High-Incidence Disabilities

Higher-incidence disabilities or mild disabilities are included in a range of abilities and disabilities that are mild to severe in intensity. Some disabilities are life long while others are temporary. Higher incidence abilities include learning disabilities, mild or moderate mental retardation, communication disorders, and emotional or behavioral disorders. Ninety-four percent of students with disabilities have a high-incidence disability (Salend, 2005). Most students with higher-incidence disabilities are served in the general education classroom. The causes of these disabilities are unknown however there has been numerous research that links biological and environmental components to the disabilities. Various adaptations in the instructional materials, physical environment, and instructional procedures can make the general education classroom a positive experience for students with higher-incidence disabilities.

In the article, Self-Determination in Action in the Classroom the author discusses the continuing need for professionals, parents and students with disabilities to use self-determination in their everyday lives. The article refers to a case study of a student who was diagnosed with a specific learning disability and who received a daily period of resource with support services. He settled for “C” grades and did not have a genuine interest in the work that he was completing. He was also an athlete, and before he knew it he become worn out by the high school level. His teachers decided that he needed to devise a plan that addressed his unique needs. They wanted to help him prioritize and manage activities and assignments. They devised a chart that allowed him to write down goals that he had. Some were as short term as assignments that he would complete before football practice. He would also list consequences for assignments that were not completed on time. His progress was discussed with his teachers and could always be modified when needed. His coach and parents were also involved in this planning process.

By having certain activities, attitudes and beliefs present in and outside of the classroom it can make a dramatic difference in the lives of individuals with high-incidence disabilities. Self determination can be supported through community –based learning. In these types of activities students with high incidence disabilities can apply what they learn in the classroom in the real world setting. Teachers can teach lessons by using manipulatives, worksheets and/or through word problems. Another way in which self determination can be taught is through vocational education classes. Students can learn and practice decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, safety skills, goal setting and attainment (Price, 2002). It is also important as educators that we give students feedback about where their areas of strengths and weaknesses are, and the impact their disability will have in the work situation. Hands-on experiences help students with higher-incidence disabilities with self-realization. Most important it is important to, “Infuse choices anywhere and everywhere. Listen and learn all the time!” (Price, 2002)

Technology has grown to be play an extremely vital role in today’s classrooms. Many special education teachers use computer software programs with their students for direct instruction or as a basis of reward (Raskind, 2001). Teachers of students who have higher-incidence disabilities need to be even more particular when choosing programs because they need to meet the distinctive needs of their students and the goals of the individualized education program (IEP) that is already in place. Some resources that teachers can use when selecting the proper educational software is by talking with other educators, using software with students, reviewing evaluations and/or viewing school system lists of suggested software. Two main components that were discussed in the article, Selecting Software for Students with High Incidence Disabilities were technology adaptations and diversity. Students with higher-incidence disabilities many times need to have a touch screen or varied input device. Hence, the technology that is chosen for the classroom must have the ability to use adaptive interfaces. Some questions that teachers can use to help them with the proper selection of software are the following:

  • Does the program integrate the use of touch screens?
  • Are teachers able to manually adjust audio and video enhancements?
  • What types of input devices are compatible with this program? (Raskind, 2001)

According to the study that took place, many teachers found that the component of diversity was a significant in computer software. The teacher should consider if the software has typing or narration in both English and Spanish, and if multiple ethnicities and genders are represented, without implying stereotyping. The integration of technology is extremely important however they must lead to enhanced student outcomes.

As a future educator it is imperative that an atmosphere of acceptance is created in the classroom. Students should feel comfortable communicating their ideas without the concern of saying or doing something wrong. If a student makes a mistake, don’t just correct them directly but model the correct way. If a student has difficulty speaking allow them more time to answer a question and don’t interrupt them by providing them with words. Teaching listening skills is also an important component that should be present in the classroom. Take the time to listen what the students have to say and also commend listening to others ideas in the classroom. Practicing language skills is also critical with students that have higher-incidence disabilities. This helps students feel more natural and allows them to recite information automatically (Bursuck, 1996).

Students with higher-incidence disabilities are unique and need individualized attention by teachers, and parents. Students with these disabilities are often times hard to distinguish from their peers, but display a combination of social, academic, and behavioral problems. Many times these students benefit from a systematic and structured plan of intervention. By taking the time to listen to what the students have to say and creating a warm and welcoming environment we can help them develop the skills they may be lacking and need. Various adaptations within the classroom can help accomplish these goals.

Works Cited

Bursuck, William. Including Students With Special Needs. A practical Guide For

Classroom Teachers. Simon & Schuster Company. (1996).

Price, Lynda. Self-Determination in Action in the Classroom. Remedial and Special

Education. Volume 23, Number 2. April 2002. 109-115.

Rasking, Marshall. Selecting Software for Students with High Incidence Disabilities.

Intervention in School and Clinic. Volume 37, Number 1. September 2001.


Salend, Spencer. Creating Inclusive Classrooms. Effective and Reflective Practices for

All Students. Pearson. (2005).