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Inclusion Column

The Positive Side of Common Disabilities

By Ana Verastegui

“But when all you do is focus on the negative, the positive will slip away like sand through your fingers.” Unknown author

When you think of autism, dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, what comes to your mind? What are we focusing on? Do we focus on the negative aspects of the disorders or the beautiful characteristics that these students possess? Let’s be honest, struggles and difficulties are real but instead of focusing on that, let's appreciate the positive. All of our kids have too much to offer.

Some of the strengths that come along autism are good visual skills, impeccable attention to detail and great expertise in specific interests. Some of the things that we can do as teachers to boost those talents are:

  • Keeping our language concrete.
  • Giving fewer choices.
  • Applying visual strategies (photos of steps, visual reminders)
  • Teaching specific rules
  • Setting routines
  • Minimizing distractions.



Creativity, hyperfocus, humor and great problem solving skills are some of the positive characteristics present in the Attention Deficit Disorder. How can we help them? Here are some ideas.

  • Using visuals (charts, pictures)
  • Simplifying instructions (one at a time)
  • Creating specific area for test taking or quiet zones
  • Presenting different types of activities
  • Allowing breaks



“Writing is difficult, and I communicate this way very badly.” (Reported by physicist Robert S. Shankland in Conversations with Einstein). This words were said by one of the greatest minds of our generation, Albert Einstein, and coincidentally a bright dyslexic. What a great example of how a condition is no impediment for success. Some of the strengths in dyslexia are good spatial awareness, great oral skills, curiosity and intuition. As teachers, these are some of the things we can apply in the classroom:

  • Slow introduction of words
  • Allowing alternative ways to record answers such as computer use.
  • Limiting time for tasks



As teachers we get to meet and impact hundreds of students. They all have different strengths and opportunities. Let’s focus on the strengths and help them reach their full potential.


Hensley, Pat. "22 Tips for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders." Teaching Community. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.
Dupar, Laurie. "Celebrate the Strengths of ADHD! - #ADHDKidsRock." ADHD Kids Rock. N.p., 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
Segal, Jeanne, and Melinda Smith. "Teaching Students with ADHD." Teaching Students with ADHD: Tips for Teachers to Help Students with ADHD Succeed at School. Harvard Health Publications, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
"Albert Einstein." Dyslexia the Gift. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
Hodge, Patricia. "A Dyslexic Child in the Classroom." Dyslexia the Gift. DDA Association International, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.