Functional Curriculum for Teaching Students With Disabilities

Disabled students learning in classroom.
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Unlike other children, students with disabilities often require an education that goes beyond the basic subjects that state standards require. While academics -- such as math and reading -- are part of a functional curriculum for students with disabilities, this type of teaching also includes vocational support, social-skills building, financial education and independent daily living topics.

1 Academic Options

Even though the word "functional" brings to mind a curriculum that focuses on day-to-day tasks or practical aspects, these lessons also need to include academic content such as math and language arts. The functional curriculum, in contrast to a traditional one, teaches academics with a life skills or practical focus. For example, it may include mathematics activities on adding money, understanding concepts such as more and less or calculating a grocery bill, along with literacy lessons on reading basics. These academic skills will help the disabled student to function in society and contribute to independent living.

2 Vocational Subjects

Vocational or job-oriented training is a key part of a functional curriculum, according to a 2012 article in the journal "Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities." The vocational portion of a functional curriculum provides students with skills that will help to prepare them for paid jobs or volunteer work. This may include learning a skilled trade, performing basic chores that might be useful for future employment or gaining job-seeking and interview skills.

3 Access in the Community

Functioning within the community takes a level of basic knowledge when it comes to using resources, finding services or even getting from place to place. As part of a functional curriculum, community-access courses may teach students how to get from point A to point B using public transportation. This involves learning multiple skills such as reading a bus or subway schedule, using money, understanding time and punctuality and knowing how to carry and use a ticket or token. Community-access skills may include learning how to contact a state or county department of rehabilitation, which helps job-seekers with disabilities to find jobs, purchase required clothing and receive further vocational training. Other important skills may involve learning how to secure health or housing services.

4 Daily Life

Whether the student is at home, school or work, she'll need to know how to take care of her needs. An independent living class includes information on maintaining a household and self-care. Also known as domestic tasks, this information provides disabled students with the ability to go grocery shopping and perform basic housecleaning and maintenance chores. For example, the student may learn how to write a grocery list for the week, shop for specific items and put food away in the proper storage areas at home.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.