According to the most recently available reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, almost three million American children live with disabilities; that’s just over 5% of the children in the country. Just like anyone else, they deserve to live healthy, happy, and productive lives. That’s why teachers, like you, and schools for children with learning disabilities are so important.
If you’ve found that your passion is for teaching special needs students in an environment that allows them to shine, you’re already most of the way to working with special needs students successfully. However, especially if you’re just getting started, there are some things you need to keep in mind to make sure you become a great teacher, addressing the needs of the children in your special education program and those of their parents.
Four Tips for Teaching Special Needs Students
- Don’t Give up Too Easily
- Keep Activities Short and Engaging
- Structure: You Love It, Your Students Love It
- Know the Power of Your Words
As FriendshipCircle.org, a popular special needs resources website, writes, one of the biggest mistakes people new to teaching special needs students make is giving up too easily. Some children won’t respond when engaged in certain ways. For example, some don’t like being asked questions. This doesn’t mean you should give up, it just means you need to find a different way to communicate.
Special needs students often have trouble concentrating for long periods of time on one activity. That’s why Teacher Vision suggests that, whether you’re running a lesson or playing games for children with autism or other special needs, you keep your activities short and sweet. You can be productive without drawing things out for too long.
As in any school, special needs schools often have students who act out, getting themselves into trouble. One of the biggest causes of this lashing out? Lack of structure. Humans naturally crave structure, both in their work and personal lives. Making an effort to provide structure to your students day after day and week after week can help reduce any incidents you might have in the classroom.
Students and parents are extremely sensitive to the use of outdated terms that have come to mean extremely derogatory things. You may say something not knowing that the term is no longer permissible, but that won’t keep feelings from getting hurt and hackles from being raised. As the CVS All Kids Can program points out, your words are powerful and can have an impact on your students’ self-esteem and their ability to learn.
Are you a professional with experience teaching special needs students? Let us know about your tips in the comment section below.