Reframing Failure For Kids With Special Needs in Education

For children with special needs, learning can be a quite the struggle. Maybe they are unable to work at the same pace as their classmates and need extra help from their teacher. Or perhaps they learn in a way that is different from their peers, which can be frustrating and leave them feeling “different.”

For example, a recent article in The Atlantic found children with special needs were having difficulty with the Common Core program used in classrooms across the United States. And another recent article in the Miami Herald says students with special needs are struggling with mandated state educational tests.

Obviously no parent or teacher wants to see a child troubled and feeling like a failure. So how can they “re-frame” this idea for kids with special needs — how can parents and educators work together to help these students get motivated, stay focused and leave them feeling great about their educational success?

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P is for Practice

From the start, parents need to put a practice into place that puts an emphasis on education. A study from the University of Leicester and University of Leeds — and published on ScienceDaily — found parents’ involvement and support in a child’s education is crucial to its success. So for all children — including those with special needs — having a home environment that is makes education a priority, and practices that consistently, is critical.

L is for Lessons

For teachers who have a child with special needs in the classroom, lesson planning becomes very important as they now have to take in consideration the learning capabilities of this student. As we have covered in our blog before, we recommend teachers take the time to plan ahead and make accommodations for any students with special needs, and do what they can to make sure the student feels involved to help boost their overall self-esteem.

M is for Modeling

Modeling can be a very effective tool for younger students when you want to show and teach them good behavior skills, such as self-esteem. An article on the website of the National Educational Association gives some great tips on how teachers can be great behavioral role models for their students, from showing respect to thinking out loud. And parents also need to be models — Purdue University found children watch and learn from what their parents say and do. So if you want your child to have a better attitude towards their education, model is for them!

G is for Goals

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Goals can be a great way for any type of student to get more excited about their education. An article on LD Online says children who have special needs should be encouraged to set goals for their education, as well as other areas of their life, as it helps them determine their hopes, dreams and desires.

C is for Communication

As with any relationship, communication is very important. In this instance, it’s important for parents and teachers to be constantly communicating with the student in a way they’re going to understand. The good news is that many of the tips we’ve already covered — modeling, goal creating, lesson planning — are all concrete ways of communicating to the student they are not a failure. However, it’s important to continually communicate and praise your student as they succeed in their education.

Using Mastery Learning in Special Needs Activities for Children Who are Resistant

Mastery learning: what is it? Well, the concept is quite easy: Students learn to master a variety of skill sets before going onto other areas of learning. Mastery learning tests are administered to each student to ensure they have reached a certain level of mastery. If the test is not passed, a repeat test is given until the respective student passes.

Introduced by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom around 1968 as a theory that would reduce achievement gaps between students, mastery learning has become a very popular school of thought. In a mastery-learning classroom, teachers track a sequence of concepts and skills in certain individuals. After the initial instruction is given and the instructor feels his or her students have reached a point where they are ready for testing, an assessment is handed out which usually gives students an idea of what is to be presented to them in the future. Students are also able to give feedback which helps teachers identify where their students are struggling and can pinpoint ineffective strategies.

Mastery learning is a well-documented tool used widely in education systems around the world, including the realm of special needs learning. However, maintaining complete cooperation while implementing mastery learning into a program working with special needs children can prove difficult without the utilization of proper methods. To understand this, one must first address the reasons for why a student may resist learning, ranging from parental divorce, anger, self-esteem issues, attention deficit, peer pressure or depression. With a recent study by the Huffington Post showing that 45% of college students feel as if they don’t learn much while attending school, it’s clear that some revitalization is in order.

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But what about students and their desire to learn? That desire is generally rooted from the first time they step into a classroom. Students held up to high, yet realistic, expectations and who have teachers who respond to their work with constructive and engaging criticism is fundamental in not just mastery learning theory but education systems as a whole. Certainly, motivating students by responding to their work will lower a student’s anxiety and resistance level in a classroom. Teachers can respond to a student’s work with rewards, encouragement and reinforcement.

Educators should cultivate a student’s individual ability to learn. Based on the above understanding of motivation, learning, and resistance combined with increased advancements as a student surpasses each task placed before them, teaching should be goal based and aimed at changing behavior which establishes lasting learning experiences. Teachers should also establish positive ways of breaking walls prevalent in resistant learners by giving problematic students a reason to act, creating enthusiasm in the teaching and learning processes. This also taps into forces determining behavior such as biological, emotional, cognitive, or social forces that activate and direct behavior.

So what can be done to implement mastery learning techniques? Most teachers do have the understanding that learning comes naturally to anyone who is motivated to do so. We’re picking up information about our environment, calculating correlations and contingencies, in a naive but essentially scientific process of experimentation and statistical analysis, formulating, testing, and revising theories about how the world and how we work. This attempt to predict and control, established effort and the search for meaning, is the essence of the learning process.
Learning comes naturally, but teachers can play a role in creating an optimal environment for learning to occur. That includes the student’s values, goals, and motives; and it also includes the interpersonal and institutional framework in which the individual student’s learning activities take place. And, bringing us back to cognition much depends on how these social factors are perceived. The interests, values, goals, and motives that students bring to the learning environment are at least as important as the abilities and strategies that they bring to the task of learning.

Mastery learning theorists and practitioners clearly (and forcefully) assert that a mastery approach is useful for any subject and for higher-order thinking skills. Any project that uses mastery learning only in the service of a few subjects or in simple recall areas is doing it a disservice. Benjamin Bloom’s major criticism stated that many teachers and programs in the US tend to focus only on the first and second levels of cognitive thinking. Thus, in some instances, mastery learning in special needs activities could be open to this same criticism, but requires persistence and perseverance to achieve any sort of substantial positive result.

Powerful Exercises to Use in Physical Education for Special Needs Children

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Children with special needs can benefit largely from single or group activities in physical education. However, the question lies in the types of exercise. Are there powerful exercises that can help both the child and the parent?

Some special needs children experience fatigue from their medication, while children with downs syndrome may be non-verbal and require help with motor skill development. Therefore, exercise that can hold the concentration of each specific child may help. It is important that the exercise excites the child to want to learn and grow.

The Laws in Place for Special Needs Children

In the United States, there are several federal laws that apply to special needs children:

1973 Rehabilitation Act (Section 504)

1990 Americans With Disabilities Act

1975 Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

The 1975 act requires that all individuals aged 3 to 21 may qualify for a personally designed program under the child or youth’s individual education program or plan (IEP).

If the special needs child is a risk to themselves, or others, that child is entitled to partake in physical education, structured sports, and other recreational programs that can benefit the life of the child. Organized sports programs include swimming, tennis, basketball, softball, and several others. Special needs children may also participate in summer camps and other beneficial group activities like yoga, dance, and scouts.

If the child struggles to enjoy any form of physical exercise, there are many other activities that the child may engage as fun. These include hula-hooping, jump rope, dancing, walking, swimming, maintaining balance on a stability ball, exploring nature, photography, and collecting flowers and/or rocks etc.

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Help Development For Children With Autism With Art Education

Autism is a growing health issue among young children in the United States and around the world. This disorder is typically diagnosed in a child’s early years of development. The disorder in some children tends to be more severe than others. However, most children suffer from similar impairments when it comes to social interactions, activities and verbal development.

Children with autism have problems with cognitive thinking and processing information. Sometimes, they can become overwhelmed and anxious. That is why these children need the tools and resources to alleviate their anxiety and assist them in dealing with the outside world.

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Learn Photography

Art therapy is highly recommended as an intervention for autistic children. Activities that are more visual such as painting or encouraging children to learn photography work well. This provides the child with an opportunity to express his or her creativity. It also helps the child to reduce the stress and frustration that results from autism.

Since many children with autism tend to have problems with language development, finding an artistic outlet for them can help them express their feelings and thoughts.

Art therapy, which includes activities such as drawing or photography, is an advanced and imaginative way for autistic children to discover and take advantage of a new way to learn. Most of these children do not do well with auditory learning. Therefore, it is strongly advised that instructors also use visual materials to accomplish clear and concise instructions.

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For example, the instructor can use photographs, pictures and drawings to communicate with the child as it relates to understanding the flow of classroom activities. The child can view photographs to learn different sequences: what was just done, what is being done and what will be done next. This facilitates the child’s sense of structure, continuity and confidence.  

Autistic children should be provided with photographs of a favored object, which they can identify with. Many children prefer to draw pictures on paper because it requires less sensory processing. However, later, the instructor can introduce art lessons that teach children about photography or even how to sculpt clay.

If the child is uninterested in an activity, it may cause the child to exhibit inappropriate behavior. Therefore, since each child will have different personal taste, it will be a trial and error situation for both teacher and child. The instructor should continue to foster interaction until the child can express his or her preference.

Hands-on assistance

An autistic child requires a very structured program with importance placed on the methodical demonstration of materials. The classroom size has to be smaller than a regular classroom program. This allows the instructor to provide individualized attention to each child.

Art therapy promotes and encourages social connection between the therapist and the autistic child. As the child begins to new ways to express themselves and views it as something positive, it will be easier for both instructor and student. The child will become more motivated to learn and the child will enjoy this particular process of learning.