NESA - Adjustments

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 outline the obligations of education and training providers to make reasonable adjustments. These reasonable adjustments should ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as students without a disability. Decisions regarding curriculum options, including adjustments, should be made in the context of collaborative curriculum planning.

Adjustments are actions taken that enable a student with disability to access syllabus outcomes and content on the same basis as their peers. These adjustments relate to teaching, learning and assessment from Kindergarten to Year 12. The types of adjustments will vary according to the needs of the individual student. Decisions are made at school level to offer adjustments to students with disability in course work and assessment activities. 

In accordance with Nationally Consistent Collection of Data, teachers and schools use their professional judgements to make decisions to provide adjustments at one of four levels:

  • support provided within quality differentiated teaching practices
  • supplementary adjustments
  • substantial adjustments
  • extensive adjustments.

Examples of adjustments can include:

  • adjustments to classroom organisation, eg seating, uncluttered wall space, blinds to reduce glare on a whiteboard
  • materials and resources that support teaching and learning activities, eg manipulatives or concrete materials, visuals and anchor charts to support concept development, word walls to support vocabulary acquisition
  • the use of technology, eg personal devices to access learning
  • alternate formats such as large print or Braille
  • simplified texts
  • captioning of audiovisual material
  • oral sign interpreters or readers and scribes
  • modifications to equipment or furniture
  • adjustments to enable participation in field trips and excursions
  • adjustments to the amount of lesson/unit content or the time allocated to complete work, eg consider core or critical content first, teach key terminology to reduce cognitive load
  • consideration of individual communication strategies, including verbal and non-verbal communication systems, eg visual prompts, closed questions
  • more demonstration of key concepts and skills by the teacher, teacher’s aide or a peer, eg explicit modelling of concept or skill, use of visual supports, scaffolding processes or instructions
  • structured opportunities for guided and independent practice
  • additional support through group work, volunteer or peer tutoring.

Specific examples of adjustments are provided below. Some of the strategies may require more support from the teacher, teacher’s aide or peer.

A student may take part in communicating:

  • answering closed questions on a topic
  • using changes in facial expression, nod or gesture to respond to a closed question, eg ‘Are you playing in a sports team at school?’
  • selecting photographs, pictures or symbols from visual aids. The aids may include double item choice board or keyring cluster, eg the student chooses between two photographs to express a preference (like/don’t like)
  • selecting symbols from a communication board to express an opinion
  • using a communication device such as a voice output communication aid (VOCA), eg text-to-speech device
  • using assistive listening devices to take part in and contribute to small-group and whole-class discussions
  • communicating orally or using assistive technology such as speech-to-text devices
  • using key word sign or Auslan.

A student may take part in reading activities by:

  • building background knowledge before reading a text
  • reading simplified texts
  • reading symbolated texts
  • reading transcripts
  • following a text being read by a peer or adult
  • following an audio or multimedia presentation of a text, or film with captioning
  • reading a text accompanied by visual images to represent characters, settings and events
  • using a scaffold such as three-level guide to support text comprehension
  • following a visual sequence of instructions. This may include a visual recipe or a visual timetable.

A student may take part in viewing activities by:

  • viewing a film with captioning
  • reading summaries/descriptions of the visual input from photographs, multimedia presentations, films, pictures and posters
  • listening to a peer or adult describe the visual input from photographs, multimedia presentations, films, pictures and posters. This could be done while they ‘view’ the visual media or multimedia together
  • viewing enlarged images or using contrasting negative colour
  • accessing black and white stimulus, or tactile maps
  • responding to sensory stimuli, facial expressions, gestures or physical prompts. This could be in conjunction with tone of voice.

A student may take part in making, performing and constructing by:

  • providing peer or teacher support, eg hand-over-hand support when using tools
  • following a visual scaffold/sequence
  • having tools preset, eg wrench jaw fixed to predetermined size, compass hinge adjusted to set radius
  • using everyday objects to support tasks, eg using a bottle to draw a circle
  • using assistive or adaptive devices, eg desktop magnifiers, digital microscope, adaptive grip paintbrushes, large-handled scissors
  • additional safety guards or PPE
  • communicating instructions to the teacher for the teacher to operate the tools
  • delivering a performance via video recording or in front of a teacher rather than a group
  • providing extended time for practice before a final performance
  • allowing the use of a script to support memory of words and lines in a performance
  • using tape to mark positioning in a performance space
  • accessing appropriate performance spaces, eg lighting and acoustic adjustments
  • using adaptive or electronic instruments, eg switch-adapted instruments, adaptive instrument mounts.

A student may take part in writing or recording by:

  • writing simple answers to questions
  • using a word bank or reference list
  • ticking pre-prepared checklists
  • scaffolding using graphic organisers
  • using photographs, pictures or symbols, eg the student:
    • sequences pictures to tell a story
    • combines symbols to convey meaning
    • circles a selection of symbols on a page to create a list
  • using computer software, eg the student:
    • uses a drawing program and pictures to write
    • scans pictures and/or digital photographs in a multimedia presentation
    • uses assistive technology to select text or pictures from the screen
  • using electronic communication devices such as speech-to-text.

A student may take part in listening activities by:

  • working in a quiet environment with minimal background noise
  • listening to a text being read by a peer or adult
  • listening to an audio text, multimedia presentation, or film with captioning
  • feeling vibrations of sound on a speaker, eg instruments of different pitches
  • responding to tone of voice in conjunction with facial expressions, gestures and/or physical prompts
  • using visual supports to explain abstract concepts
  • using assistive listening devices.

A student may take part in field trips and excursions by:

  • preparing for field trips and excursions using virtual reality, or images or maps of location
  • engaging in virtual field trips and excursions
  • selecting locations and amenities that are accessible
  • capturing virtual evidence in place of written evidence
  • using scaffolded supports for notetaking
  • ticking pre-prepared checklists
  • accessing support from a peer to measure and/or record collected field data
  • accessing one-on-one support from a teacher or teacher’s aide

A student may take part in group work by:

  • establishing group norms, rules and roles of team members
  • establishing group timelines for individual and group tasks
  • having facilitated or structured group meetings or check-ins
  • accessing structured support when working individually for group tasks
  • teaching social cues and appropriate responses
  • teaching appropriate ways to contribute to group discussion and skills to negotiate
  • contributing remotely to group tasks using online collaboration tools

A student may take part in physical activity by:

  • accessing modified rules
  • using sound or visual cues, such as lights, to demonstrate start/end of activity
  • having skills modelled by staff or peers to support understanding of skill
  • having additional time to complete skill or activity
  • having a peer support one or more elements of the skill, activity or routine, eg when playing t-ball, the student hits the ball and instructs a peer or teacher to run to the base instead of completing the run themselves
  • using adaptive equipment for sporting/practical activities, eg audible balls, handcycle bikes, adaptive racquets, bats and clubs

Additional support

Some students may need more support. This support may be as well as or instead of adjustments, and may involve:

  • visual and/or verbal prompts when completing classwork and/or assessments
  • physical prompts and/or physical assistance when taking part in an activity
  • provision of partial information/responses to assist the student to demonstrate understanding of knowledge, skills or concepts.

Support materials are available to help teachers to make adjustments for students with disability, including:

Other support documents and illustrations of adjustments are available with the syllabuses.

See Assessment and reporting for information about adjustments to assessment.

This resource has been provided by NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) who work with the NSW community to drive improvements in student achievement. You can find further information, news and updates on the NESA website.

© 2021 NSW Education Standards Authority for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales.

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