Teacher Toolbox

Classroom Supports

Recent studies have shown the children with special needs often struggle with encoding and processing verbal information. However, studies have indicated that when given additional exposure and time to process verbal information, they are able to successfully understand and learn.


Research has suggested that these children may exhibit difficulties with the initial intake of information and require frequent exposure to verbal stimuli to process and register the information in their memory system.

Strategies to Support Language Intake
  • Monitor the rate of speech when presenting information.  Speaking too rapidly or too slowly can interfere with the children’s processing and registering of information.
  • Use clear concise statements to enable the children to focus on the relevant details.
  • Teach children to attend to changes in vocal intonations
    For example, point out to children and direct them to recognize that a louder tone or slower speech rate may indicate conveyance of important information.
  • Give children a set of notes or a study guide during class lectures and direct the children to give their full attention to the content of the lecture instead of worrying about taking notes.
  • During discussions or lectures, encourage presenters to limit their movement around the classroom to help the student direct their attention to the speaker.  This will help to limit distractions and changes in sound created by movement.
  • When possible, have the student restate their understanding in their own words and provide clarification when necessary.

The effects from some disorders, such as prenatal alcohol exposure, can impact the child's speed of processing. These children may have difficulties maintaining and integrating the information in the working memory system for additional processing, storage, and application.

Strategies to Support Processing
  • Provide as much exposure to the verbal stimuli as possible and support with visual cues (study guides, visual reminders of a topic).
  • Have a student pair up with another student in order to receive support to help gather and understand the verbal presentation.
  • Write key phrases and directions in a predetermined location on the white board or chalk board.
  • Pre-teach vocabulary and information to give the student cues for the subject before a lecture or discussion.  This will help to provide the additional exposure to the material.
  • Teach student to use mapping techniques to take notes.  This thinking tool helps children develop a mental framework, create links among words and subjects, and lessens the demand on the cognitive resources needed to take notes.

Because of weaknesses with processing and registering of verbal information, some children may exhibit difficulties organizing, accessing, and using language to express their ideas, their thought processes, their opinions, and their needs in a classroom setting. 

Strategies to Support Output
  • Use specific questions to help children frame their thoughts.
  • Give children additional time to generate their thoughts.  (Research has indicated that teachers generally give approximately 3 seconds for children to respond.  Children with FAS will need 10 or more seconds to gather their thoughts to respond.)
  • Give cues to prompt the student when they will be asked the question and the type of question they will be asked.
    For example, say, "John, after Sal answers this question, you will be asked next.  Think about how … is related to …before answering." This will help cue the student to organize and prepare their thoughts before answering.

Focusing instruction on a theme has been shown to support understanding of a topic and helps to expand language skills.