When determining how best to instruct a child with a learning disability, there is no formulaic method for success. This is largely due to the varying degrees at which children are affected by their disabilities. For example, a child who is simply dyslexic requires distinct assistance from a child with severe mental impairment. As a result, a proper curriculum must take a wide range of factors into consideration:

Special Needs Curriculum

Image courtesy of Flickr

Meeting of the Minds

It is said that It takes a village to raise a child, and the old adage certainly rings true in special education. No single person, including the parents, will know all of the challenges faced by the child throughout his school day. It’s important to bring together, at minimum, all those who have direct contact with the child on at least a semi-daily basis. This includes the parents, a special ed teacher, a general ed teacher, the special education director, and even the child when appropriate.

Determine the Class of Assistance Required

This group will determine, through mutual agreement, exactly what type of assistance the child needs. From minimal collaborative assistance where the child meets outside of class with a psychologist, language specialist, or for other assistance as needed to a Self-Contained Special Education dynamic where the child does not attend or participate in general education.

Additionally, this can also be the time to determine the specific learning issues if hitherto unidentified, for the sake of all in attendance. Clear and deliberate communication at this stage provides the strongest path forward for both the child and those instructing him, as well as serving to minimize the potential for miscommunication. Image courtesy of Flickr

Lay Out Measurable Goals

As with General Education, a child’s progress needs to be measurable. The hindrances to the child’s ability to learn are not a reason to omit reasonable goals and standards of success. It may take some fine tuning to keep the goals attainable, but it is paramount that they be specific and therefore measurable.

It is not enough to say, “Julie needs to improve her reading.” This goal is based on an undefined sense of improvement that could be different to everyone observing her progress. Instead, set specific reading speed goals for each week, month and school year. Use comprehension tests to measure her ability to understand what she reads, and pursue specific increments of improvement.

Track the instruction as well. Sometimes it is the teaching approach itself that is responsible for delayed progress. Often small changes and improvements to the instruction can break through a stall that might otherwise have taken more time.

Verify the Curriculum’s Effectiveness

Regardless of the learning difficulties and feelings of those involved, the curriculum itself should adhere to a certain standard of quality. Some questions you might ask, among others, about the specific curriculum are:

  • Does it help achieve the various learning goals within the eight domains of learning as outlined in the learning standards of your state?
  • Do the expectations allow the children to master current skills as well as provide appropriate challenges that lead to new skill acquisition?
  • Does it build on and extend children’s current knowledge and abilities?
  • Does it promote the development of higher order abilities, such as thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making?
  • Does it lead to conceptual understanding by helping children construct their own understanding in meaningful contexts?
  • Does it provide experiences that promote feelings of success, competence, and enjoyment of learning?

Monitor Progress, Amend as Needed

It is entirely possible that in spite of everyone’s best intentions, a curriculum may not create the desired improvement in the child’s learning. If this is the case, the parents or teachers, should feel free to offer thoughts on how the system might be improved and to shape the curriculum over time until it achieves the desired results.

The word “perfect” can be a bit of a misnomer. Most people know that rarely anything or anyone in this world is truly “perfect.” However, that doesn’t mean that perfection can’t be achieved, especially when it comes to special education.

For parents and caregivers of children with special needs, finding the perfect learning experience for them can be quite a challenge, and it can depend on a few different factors.


The Needs of the Child

Children with learning disabilities or speech impediment may only need an education curriculum that only has them receiving special education a few hours a day or week. On the other end of the spectrum, students with severe physical or mental disabilities may need a much more intensive special education curriculum that encompasses their entire educational year.

The Needs of the Parent

The parents of children with special needs have their own ideas on how they wish their child to learn. For example, some caregivers may wish their child to have an inclusive education where they spend as much time in a classroom with peers of all abilities as they can. And other parents may want their student with special needs to have a more individualized education where they can get the one-on-one attention they need.

The School System


Some schools can easily embrace the needs and wants of both special education students and their caregivers as they have enough special education staffing and programs in plus. However, some school systems may be smaller with not as many resources, and they may have a harder time making this happen.

So with all these factors in play, how can parents and teachers work together to make the “perfect” special education curriculum for their child? Here’s a few tips to help you get started.

Work Together

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s so important it’s worth spelling out. One of the most important parts of creating the perfect special education curriculum is for everyone involved — parents, caregivers, teachers, school administrators, and even students — to work together. If a curriculum is developed by only one party, and it ends up not meeting the needs of everyone involved, then it will certainly fall short of being “perfect.” Everyone having a say and working together is key.

Review & Discuss

Nine out of 10, your local school system will already have a special education curriculum in place. However, that does not mean it should not be reviewed and discussed by everyone involved on a regular basis to make sure it’s meeting everyone’s needs. Consider establishing a Parent Advisory Committee with parents of children with special needs representing different districts, such as what they have at Wayne County RESA in Michigan.

Use Available Resources

There are tons of resources out there today that can help both parents and teachers build the “perfect” special education curriculum for their students. For example, teachers will find a wealth of information at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, everything from creating a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to classroom strategies. And for parents, again the National Center for Learning Disabilities has a variety of information, including intervention strategies, parent-teacher communications, and tips for school meetings.