Slate published a story on the emotional hurdles some children experience in a traditional learning setting and how UDL can and should help them overcome these obstacles.
Neuropsychologist David Rose spent years helping kids with learning disabilities participate in school by creating digital textbooks with pop-up graphics, text to speech, flexible fonts, and other customizable features to fit individual needs. The books were so engaging “that traditional books started to look relatively disabled by comparison,” says Rose, co-founder and chief education officer of the Center for Applied Special Technology outside Boston. Not just textbooks. The crew at CAST felt that traditional lesson plans built around print were leaving too many kids out, frustrating some students while boring others.
So they flipped their approach. Rather than help individual students plug back into the classroom, they set out to transform the classroom itself. They built software and digital tools to pack lessons with flexibility, offering every student multiple ways to learn and to express that learning—including print, speech, graphics, music, and interactive games, among others. They called their new mission “universal design for learning,” and a movement was born. Spurred by the rapid advance of computers and broadband Internet in schools, UDL initiatives have sprung up in nearly every state in the last five years.
And now, Rose and his team have concluded that the most pervasive learning disability in schools, and the No. 1 challenge for UDL, isn’t physical or cognitive, it’s emotional—turning around kids who are turned off by school.
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