According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 6.4 million students were receiving special education from 2012-13. A majority of these students, aged between 3 and 21, had a specific learning disability.
“Special needs” is a broad term which defines various learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, psychiatric problems, and terminal illnesses. Dyslexia, Down Syndrome, anxiety and depression are just a few disorders that many children suffer from. These children, unlike the majority, require special assistance, care and specialized education in special learning disabilities schools.
How to help special needs students in the classroom
The rule of thumb here is to never discourage or punish a child with special needs.
To effectively teach special needs children, teachers must have knowledge of different disabilities and how they affect learning. Various methodologies and strategies have been designed to support the educational needs of special children. Teachers can use and modify these techniques depending on the child’s disability.
Here are a few pointers for teachers to help special needs children in classrooms:
1. Develop a routine for the child based on events rather than time. For example, you can organize learning activities in the following order: breakfast, reading, lunch, writing, etc. This will help the child understand what activity comes next without any pressure.
2. Set up a study or work area that is free of distractions such as televisions or radio. Special children may get distracted easily. Therefore it is important that you provide them with an environment which is noise-free and allows them to concentrate on their task.
3. Organize the classroom so the child can find what they need without asking or getting confused. For example, place reading books, stationary, and other items in separate places where they can be easily accessed. This allows the student to work independently without feeling frustrated. The same principle can be applied at home.
4. Give plenty of time to children with special needs. Children with special needs should be given time to process. This means you should speak slowly and clearly, and should repeat the instructions whenever necessary.
5. As a teacher, always encourage. Your approach should be positive when giving feedback. Instead of scolding, encourage the child to recognize and correct the mistake. Impatience here will only breed frustration.
6. Focus on activities that the child enjoys. For example, some children may be weak in math but enjoy art. Make math more engaging by incorporating art into the activities. This will help the child engage and learn.
7. Shuffle classroom activities so the child does not get bored with repetition. Learning should be a combination of reading, writing, and different physical activities.
8. Use simple instructions that are easily understandable. Set an example by demonstrating the tasks and encourage students to complete it on their own. This will help with their confidence.
9. Use a multi-sensory approach. Learning should be made as fun and interactive as possible. With the help of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning tools, children make use of different senses to learn. Remember that many special needs students have difficulty in learning abstract concepts. With the help of items, pictures, and other objects, learning can be made more effective and fun.
10. Keep learning activities short and to the point. Long hours in the classroom can often lead to confusion and frustration.
The educational needs of special children are different from the rest, and should be addressed accordingly. Understanding the unique needs of special children can help you become an effective teacher and allow them to grow and develop.