Tips for Working with Students with Severe Handicaps

Severe Handicaps in the Inclusional Setting

adults with disabled child
Yokosuka, Japan (July 21, 2009) Ensign Kristina L. Gladstone, assigned to the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), laughs as she helps make a flag for a child in the summer program at Takeyama School for Handicaps. Sailors from Blue Ridge visited the school during a three-day community service project. (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

Typically, children with severe handicaps have behavior concerns and minimal ability or cannot perform or haven't yet learned many of the basic self-help skills. Some sources of research estimate that somewhere between 0.2-0.5% of school-aged children are identified as having a severe handicap. Although this population is low, times have changed and these children are rarely excluded from public education. They are, in fact, a part of special education. After all, with the incredible growing technologies and trained professionals, we can hold higher expectations than previously possible before.


Usually, children with severe handicaps are born with it, some of the etiologies and causes include:

  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Postnatal difficulties
  • Gestational (prematurity)
  • Maldevelopment of the brain and or spinal cord
  • Infections
  • Genetic disorders
  • Injuries from accidents

Problems With Inclusion

There are still major issues related to inclusion of students with severe handicaps. Many teachers don't feel they have the professional training required to meet their needs, schools are often not adequately equipped to meet their needs, and more research needs to be done to determine how best their educational needs can be met. However, the reality is that these children have a right to be included in all aspects of society.

Teacher Tips for Working with Children with Severe Handicaps

  1. Prior to supporting the specific goal, it is important to make sure you have their attention. Typically, you'll be using a very direct teaching method.
  2. As much as possible, use grade appropriate materials.
  3. Identify some clear goals/expectations and stick with it. It takes a great deal of time to see success in most cases.
  4. Be consistent and have predictable routines for everything you do.
  5. Make sure that everything is relevant to the child you are working with.
  6. Be sure to track progress carefully, which will help you define when the child is ready for the next milestone.
  7. Remember that these children don't often generalize, so be sure to teach the skill in a variety of settings.
  8. When the child has reached the goal, be sure to use the skill regularly to ensure mastery of the skill continues.

In summary, you are a very important person in this child's life. Be patient, willing and warm at all times.

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Your Citation
Watson, Sue. "Tips for Working with Students with Severe Handicaps." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Watson, Sue. (2020, August 27). Tips for Working with Students with Severe Handicaps. Retrieved from Watson, Sue. "Tips for Working with Students with Severe Handicaps." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 22, 2021).