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How Online Schools Support Students With Physical Disabilities

CCA students doing classwork together

All public schools must offer accommodations for students with physical disabilities, but not all schools are created equal. The physical barriers and rigid routines of traditional brick-and-mortar schools can impede academic progress. 

Fortunately, technology is delivering exciting new tools and options for students with disabilities. Online learning releases students from the physical constraints of traditional schools and frees them to explore learning according to their own timelines and pathways. Knowing how cyber school supports students with physical limitations is the beginning of a learning journey that lasts a lifetime.

1. Eliminate the Stress of Navigating to Classes

Think about the traditional school building. Miles of hallways. Classrooms crowded with tables and chairs. Auditoriums and cafeterias where a far corner is designated for handicapped accessibility.

Institutional buildings are full of treacherous spaces to navigate. The school bell is constantly ringing, reminding students that they have limited time to get from one place to another. There are books, supplies, projects and lunch trays to cart around. There are streams of traffic as hundreds of students pour from one room to another. 

Is this atmosphere conducive to learning for students with physical disabilities? Kids are under enough pressure to perform well on their academics and fit in socially without having to fret over the physical barriers they’re forced to encounter every day. 

For physically challenged students, online school eliminates those barriers — and those worries. There’s no need to rush through the building, around the campus or from class to class. Children are secure at home, comfortable in a space that’s all their own. They can set up their learning environment to accommodate their unique needs, so they can forget about the obstacles and concentrate on the day’s lessons. 

Plus, online school eliminates the inconvenience of the daily commute. No need to worry whether the bus will arrive on time or if all the kids will be dressed and ready for school when it’s time to get in the car.  

2. The Use of Integrated Technology

In traditional schools, students are called on to listen to the teacher, write on the whiteboard, answer questions and join classroom discussions. 

This traditional approach to teaching and learning automatically puts many children with physical disabilities at a disadvantage. How can they participate fully when they can’t see or hear the lessons or they can’t express their thoughts and answers in the standard manner? 

Fortunately, technology and online learning have teamed to open worlds of learning and support for students with physical disabilities. For those who cannot physically type or write, integrated technology can easily be used from a virtual setting. 

  • Visually impaired students can access their lessons through computers equipped with adaptive technologies, such as Braille keyboards, voice-to-text software and audio recordings. 
  • Students with hearing impairments can watch video lectures with subtitles and use text messaging to communicate with teachers and classmates. 

Families of students with physical disabilities have greater freedom to try such low-tech approaches as flexible, modular furniture that allows their child to sit and move in greater comfort, so they can stay focused on their lessons.

3. Enjoy Added Flexibility

Parents and students love online learning for its flexibility. Students can attend classes and do homework on their own schedule, not the school’s. Children learn at their own pace, unhindered by arbitrary deadlines or group pressure to move on. Plus, those children who catch on so quickly that they’re easily bored can plow ahead, taking in all the learning they’re capable of. 

For students with physical disabilities, this level of flexibility is invaluable. Students can pause lessons as they need, whether to get a mental break or take their daily medications. They can review lessons and do their homework as they travel for doctors’ appointments and physical therapy. 

The adaptive technology available through online learning addresses myriad physical disabilities, and it’s easy to use from a remote setting. Students and families have the flexibility to leverage technology as they see fit, for a more powerful learning experience.

4. Increased Confidence

Children with physical disabilities display levels of courage and grit that are inspiring to everyone they know. However, even kids with disabilities fall victim to the same pressures that can discourage any child. There are high expectations to get good grades, and the wish to find friends and fit in with the crowd.

Traditional brick-and-mortar schools amplify these pressures and wear down a child’s confidence. Online learning can ease those worries and, as a result, build confidence. Pressures lift in multiple ways.

  • Kids who need more time to consider a new lesson can take it, improving their academic performance as one concept builds on another. They can even review recorded lessons later, without having to worry about holding up the whole class. 
  • Parents are there to encourage their children. They can cheer on their child when they score a success in class, and they can provide a boost when something goes wrong. And because parents know their children best, they can see firsthand where their child is struggling or needs more stimulation and can communicate directly with the teacher to find solutions. Parents of students with physical disabilities who are in traditional schools don’t get that window into the child’s school day. 
  • Through cyber school, children are removed from any toxic atmosphere of the classroom and the playground. While it’s important that children interact on their way to learning social expectations, they shouldn’t be subjected to bullying and harmful peer pressure. Online learning lets children choose the friends and acquaintances who build their confidence and self-assurance, free from bullies who undermine their self-esteem.

5. Participation Can Come More Naturally

Traditional classrooms are noisy and confusing. Students are constantly being directed to turn their attention from one thing to another. Kids are raising their hands to be recognized, and their teachers, being human, will pay more attention to those who raise the greatest fuss. 

What kind of an atmosphere is that for a child with physical limitations — one who struggles to hear, speak, see or even raise a hand? 

With online school, the noise and confusion of the traditional classroom are diminished. In the cyber climate, students feel more comfortable participating, earning recognition from the teacher and their peers for thoughtful questions and insightful observations. Technology allows them to contribute and communicate according to their own means, fully engaging with classmates and the teacher. 

Technology also allows students with physical disabilities to access learning materials more easily — maybe not by opening a book but by opening a video or a PDF. If their physical disabilities are accompanied by learning disabilities, virtual reality and other technologies enhance the readability and interactivity of their classroom materials. It all adds up to a richer learning experience through more immersive engagement with lessons and people.

Support and Other Tips for Students With Physical Disabilities

In the world of online learning, even cyber schools have differences that make some better suited for students with physical disabilities. CCA welcomes students with physical disabilities and their families to the school community. No matter the student’s type of disability, CCA is committed to offering a rich learning experience that helps all children reach their full potential

When deciding on an online school, consider these essential supports and learning options to ensure success.

  • Transition Help. Online learning is a different kind of education that requires families to adapt. The benefits will follow, but there will be an adjustment period. The chances of success improve when families get plenty of support as they navigate new systems and processes. CCA’s orientation sessions introduce families and students to the systems they’ll be using to take lessons, submit homework and communicate with teachers. Each family is also assigned a family mentor — a veteran CCA parent fully trained in providing guidance who helps new families adjust and succeed.
  • Personalized Learning. Every child deserves a learning plan customized to their individual strengths, interests and challenges. For children with physical disabilities, it’s crucial. CCA teachers work with parents to personalize learning that maximizes the child’s potential. 
  • Assistive Technology. All CCA students receive a laptop loaded with cutting-edge technology tailored to their individual needs. CCA special education services go beyond the bare-minimum requirements to include the assistive technologies that help students learn to their full ability. These technologies include web-based reading instruction to promote fluency and comprehension, text-to-speech programs, and audio textbooks and literature.

CCA Personalizes Learning for Students With Physical Disabilities

Your child deserves better than a traditional approach to learning. In the 21st century, there should be nothing holding back children with physical disabilities from academic success and achievement. CCA offers flexible scheduling, personalized learning, assistive technology, a learning environment that’s safe and comfortable in the home, and a commitment to partnering with parents to address the child’s full range of learning needs. Make CCA your choice in online learning, and your child will soar to new heights in academic and personal success. Contact us to learn more about CCA’s innovative approach to learning and the benefits for children with physical disabilities.

Author

Commonwealth Charter Academy

Published

November 12th, 2021

Category

Learning Lab

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