Children can be challenging to care for and teach. Children with special needs are even harder.
From Asperger’s syndrome to conditions that are less well-defined, educators and parents alike can find themselves confounded by a special needs child. There are many ways of handling these kids. There are education courses that can cover this knowledge.
What isn’t always readily apparent is how not just to educate them, but to make them shine.
For an ordinary child, some good advice and a little encouragement can go a long way. Giving them a bit of instruction can open up opportunities for them. A direct approach like this doesn’t necessarily work well for some kids, though. You have to get creative.
The first tactic is to discover where the student’s strength lies.
Take the time to learn about the students. Look at their files and the notes from previous teachers. Talk to the parts. Ask the students what they’re interested in, what they feel comfortable with – and what they’re bad at, as well.
One option you can take is to provide a different angle.
A child who hates music because they can’t understand it might just be having trouble with the instruments. Give them a music program to tinker with and see what happens.
Keep in mind that a new perspective isn’t always the solution. However, doing this can help you confirm whether a kid feels disinclined towards something, or merely has trouble engaging with it “traditionally.”
Develop a strategy that builds on the high points of your students.
If a student is having trouble grasping place value, but understands knitting, factor that in. Maybe you can have them design a piece of fabric art in rows of ten. You’ll need creativity for this, but this isn’t impossible.
Technology is your friend. Some technologies and software can help in your goals.
Dragon Naturally Speaking is an excellent speech to text program for those kids that just aren’t good at the written form of the language but can talk your ears off. Apps that synthesise voices can play for kids that have trouble speaking but have ideas they want to express.
Technology can be a huge help. Some apps and tools can overcome problems that would have been insurmountable years ago.
Learning, as we are learning, hinges a lot on relationships. Use social networks to help yourself and your students!
A graphic representation of a student’s peer network, complete with strong and weak relationships, can be useful. Pair the students based on strong positive relationships, so they work together better. Gauge which students are strongest in which areas to facilitate peer-teaching.
Be sure to be observant, so you can notice the bonds forming.
Students with particular conditions tend to have trouble picturing their futures. Counteract that!
Help them envision themselves in future careers. Spot their strengths and factor in their particular needs, so you can point them in a direction that will suit them.
A child that shows obsessive-compulsive tendencies might enjoy a career in something that focuses on the minute, easily-missed details. A student that has a talent for art could make a career of himself as an artist or designer.
Finally, consider making changes in the classroom to accommodate specific needs.
Add some open space for an ADHD child who needs to move around to learn. A small puppet theatre for a Downs Syndrome student who likes to mimic others can be a great help.
Embrace the differences and adapt to them, rather than expecting the kids to adjust to you.