TEACHING SPECIAL EDUCATION
Teaching special education can be a very challenging experience both at home and at school. However, effectively teaching students with learning disabilities, and/or other special needs can become an exciting daily exploration of each individual child's learning style.
While discovering learning strengths and weaknesses new teaching methods and ways to organize the classroom will also be discovered.
It would benefit both students and teacher if this discovery became the primary objective of the first two weeks of school and remain an ongoing process throughout the school year.
The discoveries made during this exploration will assist the teacher in preparing more effective lesson plans for the whole class, as well as for each individual student.
Concerns when Teaching Special Education
Teaching objectives in the special education classroom are different than in the traditional classroom.
Whether the student is learning in a general education classroom or pulled out into a special education resource setting, concerns for the individual must take precedence over concerns about the organization and management of the general education classroom.
Remember, all special education students have an individualized education plan. Success for the special needs student requires a focus on individual achievement, individual progress, and individual learning. This requires specific, directed, individualized, intensive remedial instruction of individual students who are struggling.
Techniques for Teaching Special Education
When classroom challenges become overwhelming, causing the child to tire easily and avoid all academic pursuits, the key is to organize the work into small segments that he can master without becoming overwhelmed. The use of frequent breaks built into class and homework time have proven helpful both in preventing fatigue, and rewarding the child for trying.
Having identified a specific learning style, teaching a student with an auditory processing problem could include a systematic study of phonics. Techniques designed to help all the senses work together efficiently can be helpful to the child with sensory motor problems. And specific reading approaches that require a child to hear, see, say, and do something (multisensory), might be utilized with both of these students.
The challenges of teaching the child with learning disabilities can be mastered by modifying the way in which information is presented. Fewer problems on the page and larger fonts that are easier to see will work wonders for a child with visual processing problems. Observe the child to see how long he can work without becoming fatigued, and then assign the amount of work that he can get done before he becomes too tried. If he can get only 5 problems done, then assign only 5 problems and give him a break.
When teaching special education, care should be taken to include rewards for effort as well as achievement. Reinforce the child's effort with supportive, regular, quality, feedback about how he is doing. The feedback will motivate him to keep trying, and the desired achievement will follow as the child gains more skills.
When teaching special education classes, use diagrams, graphics and pictures to augment what you are saying in words; this strategy benefits the visual and auditory learners at the same time.
If the child loses his place while reading, or uses his finger to point to the words use a colorful piece of plastic under the line to help his eyes return to the right place when he loses focus. A colorful piece of paper will do, but the more durable plastic gives it the status of a “reading aid” that should be valued and kept in his desk with other important learning tools like pencils, erasers, rulers, calculators, etc.
When trying new techniques, ask the child what he is experiencing, and ask for his suggestions for changes that will make learning easier and more comfortable. Sometimes color plays a role in reading, ask the child whether he likes his words on white, cream, or light blue paper. Glare from the paper and the contrast with the color of the ink may be impacting his ability to stay focused.
Educational Technology in the Special Education Classroom
In the special education classroom, attention should be given to optimum learning conditions, in the form of accommodations and modifications that will allow the student with learning disabilities to demonstrate his existing skills while learning new ones.
In contrast to traditional paper-pencil tasks, interactive technology is providing many alternative methods for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Computers are powerful tools for students with special needs and should be utilized as often as possible.
With the use of technology, students who have difficulty getting their thoughts on paper because of poor handwriting skills, can write their thoughts with the use of a keyboard. A child whose visual processing disorder makes reading difficult can use his stronger auditory skills to listen to a recording of a book.
When the visual book is utilized together with the auditory recording, the child receives the benefit of matching the sound with the words. This has the potential of improving his reading skills.
Additional Resources Teaching Special Education
IEP advocacy sometimes becomes necessary in school districts that are not as up to date with assistive technology as they should be. Parents are very supportive of special education teachers who request their assistance. And parents can sometimes be more persuasive with school districts than individual special education teachers.
Repeatedly, determined parents have proven themselves to be able to insure an appropriate education for a child by following the step-by-step instructions for effective parent advocacy spelled out in our LD Reference Book. The reference book offers suggestions for additional classroom interventions including what to do, and how to do it.
If you are serious about becoming an advocate for children with learning disabilities, or other special needs, you might consider taking some online courses.
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