Sometimes, working with children with special needs can pose quite the challenge. Having a classroom filled with children with such varied needs and disabilities can be almost overwhelming for a teacher — where do you put your focus when so many people need your help? Read on for tips and pointers for teaching children with disabilities.
As you begin to set up your class and curriculum, make sure to take your classroom environment into account — all children, and especially children with disabilities are very sensitive to their surroundings. Creating a safe space for your students to work will greatly help you to have a successful classroom.
One thing you have to look out for when working with children with special needs are triggers (which, as you’ll find, can be a huge part of your classroom environment). Paying close attention to triggers — or events or circumstances that upset or scare the child in question can be a very important element of dealing with children with disabilities. Triggers tend to vary from individual to individual; for example, one autistic child might be triggered by loud noises, while another is triggered by a feeling of crowding — or, a child struggling with ADHD may get triggered from using the computer (technology is a trigger for many people with ADHD) — it all depends on the child and their background.
When it comes to triggers, teachers and parents need to work together: parents should inform teachers of any known triggers, and vice versa — that way, both can work together to create a learning environment where the children feel safe and supported.
Especially when it comes to your students and their various triggers, you must develop the ability to anticipate your children’s needs — staying one step in front of the curve will be very helpful when it comes to running a tight ship. Knowing your students’ triggers is a big part of that — as is a good old fashioned dash of common sense and good perception! Good anticipation can help to stop meltdowns and tantrums in their tracks.
It is also important that students receive deficit-training — no matter what their disability may be. Deficit training is just what it sounds like: the children get coaching on areas where they are less comfortable — for example, some children may need help learning how to behave in social situations. If they receive proper training, it will help them to better be able to interact as a group.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a whole arsenal of techniques to help you explain concepts and directions. Visual aids (such as models, hands-on demonstrations, and illustrations) are always helpful — they speak to a wide range of people; plus they’re always engaging. And when you explain things, you should make doubly sure that you have your class’ attention (especially if some of your students have ADD or ADHD).
While working with children with special needs certainly brings unique challenges, it’s also hugely rewarding — and you know that the work you do will never be boring!