Individual Needs

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Individual Needs

As teachers we do our best to meet the individual needs of all our students. However, this is limited in two significant ways. Firstly, there is only so much that can be done to differentiate and personalise the curriculum with the time and resources available to us. Secondly, there is a limit to how much understanding of each student's needs we have. At best, it may be incomplete, at worse, we may be totally unaware of a significant learning, behavioural or socio-emotional need.

Identifying the needs of students

Student Needs

The above diagram shows how, as teachers, if we rely only on our own perceptions and knowledge to assess a student's needs that we may miss out on the whole picture. Talking to colleagues, parents and the student can all help to clarify any needs.

It is particularly important when dealing with students with challenging behaviours that we don't overlook any unmet learning, sensory or social needs:


Students with ADHD have poor working memories that significantly affect the way they are able to learn. Without additional scaffolding these students tend to fail and ultimately many become disinterested in academic study and more disruptive in class.


Students with ASD can have difficulty switching their attention from one topic to another. These students often need extra notice of when the curriculum is moving on. ASD can also make generalising difficult and so these students often need explicit teaching of how a piece of knowledge or a skill can be applied in different contexts.

Attachment Difficulties

Students who display challenging behaviour as a result of attachment difficulties are also likely to have delay in their learning. This is particularly so for students who present with disorganised attachment style. These challenging students often reject learning because it threatens their 'omnipotent self'. They cannot fail if they do not try. Supporting these students requires extreme patience and an adapted curriculum where learning success is all but guaranteed. This is achieved by constantly revisiting learning that has been mastered and incrementally moving it forward.

Emotional and Mental Health Needs

Students who are trying to manage emotional trauma, relationship difficulties and other mental health issues will often struggle with concentration. Intrusive thoughts can distract them during learning tasks leading to forgetting and errors in their processing. These students will benefit from additional scaffolding of tasks as required for students with weak working memory.

Other Learning Needs

Aside from those students who present with more obvious behavioural differences there will be students who have specific learning needs. Many of these may still not have had their needs identified. For example, it is not uncommon to have students diagnosed with dyslexia at university, having gone through their schooling without their specific difficulties with learning identified. Some students can be very good at masking their learning difficulties and there is good evidence that girls are particularly adept at this.

Supporting these students

Advice on managing and supporting students is available through out this website and I refer the reader to the Management section for further guidance.

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

Classroom Behaviour

Assessment Resources

Five Minute Guides

Bullet Break