Being a teacher and molding the minds of children can be tough, especially when your students have special needs. As a teacher, it can be challenging to provide these students with the support they need to succeed, but if you follow these tips, you’ll find it’s not so difficult after all:
Focus on their strengths.
Before a special needs student arrives in your classroom, talk to his or her previous teachers to get a little background on his or her strengths and weaknesses. Find out what the student’s interests are, what motivates him or her and what frustrates him or her the most. Once you have all of the information you need, focus on the student’s strengths in the classroom to build up confidence and inspire him or her to succeed.
Find a positive role model.
Students with special needs often feel like they are at a disadvantage compared to other students, but that shouldn’t be the case. Find examples of people with disabilities who have gone on to live successful lives and make a difference in the world and teach your special needs students about them. For example, Steven Spielberg, the world-renowned movie director, famously has Attention Deficit Disorder, but that did not stop him from conquering Hollywood! These examples will serve as positive role models for your special needs students, and show them that their dreams should have no limits.
Whereas your other students may respond well to general praise such as “great job!” or “way to go!” students with special needs want to hear more specific recognition. These students respond better to praise when it is directly linked to the good behavior. For example, if you notice a student with special needs holding the door open for his classmates, recognize the effort to be polite and kind by saying, “Great job holding the door open to help out your classmates.” This will help children understand what they are being praised for so they continue to exhibit this good behavior.
Get them involved in activities.
Special needs students can often feel isolated and alone—as if they don’t fit in with other students who don’t have disabilities. Break down the barrier that separates these two groups by encouraging your special needs students to sign up for after school activities. Once special needs students get the opportunity to mix and mingle with other kids, they will realize they’re really not so different after all, especially when put together in a group setting centered around a common interest, such as a sport or hobby.
The longer a specific activity is in the classroom, the more frustrated special needs children can become. To prevent this issue from arising, try to condense activities so everyone in the classroom can benefit from the lesson.
Although teaching special needs students require a bit more effort and patience, it is a rewarding experience that is well worth it. Your special needs students may not stay in your classroom forever, but they’ll always have a special place in your heart.