communicate their needs and preferences with confidence and pride.

Create opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning by setting personal goals and tracking their progress.


  1. Celebrate Diversity and Differences:

Incorporate lessons and discussions on diversity, inclusivity, and disability awareness into the curriculum. Celebrate various cultural backgrounds and abilities.

Share stories and examples of accomplished individuals with disabilities to inspire students and emphasize that everyone can achieve greatness. Share stories about how people with disabilities have inspired some of our most popular technology.


  1. Regular Check-Ins and Feedback:

Conduct regular check-ins with students to assess their comfort levels and engagement. Encourage them to share their feelings and concerns.

Provide constructive feedback that highlights students' strengths and offers guidance for improvement and actionable goals.


Creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment for students with disabilities begins with setting clear expectations and employing effective strategies from the very first week of school. By establishing open communication, individualized plans, peer support, accessible materials, and promoting self-advocacy, educators can help students with disabilities build confidence, get involved, and become active participants in the educational journey. Remember, celebrating diversity and providing regular feedback are essential components of a successful inclusive classroom. Together, we can empower every student to thrive and succeed.

Best of luck as you start off your new school year!

We’re better together. Alyson