Helping and Supporting Special Needs Students

Working with special needs students is a demanding and highly rewarding job. These teachers should have highly specialized skills in order to assess individual disabilities and offer adequate development opportunities to every single student.

People that work with special needs children should also know how to put together a tailored curriculum that addresses the specific strengths and weaknesses of each child.

Special educators will often work under a lot of stress. Still, they have the freedom to come up with strategies and creative approaches that will be beneficial to the children. If you’re just getting started with a special education career, you’ll find the following list of tips and suggestions quite beneficial.

Creating an Inclusive Classroom

Inclusive classrooms bring together all kinds of students – kids that have disabilities and the ones that don’t. To ensure a great experience for all, the inclusive classroom has a regular ed teacher and a special ed teacher.

Though it’s a great concept, an inclusive classroom may be difficult to implement. The needs of the students will vary greatly.

School policies will also have an impact on the inclusive classroom. In some instances, kids with mild and moderate disabilities will study alongside their peers. In other situations, students with moderate to severe disabilities will be in a separate class.

Tips for Making the Inclusive Classroom Work

To make an inclusive classroom work, you’ll need to keep a couple of essentials in mind. Having a positive learning environment for everyone will be dependent on the following:

  • Learn everything you can about your students: the more you know about the children you’re working with, the easier you’ll find it to tailor the educational curriculum to their individual needs.
  • Encourage interaction: organizing student desks in groups is great for creating a community and promoting inclusive learning. This way, it will be easier for children to interact with each other and complete group projects.
  • Set ground rules: these are important in every classroom and even more so in the inclusive one. There should be rules and expectations that all students are familiar with. Outline the rules during the first day and work towards creating a safe and orderly classroom environment.
  • The décor matters, as well: the manner in which the classroom is decorated can be conducive to creativity and acceptance. Make sure that you’re putting emphasis on diversity and giving kids a sense of belonging.
  • Educators should work together: co-teachers need to partner up in the inclusive classroom. The collaboration between the educators will also stimulate partnerships and friendships between the children.
  • Teach children about individual differences: the inclusive classroom will be incredibly beneficial for children in the long run because it gives a real-life example about individual differences. As a teacher, it’s your responsibility to cultivate acceptance in the beginning of the school year.
  • Tailor the curriculum to individual needs: this is one of the most challenging aspects of working in an inclusive classroom. You should rely on a medley of teaching methods and educational supplies to give all of the children a positive experience. The curriculum should be tailored to different learning types, regardless of the disabilities or absence of such.
  • Make the school load manageable: setting short-term goals and breaking large tasks into smaller components will make it easier for all of the students to be successful. Such an approach boosts the morale of all kids and it also leads to a higher degree of productivity.

Working in a Special Ed Classroom

As already mentioned, some schools will have separate classrooms for the children that have special needs. It’s difficult to find the right approach and you’ll have to be creative because the children will have different disabilities. Some of them will suffer from autism spectrum disorder, others will have a speech disability or a developmental problem. As a teacher, you’re responsible for creating a safe environment that’s conductive of learning for all of the students.

To make the experience a positive one for all of the children, you may want to try the following tips:

  • Individual education plan: the individual education plan (IEP) is created for every single special needs child. It provides information about goals and the educational strategies that will deliver the best results. Federal law requires the creation of IEPs for all of the special need students. As a teacher, you’re responsible for following through and implementing the recommendations, regardless of the classroom format or the disability.
  • Work with parents: regular communication with parents and caregivers will continue the process outside of the classroom as well, resulting in even bigger improvements for the child. By building a relationship, you can stay on top of any issues by seeking an adequate solution in a timely manner.
  • Benefit from the experience of other special ed teachers: your more experienced colleagues will be willing to guide you through the best processes. Reach out to other teachers for support. Having the education is one thing, basing decisions on actual experience is completely different.
  • Use checklists: a checklist routine creates order and gives special needs children confidence. Consistency and time management will establish a daily arrangement that children will soon be familiar with.
  • Cool down time: dedicate a part of the classroom to calming down upset or hyperactive kids. Look for items and supplies that offer mild stimulation and enable kids to focus.
  • Take a break when necessary: breaks are an integral part of the special education process. Once a task has been completed, you may want to take a moment to relax. Your students will appreciate such opportunities as well.
  • Be strict with documentation: paperwork is cumbersome but it can provide vital information. Be diligent with recording accidents, changes in behavior and the events that have led to those. Through such record-keeping, you’ll get a better idea about the activities that make special ed students more productive.
  • Build a reward system: such a system is great for all kids. Once again, you need rules and positive consequences for the ones that follow. Positive stimuli can be as simple as stickers. Make sure that the criteria for obtaining the bonus are well-known and understood by all students.
  • Be flexible: the final tip is probably the most important one. Things can go wrong just when you think that you have everything under control. Flexibility and on-the-spot thinking will help you resolve challenging situation. Just remain calm and use your creativity.