In another milestone of accessible education is the inclusion of people with special needs. Now, children with either cognitive or physical disabilities do are not segregated, but rather included in the mainstream education system when possible. Thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools have become aware of how children with diverse needs should be treated in the educational setting.
As a teacher, it is important to be aware of the IDEA act. Educators should also be trained adequately about the strategies on how to care and educate children with diverse needs. Through pre-service and in-service training, teachers can gain more insight and awareness about disabilities and how they can better serve the special needs community.
Despite these remarkable changes, there are still some things in the educational system that warrants improvement. As stigmas end and accessibility to education changes, teachers and families must be well-equipped with the best practices of including children with special needs. Here are some things to remember when caring for these children in classrooms and schools.
Things teachers and parents must remember when caring and educating children with special needs
1. A child isn't defined by his or her diagnosis.
As teachers and parents, we may be inclined to seeing a child no more beyond their medical diagnosis. When a child is initially diagnosed with having Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, it can be quite easy to have preconceived notions about how this child would perform or behave in the classroom.
It is important to have the mindset that even if a child has this diagnosis, it is only a part of their being. They also have interests, skills, and other parts of themselves which are not defined by having the medical diagnosis. This is crucial for helping them achieve and learn--when we don't place their potential in a box as defined by their diagnosis, we can be surprised with how much they can achieve.
2. Each child is unique.
This relates to the first point which also has something to do with having a diagnosis. Novice teachers, especially those who haven't handled students with special needs, may be thinking that the same diagnosis for children also constitutes the same problem that they need to address.
This is also far from the truth. Educators and parents need to understand that there are certain conditions unique to each child, such as their upbringing, temperament, and even the sub-type of their condition. This is why creating Individualized Education Programs are important to help children with special needs. IEPs helps children achieve academic and functional goals according to their baseline skills, the pace of learning, and their current needs.
Teachers and parents must collaborate with each other with the development of the IEP. Parents must be open with sharing what they think would be functional goals for their child, while teachers must also coordinate with the interdisciplinary teams to gain insight on how to better teach the child using specific strategies.
3. Consider not just what you teach but how you teach.
Just like typical children, children with special needs also have different learning styles. The general learning styles include visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. As children with special needs develop, teachers and other professionals within the interdisciplinary team will understand the learning styles they can meet each goal.
For example, a child with a hearing impairment may benefit greatly from using visual cues. These could help maximize their learning in a given subject when their hearing faculty lacks. It is not just the content of the lesson that's important, but also the strategies that teachers employ so that children can learn best.
This is also important for parents to understand, especially when teaching their child at home. Functional goals such as self-help (getting dressed, feeding oneself, doing chores) may be taught in a unique way to help maximize learning. These may include hiring an occupational therapist within the home context or using practice materials to help increase opportunities to be stimulated.
4. Teaching children with special needs may be challenging, but it is a fulfilling calling.
Teaching children with special needs also requires a special kind of educator with a big heart. With so many things to consider, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when attempting to handle children in inclusive settings.
Despite these challenging, remember that you are creating a great impact by helping those children who may not have the same opportunities otherwise. It is not always the easiest task to prepare long IEPs, has collaborative meetings, or coordinate with paraprofessionals regarding a child's development--but its rewards are absolutely worth it. When difficulties start to loom over, remember the purpose of being in this occupation--it is to help and care for children regardless of their characteristics and abilities.
5. Parent participation is vital.
As previously mentioned, having a collaborative team to help with the creation of the IEP is important. This is also true when it comes to teacher-parent relationships for children with special needs. Teachers must be willing to share concerns in the classroom so that parents can be actively involved with the development of their child.
The teacher can discuss what lessons they can start practicing at home as this provides more opportunities for the child to learn. Consequently, parents must also be willing to open up about their concerns about their child. There are studies that show how parental involvement helps in student achievement, whether those children have special needs or not.
6. Seek advice when you need it.
As a teacher, you don't have to face problems in the inclusive setting alone. You have a lot of resources and colleagues within a collaborative team to help you. You can ask advice from a child's therapist, special education teacher, or another colleague on how to best handle a child in terms of teaching strategies and managing classroom behavior.
You can also find helpful resources from reputable websites online as well as books and journals about children with special needs. These are valuable sources of information that will not only help you about a particular child but they are also golden nuggets of information that you may apply for other children with diverse needs.
7. Celebrate your student's diverse needs.
Creating a classroom that fosters an attitude of love and tolerance is so important as a teacher. It is your responsibility to make other students be aware that there are children who may appear or act 'different', but they are essentially the same and deserve to be treated with the same amount of compassion and respect.
Always remind your class that love for others doesn't just come when people are alike or when they find commonalities amongst each other. The truth is, everyone is different and one of the character education goals you can set is respect for others' differences. When you continuously develop these attitudes in class, you may notice a huge difference with how typical students interact with their classmates who have special needs.
Inclusion is not just a movement that should come and go. Rather, it should be a norm for every school or any other educational facility. Children who have special needs deserve to be given the love and attention they need, and these are some of the wonderful reminders that parents and teachers must take not when educating them.