I Believe in UDL: Universal Design for Learning

I believe in differentiating instruction because every student has different learning needs. KSA #5 states that all students can learn, albeit at different rates and in different ways. I believe that it is the teacher's responsibility to find out how students best learn and to provide them with their optimal learning environment.

Find out why UDL is necessary here.

My Personal Teacher Strategy Toolbox For Exceptional Learners

For the entire toolbox please see downloadable PDF. 
For a quick glance here are a few of the exceptionalities my education class researched:

 Definition and Alberta Education Code
Characteristics &/or Observable Behaviours
Teaching Strategies & Resources
Links &/or Sources

ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a “medical neurobiological disorder. It is an illness or deficit of the nervous system” with an underactive prefrontal lobe and basal ganglia (which tune out distractions and control inhibition)

Two kinds of ADHD, one hyperactive and one innattentive

Code: 53 – less severe, 42 - severe


-Impulsive/ Hyperactivity


-Distracted easily

-Forget task at hand

-Weak executive functioning skills

-Difficulty regulating emotions

-Get frustrated and don’t know why they misbehave

-Frustrated completing tasks

-Trouble with friends

-Low-self esteem

-Inattentive types don’t usually get diagnosed because are mild-mannered, and looks that they are working but aren’t focused

-Difficult to plan, organize

-Task inhibition issues


-Make this student with ADHD in charge of lights to get motion and break up tasks



-Cue them and say what to do next

-Full criteria written down

-Behaviour slip of what student did wrong and for student to reflect “what I could do better”

-Calming tools like pets, soft fidgets

-Parent education, social work, occupational therapy

-Reduce written output, give a laptop

-Limit number of tasks or questions at once. Only give one step at a time

-Remember they are not acting out on purpose, they are having a neurological disorder difficulty

-Timer, even one they can set themselves

-Medication 80% success but side-effects include loss of appetite and fatigue. Takes education and therapy to correct related problems like parenting relationships (yelling) and habits. Medication only helps symptoms.

-Allowing movement (walking strip)

-Fidget tools

-Don’t ask “why did you break that pencil” because they don’t know.

-Love them for who they are and give praise



Video: Struggle for Control https://www.nfb.ca

Hutchinson, N (2014) Chapter 3: Exceptional Students, Inclusion of Exceptional Learners in Canadian Schools.

A group of complex brain disorders that are characterized by difficulties in social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Associate with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, physical health issues (sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances)


-Autistic disorder

-Childhood disintegrative disorder

-Pervasive Developmental Disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)

-Asperger syndrome.

Code: 44

Spectrum disorder so it is important to remember that each individual will display different characteristics.

Four of the most common characteristics are:

-Sensory processing challenges

-Speech/language delays and impairments

-Elusive social interaction skills

-Self-esteem issues

Specific Characteristics:

-Little to no eye contact

-Speech is abnormally loud or quiet

-Difficulty with loud or sudden sounds

-Exceptionally high skills in some areas and very low in others


-Obsessions with objects/ideas

-Ritualistic behavior patters (Spinning, rocking, flapping arms, humming, tapping, etc.)

-Difficulty transitioning

-Gross and fine motor skills are developmentally behind peers (riding a bike, running, tying shoes, etc.)

-Verbal outbursts

-Cause injury to self (biting, banging head)

Aspergers: no history of language delay, have better fundamental language skills, and will generally be of average to above-average intelligence.

Specific Characteristics/Behaviors:

-** Significant trouble with social situations and difficulty forming friendships**

-Good language skills but difficulty with communication

-Difficulty understanding sarcasm, body language, facial expressions, and tone

-Odd speech patterns

-Attention to detail and a narrow field of interests

-Uncoordinated motor movements

-Anger and aggression when things do not happen the way they want them to

-Behavior varies from mildly unusual, eccentric or “odd”, to quite aggressive and difficult

Visual Approaches:            

When using visual aids, students often demonstrate strengths in concrete thinking, rote memory and understanding of visual-spatial relationships and difficulties in abstract thinking, social cognition, communication and attention. Pictograph and written cues can help students to learn, communicate and develop self-control. As an added bonus the student can use the visual aids for as long as they need to process the information.

Provide Opportunities for Choice: If two assignments need to be done, give the student the choice of which one to complete first. However, do not give too many choices, the more choices there are the more confused an autistic child will become.

Keep Language Simple and Concrete: Break down oral instructions into small steps and get your point across using as few words as possible.

Provide Meaningful Reinforcements: These students may prefer different reinforces such as time alone, time to talk with a preferred staff member, going for a walk, music, sitting at a window, etc. If you use praise make sure it is precise, positive praise while the student is learning - give precise information about what the students does right or well. Generalized praise may result in unintended learning.

Structure the Environment and Instructional Tasks:

-Clearly label materials and storage

-Mark the students storage area with their name or photo

-Establish specific areas for certain activities (e.g. Quiet work area, snack area)

-Use different colored folders, binders, or bins for different subjects or tasks

-Remove extraneous materials from desk before attempting to teach a new skill.

-Present only text you wish to read rather than the whole book, highlight passages.

-Create a set of sequenced pictures illustrating the steps involved in completing an important self-help task

Communicate with the Parents:

Find out what experiences families go through in living with children with autism, what interventions and strategies they use. These understandings and a commitment to collaboration will allow parents and teachers to work together to create positive and effective educational programs for students.






















CESA #7 Special Education Services index. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2015, from http://www.specialed


(n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2015, from http://www.bced.




Tips for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2015, from http://teaching.
 Definition and Alberta Education Code
Characteristics and/or Behaviours
 Teaching Strategies and Resources
 Links and Sources
Conduct Disorder

“A persistent pattern of behaviour in which the basic rights of others are ignored”

“Four main types of chronic and persistent behaviour: aggressive conduct; property damage or theft; lying; and serious violations of rules”

“May be a result of genetics, chaotic home environments, the child's temperament, physical causes or neurological factors”

Code: 42
-Aggression, Vandalism, Deceit, Theft

-“Good at” anti-social behaviour

-Don’t know where their anger comes from

-Difficulty controlling their behaviour and emotions

-Refusal to accept rules

-Can be cruel to animals

-Gang behaviour to join with peers of same emotions

-May act out due to parental disorders and upbringing

-Make threats to cause physical harm

-Often land in correctional facilities which makes it worse with like peers

-Seek attention

-Results from multiple factors

-Treated through counseling, usually focused on developing appropriate behaviour and coping skills, and sometimes medications

-Anger management

-Parental education and parents taking responsibility for their detrimental actions and given stable parent skills

-Consistent long-term supervision/presence

-Be there as a positive emotional support

-Result of multiple factors needs multiple approaches to rectify the situation by involving family, school, community, and peers affecting the child

-Intervention programs for life skills

-Cool down think time

-Parent still needs to be child’s advocate even when they are in criminal acts

-Get them to work in an area of strength to help self-esteem

-As a teacher: RELATIONSHIP! Get to know them, care, find what they like; can you get them a work experience job?

-In school suspensions only, do not kick them out
 Definition & Alberta Education Code
 Characteristics &/or Observable Behaviours
 Teaching Strategies and Resources
 Links and Sources
  Fetal  alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is a continuum of various permanent birth defects caused by the mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is a preventable, lifelong disability that has no cure.

FASD is the umbrella term used to describe a range of disabilities that may include physical birth defects and health problems including developmental delays, learning disabilities, memory problems, as well as difficulties in communicating feelings and understanding consequences.


Code: 42, 44
  • small for age
  • small eyes
  • smooth philtrum (area between the nose and the lip)
  • thin upper lip
  • abnormal muscle tone

Younger Children

  • Lack of social awareness.
  • Social deficit.
  • Trouble getting along/playing with other kids.
  • playing ‘alongside’ rather than playing ‘with’ other kids.
  • Does not like going to bed at night.
  • Would eat indefinitely if allowed.

Later Childhood

  • Poor social problem solving.
  • Inappropriate social actions.
  • Difficulty understanding others’ viewpoints.
  • Responding inaccurately/inappropriately to others’ feelings or actions.
  • Difficulty controlling emotions.
  • Difficulty focussing on abstract tasks.

Adolescence and Adulthood 

  • Increased social difficulty
  • Missing social cues 
  • Lack of control in social situations
  • Memory difficulties
  • Difficulty with abstract concepts
Teach the concepts of true and false, real and imaginary, and fiction and nonfiction.
  • Teach younger students what pretending involves.
  • Use costumes and props to demonstrate taking on other roles, such as pretending to be a police officer, superhero or animal.
  • Use these situations to discuss the difference between pretending and lying.
  • Help students distinguish storytelling from lying by providing them with positive opportunities to tell stories. 
  • When you suspect students may be storytelling, ask them a simple question, “truth or story?” This cues students to stop and think, and get back to the truth. 

Often, students with FASD do not engage in pretend play. If they do not pretend, it is difficult for them to distinguish between real/true from pretend.

Alternate active and quiet activities throughout the day. Children with FASD need frequent periods of gross motor activity to help focus for quiet. structured activities.

  • work with the student to develop a plan for when they feel overwhelmed in the classroom (go for a walk)
  • that could be: moving to a quiet place, getting a drink of water, or taking a short walk around the school

Students with FASD need to find ways that allow them to diffuse stress or energy before they act out. During a calm state, talk with the student to find ways that will help them stay focused in activities or calm in class; go for a walk. Understanding self control and what works for the student with FASD is important for the above strategies

Create structure in their routine. Use verbal cues that enforce routine or redirect their focus.

  • provide checklists that students can use both at their desk and at different learning areas around the room 
  • encourage the use of self-talk as students follow their checklists
  • provide pictures and words to describe the routine
  • teach routines with correction, not consequence
  • encourage students to create their own sequential list of activities and tasks they need to accomplish

Students with FASD can use routines at any age as it provides a focus. Using picture checklists when the student is younger and then developing into more elaborate checklists when the students is in high school. 

Teach time concepts.

  • use pictures, charts, and large visuals to teach time 
  • post a visual chart with the daily schedule and times of activities
  • have students tape their own time schedules to their desks or in a specific place in their notebooks or binders
  • use classroom calendars to show students there is a predictable pattern within the year
  • advise students in advance of possible routine changes

Students with FASD may have a  difficult time understanding and learning time concept. By understanding time concepts and having a schedule in front of them, students will become less anxious and more prepared for their daily routine. 

Build skills on participating in class discussion and activities

  • ensure students have stopped the task they are on before giving new instruction
  • use nonverbal and prearranged signals to regain the students attention
  • use planning and pacing to increase students capacity to attend and follow instruction (moving to new areas, clear/simple directions)
  • use visuals to support instruction
  • allow for movement around the room 
Students with FASD should feel like they are included within the class. The above strategies also work for students of all ages and levels within the class.