- University of Virginia
- Physics Department
Laboratories with Special Needs Students
by: Kris Campesi, Stafford Middle School
- More than one or two pieces of lab equipment at a time distract and confuse
many special needs students. It is very time consuming but pays off in the
long run to only hand out one or two pieces of lab equipment and then collect
it and hand out the next several pieces.
- Break the lab into very small pieces or stages for the special needs students.
Between stages or pieces collect student's attention and review what has been
done and go over what is going to be done next. If the room is set up such
that lab stations are in a different location than seats, have the students
sit back down after one piece is finished and refocus their attention before
going on to the next step.
- Procedure steps need to be read orally with students as they follow along.
Only read the part that the students are going to do. Visually show the students
what equipment they will be using and how to use it.
- Have the students X off the procedure steps after they complete them to
help them stay on track. If is very difficult for many special needs students
to keep track of where they are on a paper and this helps them visualize where
- Fine motor skills are difficult for many special needs students, this means
that you allow many safe opportunities for students to practice their fine
motor skills. Try using plastic pipettes instead of glass eye droppers that
can be difficult to control. There are many types of plastic beakers or plastic
cups that can be used instead of glass. Please be careful of cups that are
wider at the top than the base as they are easy to tip over. Give students
many opportunities to do measuring of items on the triple beam. Salt is great
to measure and does not cause a problem if spilled but can help improve fine
- Allow many small opportunities for success for the students as they are
worried about being able to do the labs also. Many times the labs are so overwhelming
that they don't even try and just cause problems for the class. Allow them
opportunities to be successful.
- When the special needs student is successful or finds something exciting
in a lab, they want to share it and will tend to wander to antoher part of
the room to share with a friend. Try to be around and allow the student to
share with you so they don't feel the need to wander to share with their friend.
Allow a few moments when you sit the students down and regroup between parts
fo sharing time with friends.
- As the year progresses slowly add more equipment and larger pieces of the
lab as you improve students' skills. If you have a heterogeneous group, these
procedures can be implemented for the whole class without impacting the other
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