Supporting Students with SEND in Computing

Technology is a great enabler, and can support students with special educational needs and disabilities to access learning and create excellent content. The programming elements of the computing curriculum can, however, be quite daunting for some students, particularly those who struggle with reading and spelling when faced with a text-based language.

Here are a few quick tips on supporting SEND students when teaching programming:

1. Enable students to create programs that can provide immediate feedback, preferably in physical form. For example Sonic Pi which can be used to compose music. This is a text-based language, but with only a few basic commands you can play a tune.

2. As Miles Berry stated in a recent presentation, “It’s easier to read code than to write code”. Provide students with a completed program and ask them what it does, then ask them to edit, remix, or build upon the code. This is much more achievable than copying or remembering and typing in lines and lines of code.

3. If you are teaching Python and using IDLE, go to Options > Configure IDLE and here you can change typeface and font size to make it more accessible. In addition you can change the colour for elements such as Python keywords and strings, to make it more obvious where there is an error. You can also change the background colour to support dyslexic or visually impaired students.

Python program in IDLE with text highlighted in different colours and font enlarged and changed to Comic Sans

For more ideas on supporting students with SEND in Computing I’ll be running a workshop at the Computing Conference with CAS Regional Centre for Yorkshire and Humber, at the National STEM Centre on the 29th June: 


Subject(s)Design & Development, Computing
Age11-14, 14-16
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alexchristiejones (not verified)

Excellent suggestions Catherine! I've seen cloze type activities work well. Have some code with missing words. They can either select the correct one from a list or decide what they think should go in there.

How about short sections of code jumbled up on pieces of paper - the students then rearrange them so that the program will run?

I'd also add that these approaches can work well with other students as well. It's relatively easy to scale up the challenge whilst keeping within the same strategy.


Thanks Alex, great ideas that are simple to do - always a winner.