Part 5 - Disabilities Affecting Cognition, Memory, or Attention

Part 5 - Disabilities Affecting Cognition, Memory, or Attention Department

Overview of Disabilities Affecting Cognition, Memory, or Attention


Some students who are capable of college work and are qualified for post-secondary education may have neurological disabilities that affect some aspect of their mental functioning.

These non-visible disabilities can be caused by learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, mental health disabilities, or acquired brain injuries. They often confer a negative social stigma, and so students are sometimes reluctant to disclose them. Still, if students request accommodations, their disability and educational limitations must be verified.

Because the educational limitations of these disabilities are often similar, many strategies are effective regardless of the specific cause of the disability. However, teaching strategies need to be based on the specific educational limitations of the student. Because of the complexities and subtleties involved, the staff at DSS are available for consultation.


Classroom Strategies:


Class environment and lecture
  • Speak distinctly and at a relaxed pace, or pause occasionally to respond to questions and let students catch up in their note taking. Notice and respond to nonverbal signals of confusion or frustration.
  • Start each lecture with a review of the previous lecture and an outline of the material to be covered. Provide periodic summaries during the lecture, and briefly summarize the key points at the conclusion of the class.
  • Use a board or overhead projector to outline lecture material, being mindful of legibility and the necessity to read aloud what is written. Emphasize important points and key concepts by noting them, repeating them, or highlighting overheads with colored pens.
  • Present and explain technical language, specialized terminology, and foreign words in context to convey greater meaning. Write vocabulary on a board, or use a handout.
  • Minimize auditory and visual classroom distractions by closing the door to a noisy hallway or by turning off a flickering fluorescent light if asked.
  • Help the student locate a volunteer note-taker. Students who take their own notes may need an additional set for comparison. Some students are unable to both listen and take notes and so record lectures on tape.
  • Conduct a discussion or question-and-answer session periodically and at the end of each lecture, and include review sessions.
  • Determine if students understand the material by periodically asking for any student to volunteer to give an example, a summary, or a response to a question.


Materials and Assignments
  • Make the syllabus available before the quarter begins, and when possible, be available to discuss course requirements with students considering the course.
  • If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide or electronic text. Especially useful are textbooks that offer question-and-answer sections, review summaries, and self-quizzes.
  • Provide organizational tools such as suggested time lines and checkpoints when making long-range assignments.
  • Announce reading assignments well in advance. This is especially helpful for students who must reread material or who read slowly, as well as for those who electronically scan reading materials.
  • Give explicit assignments both orally and in written form. Be available for clarification during office hours, by phone, or by e-mail.


  • Provide study questions for exams to demonstrate the content and format that will be used.  Provide a model answer, and explain what makes a good response.
  • Calculators, scratch paper, pocket spellers, and dictionaries may be appropriate accommodations during exams. Programmable calculators are usually not permitted. If you have concerns that these will compromise or alter the fundamental essential nature of the discipline or the essential academic standards of the course, consult with DSS.
  • Allow students to demonstrate mastery of course material using alternative methods if necessary. For instance, an oral exam may be an appropriate substitute to a written exam.
  • Be available during office hours or by other means if students need to clarify lecture material, assignments, or reading.
  • Help students find study partners, and organize study groups.
  • Encourage students to fully use the DSS and other campus support services. These include, but are not limited to:
    • Preregistration,
    • Assistance in ordering taped textbooks,
    • Alternative testing arrangements,
    • Specialized study aids,
    • Diagnostic consultation,
    • Developmental skill courses, and
    • Academic tutorial assistance.
  • Provide a supplementary instructional or study skills section through De Anza's Student Success Center. Contact the Tutorial Center at 864-8682 for more information.
  • Give accurate, supportive feedback and written suggestions for improvement if necessary.


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Part 5 - Disabilities Affecting Cognition, Memory, or Attention Building:

Last Updated: 6/13/17