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  • A particular student may experience difficulties in processing information in certain mediums and not in others. Some may find it difficult to process written information efficiently or easily while others may find taking in oral information challenging.
  • The result is that students will require more time to process the types of information that are more difficult for them to interpret easily. For example, if a student experiences difficulty in processing written information, it will take them longer to read a handout or test questions in class. On the other hand, a student who finds it difficult to process oral information may struggle with instructions that are presented too quickly or that are not presented clearly or logically.
  • Requiring more time to process information often does not relate to a person’s level of intelligence, ability to learn, or ability use that information. With flexibility around time and/or a more accessible format of information presentation, these students are often very capable to learn, understand, and use their knowledge.
  • Present information in a number of mediums to account for diverse abilities and areas of difficulty. For example, provide written handouts or web links to important lecture content while also discussing this content in class.
  • Provide a range of opportunities for student participation whenever possible. For example, give students the option to participate in class discussion groups or through online discussion forums or both. Provide necessary resources ahead of time to allow students to take the time they need to review this content before they will be required to use it. The online option will allow those students who require more time to process information the time to reflect on their thoughts before sharing them with the group.
  • Ask students who appear to be struggling how their learning can be supported. This could include students who appear to be struggling with following instructions or with comprehension of course content. There may be adjustments instructors can make that will greatly improve their success in these areas. Instructors may also refer students to campus resources such as the Accessibility Services Office for recommendations or support.
  • Recognize that course content, college procedures, and expectations may be new to many students. Provide tools for students to help them organize this new information effectively. This can include clear course outlines, ideas for categorizing or approaching course content, links to applications that help students make information meaningful to them, etc. Take time to explain new procedures and expectations to students at a reasonable pace and check for understanding when appropriate.
  • Extended time for exams.

Difficulties with processing written information

  • Use of text-to-speech software for tests and exams.
  • Course materials in audio-format.
  • Somewhat reduced course load when possible as completing course readings and assignments will take more time to accomplish.

Difficulties with processing oral information

  • Ability to record lectures.
  • Note-taker.
  • Learning disabilities.
  • Mental health conditions.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Case Study

Jessica is taking a blacksmithing class. She is enthusiastic about her work in the program and has great  ideas for her class projects.

In the shop, her instructors demonstrate processes and procedures for the students and lay out the steps they need to follow. Many of these procedures, and the accompanying safety considerations, are multi-step processes. Instructors know that this information is new to many students. They encourage students to take notes to create a reference for when they try the techniques themselves.

Watching Jessica work in the shop, her instructor felt that she was not listening during the presentation. She seems unaware of critical steps and considerations. When her instructor asks if she has taken any notes, Jessica says that she doesn’t take notes in class. Her instructor is concerned that she is missing critical information and that she has not come for help on her own. To the instructor’s knowledge, she is not registered with the Disability Services office. The instructor doesn’t want to put her on the spot by asking if she has a disability. He decides to contact the Disability Services office for advice.

The instructor explains the situation to the Disability Advisor and provides the student’s name. The Advisor listens carefully and at the end of the discussion suggests that she can be in touch with the student to offer to discuss her situation and the concerns the instructor has raised.

The Disability Advisor contacts the instructor a few days later. She explains that Jessica does have a diagnosed disability which impacts her ability to process oral information easily. It has been difficult for Jessica to keep pace with comprehending and remembering the oral instructions and information presented in class. Since she needs to put very significant effort into listening, she is not able to take notes at the same time. Jessica wasn’t sure what could help in her situation. She very much wants to succeed in the class and did not want to appear as though she wasn’t trying but she didn’t think she had other options.

The Advisor suggested some supports that could help Jessica improve her access to this information including accessing notes from another student, recording lectures, and encouraging Jessica to talk with the instructors about areas of content she was unsure of. A meeting was set up with Jessica, her instructors, and the Disability Advisor to discuss these plans.

With these supports in place and open lines of communication around clarification, her instructors feel that they can assist her and keep everyone safe. Her instructors also feel that they understand her situation better. Jessica’s performance improves and her instructors can see that she is enjoying the class.

Jessica’s instructors wonder if other students may also have difficulty keeping track of all the procedures presented in the shop, even if they don’t have a disability. Using their procedural notes, the instructors create documents and upload them to the course website. The class responds very positively. Many students say that this allows them to pay closer attention to the demos since they only need to add side notes now.

There are no resources for this cognitive/behavioural impact.

 

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