How Video Games Benefit Students With Special Needs

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Video games are a big business and can be a great way to unwind after a long day or to have fun with friends.  Did you know that video games could also help develop skills in students, especially students with special needs?  Video games have shown effective in developing communication skills, motor skills, social interactions, and more skills that they will need to develop in order to grow.  Here are just a few skills that can be taught through video games. Also here is the best gaming mouse to help you play even better.    

Communication Skills

Video games have almost become interactive movies as the technology continues to advance.  The visual storytelling to todays modern videogames allows children with special needs to observe communication.  This can teach them listening and verbal skills, while giving the students a good model for language patterns in a conversational setting.  Some games go a step further; Storybook Workshop for the Nintendo Wii, for example, is a game in which the player reads fairy tale passages aloud.

Motor Skills

Motion control has been one of the biggest innovations in video games of the past decade.  With the Nintendo Wii and the XBOX Kinect, motion control games are now in the household and can help special needs students develop motor skills.  These games promote muscle memory, rhythm, and can even test their short-term memory skills.

Organization

Super Mario Maker is a literal game changer, as the Nintendo Wii U game finally allowed gamers to create their own levels featuring the Super Mario Bros. universe.  Creating levels will teach kids visual scheduling, managing tasks and time, and can help students with executive functioning.

Reading and Writing

Even though cinematics in video games have come a long way in recent games, there is still plenty of reading that has to be done in order to understand the storyline and solve puzzles.  Following the instructions given to the player by the game will help the students develop necessary reading and writing skills.

Problem Solving

Most video games have a puzzle-solving element to them, and students will need to develop critical-thinking skills in order to play them.  Scribblenauts, for example, requires creativity in order to solve a myriad of visual puzzles.  Scenarios are presented to each player and can be solved in a variety of ways.  In order to solve the problem, the gamer has to type the name of an object that they think will help them complete the task.

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Social Interaction

World of Warcraft is one of the most popular games of all-time, and one of the main aspects of the gameplay is socializing with other gamers.  Some educators have implemented the game into the classroom, as studies have shown that students on the autism spectrum have been able to learn socialization skills.  The game, and other MMORPGs like it, requires teamwork in order to accomplish some of the more complicated tasks.

Video games have been proven quite effective in developing necessary social skills for students with special needs.  Through these games, educators can help these students develop these skills while they have fun.

Writing Strategies for Special Education Students

As a teacher of students with special education needs, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the sensibilities of each of your students, especially when it comes to writing.  If you give them an understanding of the context of their writing, provide instruction on basic writing skills, set attainable goals, design a plan of action, and design a peer review workshop for edits, you can help them understand the skills you are trying to build in them.

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Create a Context for Their Writing

Having your students understand what they are writing and for what purpose is important to help them recognize the different types of writing tasks, especially for special education students.  For example, making your students understand exactly what a persuasive essay is supposed to achieve can help them better understand how the format works to achieve that and they can get a better sense of the format.

Provide Clear Instruction for Basic Writing Skills

If you have students that struggle with writing, understanding what they struggle with and working on molding those skills can help them gain more confidence.  Providing clear instructions can take the guesswork out of the task at hand.  Part of your strategy to teach writing to special education students should also be honing skills such as spelling, handwriting, and sentence structure.  Taking 15-20 minutes out of each lesson plan to practice these skills can do wonders for your students.

Have Students Set Goals

In any sort of learning, setting goals is a great way to track progress.  Teaching writing to special education students is no different.  Goals could be anything from the amount of words written to submitting a piece of writing to a competition or simply having a work peer reviewed.  The objective is to not focus on long-term goals, but to break it down into smaller, achievable goals.  This way, attaining the goals will act as a motivator and as a barometer for progress.

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Help Students Develop a Plan of Action

A good first draft can make the writing process go much smoother, and that is no different when it comes to students with special education needs.  For students that have trouble with writing, helping them organize their thoughts can go a long way and can help them get over the anxiety they may have of writing.  Help them identify the audience, what the point of the writing is, what they know on the topic, and how to organize what they know.  An organized plan can make everything go much smoother in the long run.

Use Peer Review

If youre trying to help kids with special needs learn to write, it is a great idea to get them to think of writing from two different perspectives: as a writer and as a reader.  When you use peer review to make corrections to the students writing, it gives the children an opportunity to observe how other writing can flow and can inform how they write as well.  Build a checklist to give your students a handy template for what they should be critiquing.

Part of teaching writing to special education students is to help them understand what they are writing and how it is being used.  Taking time out to help them plan accordingly and to sharpen their basic writing skills can give them confidence to write in the future.

The Great Outdoors: Recreation Ideas for Special Needs Children

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Summer is in full force! Our children are done with school for the year, now with plenty of free time away from the classroom to hang out with friends and run around outside. This time of year can be difficult, however, for families who have children with special needs, as summer hours often mean less structure for the child. By making a few adjustments and knowing where to look, parents can ensure their kids have as fun and exciting a summer as possible no matter what.

Fun at Home

For parents who are looking to keep things simple in the safety of their own backyards, there are plenty of things to do to while away the daylight summer hours. Playing hide and go seek is a childhood staple, but it can also have practical real world applications as well. By staying close by and allowing the child to come to the adult, the child learns how to remain calm while searching around. This will help them deal with crowded or uncomfortable social settings in the future.

It is also good to break kids out of their routines every now and then to help them explore the world around them. Simply taking a special needs child to a playground in a different neighborhood can allow them to meet new children and interact with them in ways they would not have gotten to otherwise. A fresh environment will also provide new toys and jungle gyms to play, which can help to work on different sets of motor skills, which will also come in handy down the road.

Summer Camps and Sports

Of course, children do not want to spend their entire summers simply playing around their backyards or neighborhoods. When a special needs child and their family thinks they have reached an age where they can be on their own a bit more, there are no shortage of summer camps around California that cater specifically to this community. Whether a kid wants to spend time away overnight or parents need a place to drop them off while they work during the day, they will be able to find a camp that meets all of their needs. Rolling admissions are available all summer long!

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If a child has shown some interest in sports, there are recreational activities available year round, but are particularly popular in California throughout the summer months. The Autism Youth Sports League offers a sports program for kids age 4 to 18 in San Dimas, California, which includes baseball, bowling, flag football, soccer, basketball and cheerleading. Some of these activities even have sibling inclusion, so be sure to look out for ways to include all of the children in a family, whether or not they have special needs.

Special needs children can enjoy the summer just as well as other kids their age, as long as their parents take a look at the resources available to them. Summer is a time for children to get outside and enjoy themselves, whether they want to pass the time just watching the clouds float by in their backyards or feel like bouncing around the playground with others their own age

How a Special Needs Advocate Can Help Parents

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As a parent of special needs children, we have come to know unique stresses of life. We’re well-versed in how to handle many situations from personal to social. All aspects of life are, in fact, special for us. And then our children hit school and suddenly, numbers and letters are flying around, like 504 and IEP, and questions we aren’t even sure how to ask are running through our mind.

Take a deep breath.

During this tense time, we have to be kind to ourselves. We don’t have to go through this alone. Rehearsing what services to ask for while in that impending meeting isn’t always enough. The ‘what if’s abound despite all the research and reading we do.

Thinking ahead.

At the school meeting, we don’t know what will happen. For starters, what if there are not enough services being offered to our child? What if we were up all night worrying about this very meeting instead of getting a good night of sleep? What if we aren’t comfortable with how the meeting is going but don’t know how to say so in front of all those experts? What if we become emotional and need to take a moment to let all the information sink in? What if we aren’t comfortable signing the papers right there? These are common scenarios.

Consider the options.

Quite simply, the help you may need can come in the form of a more experienced person who has been in your shoes before. Do a search on the internet for the term “advocate” with your zip code and see if any local names come up. Better yet, call your local Special Services department of your school district. Tell them you would like to talk to an advocate about your child’s upcoming IEP or 504 meeting at your school. Perhaps there is a support group in town with parents of previous students who want to help people through the process. There are different types of advocates who are willing to help.

Wait, what?

But wait–isn’t OUR job as parents of special needs children to be their advocate? Shouldn’t WE know how to handle this meeting? After all, we know our child backward and forward! We already know what our child needs, right?

Well, yes and no. As with much in life, we don’t know what the outcome will be. The unknowns are many. But there are systems in place with people who actually want to help. An advocate, whether paid or volunteer, can help you through that meeting in ways you didn’t know you needed.  

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Now it’s your turn.

Many of us who have been through this experience know: Deciding to let an advocate helps take the edge off. If you are fuzzy-headed because of lack of sleep the night before, an advocate can help keep the meeting on course. Perhaps he or she has something important to add to the discussion, something you hadn’t considered. An advocate has the past experience and has learned the appropriate words to bring up the important issues. Or if necessary, they can ask for the rest of the meeting to be rescheduled if you need time to think about the services being offered, or even refused.

Accept it.

If you do decide to bring an advocate, you will need to tell the point person at the school. And not just to make sure there is a chair available for the extra person. This communication speaks volumes to the district, who may also want the head of their special services department to attend.

Don’t go it alone.

You have support as long as you ask for it. Tell all involved that you are going the extra mile to ensure your child’s future gets handled properly. Your rights as parents of special needs students are clear and you are prepared to work for what your child needs. This is about your child’s well-being, safety, social life, future and quality of education. So let an advocate support you through it.