How does the development of my students who have disabilities affect their ability to learn the curriculum that I teach?

No two students develop in exactly the same way. Each student truly is unique. Therefore it is difficult to answer this question with a single answer. According to pediatrician and author Mel Levine, there are many factors that affect a child's development. These factors include: genetic factors, environmental influences, family factors, cultural values, the child's physical health, the child's temperament and the peers with whom they have interacted, and their educational experiences. These factors combine to create a unique profile in each child.

Factual Information

In his book, "Developmental Variations and Learning Disorders," Dr. Levine encourages parents and educators to think of children's development along a continuum rather than according to strict categories and labels. When a student is having difficulty in school, it is important to examine the reasons why the student is experiencing difficulty. By investigating why a student might be experiencing difficulty, you can take steps to change the child's experiences to ensure that they are able to access the curriculum.

Benjamin Bloom's research findings on teaching illuminate how using a single method of instruction can highlight the differences among the ways children learn and their access to the curriculum. Dr. Bloom found that most teachers teach all students in the same way and that because of this, there was a range of student achievement. Just as a single shoe size would only fit a certain segment of the population, Bloom found that a single method of teaching only works best for a certain segment of our student population. Bloom recommended that to decrease the variability of student achievement, teachers must increase the variability of their teaching.

Every student's development will affect his/her ability to learn the curriculum. Since each student is unique, you will need to modify and adapt your instruction and the educational experiences you provide to ensure your students can learn the required curriculum.

Classroom Activities


  • If you are concerned about a child's development and how it might affect his/her learning, consult with the school psychologist or other school personnel who might have insight into the child's learning needs.
  • Consult with a child's former teacher to learn their insights into what teaching strategies worked well in the past with the child.
  • Consult with a child's parents to gain insight into their child's development and the parents' experiences with their child's learning.

Resources and Links