Learning for All

Introduction

Who are students with significant cognitive disabilities?

Students with significant cognitive disabilities are individuals with unique learning needs and interests. This diverse group includes students with a wide range of disability characteristics, capabilities, and educational needs. These students’ non-disability characteristics (e.g., interests, preferences, personalities, socioeconomic levels, cultural heritage) are as diverse as the general population.

These students may have similar needs related to cognition but differing needs in other areas related to socialization, communication, behaviour, or medical needs. Approximately 1% of the student population has significant disabilities. Students with significant cognitive disabilities will require ongoing support in one or more major life areas in order to participate in an integrated community and enjoy a quality of life similar to that available to all.

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Learning characteristics

Students with significant cognitive disabilities are individuals with unique learning needs and interests, who with the right supports at the right time, can participate in learning, benefit from literacy instruction, and contribute to the school community.

The table below offers a snapshot of learning characteristics typical of these students:

Students with moderate cognitive disabilities:

  • are functioning well below same-age peers in all or most areas of development
  • can develop basic communication skills and may require an alternate or augmented communication system
  • will be in an emergent or early conventional stage of literacy development (e.g., beginning to or can identify most letters of the alphabet most of the time and is engaged and interested when books are read to them)
  • require adult guidance around basic routines and increased support when learning new routines or in novel situations
  • require modifications to most learning activities in order to participate in meaningful ways
  • may have associated disabilities including physical, sensory, medical and/or behavioural

Students with severe cognitive disabilities:

  • have significant delays in all or most areas of development, as compared to same-age peers
  • have limited communication skills and may require an alternate or augmented communication system
  • will likely be in an emergent stage of literacy development (the process of learning to read and write is a continuum that begins at birth – there are no prerequisites)
  • require adult support for personal care and adult or peer support in order to participate in most activities.
  • require modifications to most learning activities in order to participate in meaningful ways
  • may have associated disabilities including physical, sensory, medical and/or behavioural

Does language matter?