While the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education has long been promoted by educators as a way to prepare students to thrive in our increasingly complex world, unfortunately, those with disabilities sometimes lack access to the tools or resources that would support their participation.
A Culture of Inclusivity
What then can educators do to make students with disabilities feel more welcome and motivated to pursue their interest and passion for STEM subjects? According to Rachel Friedensen, a postdoctoral research associate at Iowa State University, instructors can improve outcomes by simply signaling that they are open to accommodating a student’s needs in a proactive way.
Just as important however is the need for young children to be given equal access to STEM activities that help develop their natural curiosity. Unfortunately, according to an article published by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina (UNC), young students with disabilities are frequently excluded from STEM activities in school settings primarily due to perceptions about their capabilities.
According to Megan Vinh, senior technical assistance specialist at UNC, it’s especially important for young students with disabilities to receive this type of education at an early age because involvement in STEM has been shown to improve performance in other academic subjects as well.
“There are a lot of reasons young children with disabilities are not included in STEM,” said Vinh. “They might be removed from the group to receive other services while classmates are doing STEM activities, or their schools think they don’t need STEM because other areas of learning are more important. But we know from research that engaging in STEM supports gains in other content areas, so it’s critical they participate.”
When it comes to discovering the most innovative solutions that will help move society forward, we need as many ideas and perspectives as possible and those with disabilities should not be excluded from the conversation.
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, we pride ourselves in developing education programs that are accessible to all students.
For more ideas and support in encouraging healthy perspectives, promoting greater inclusivity in learning environments, and guiding our next generation of creators, innovators and leaders, we invite you to visit our blog.