6 Best Practices for Supporting Students with Special Needs

6 Best Practices for Supporting Students with Special Needs

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students with special needs

Being a teacher is a challenging job, but teaching students with special needs presents its own unique set of challenges. These students often struggle in a typical classroom setting, with learning outcomes and achievement gaps that aren’t always addressed effectively by school practices.

What does it mean for students with special needs?

Students with special needs encompass a range of learners with physical, developmental, and learning disabilities. Some may also have emotional, behavioral, and communication disorders. These children require extra attention, care, and love. It’s crucial to prioritize their mental and physical well-being and help them reach their full potential. The challenges faced by children with special needs are often more severe and may persist throughout their lives.

Challenges of working with students with special needs

Difficulty faced by teachers:

Teaching students with special needs necessitates specialized and customized approaches to education and training. Many teachers encounter numerous challenges in supporting these students, particularly when they are in classrooms with both special needs and typical students. Teachers may experience emotional burnout due to a lack of parental support (especially from parents who may not fully understand their children’s specific needs), a lack of appreciation, and an excessive amount of paperwork. Additionally, collaborating with other teachers can be challenging when they have a limited understanding of the perspective of special needs children.

Difficulty faced by students:

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Children with special educational needs may encounter difficulties with schoolwork, including reading, writing, comprehension, self-expression, appropriate behavior in school, forming and maintaining friendships, and staying organized. Physical inaccessibility is a major barrier that many special needs students face, often due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure. Another overlooked barrier they encounter is the one-size-fits-all approach, which fails to assess their unique strengths and abilities, limiting their potential.

In many countries, stereotypes about students with special needs persist, leading to bullying and mistreatment by peers and others. Lack of access to suitable study materials is another significant challenge that hinders their educational progress. Study materials should be readily available in formats that accommodate their specific needs.

Also Read: Why should teachers spend special time engaging in fun activities with kids?

What practices can help teachers support students with special needs?

Teach social skills:

Students with special needs may have difficulty understanding social conventions and require guidance in this area. For example, they need to be taught polite ways to make requests, greet their peers, and collaborate during learning activities. Developing an understanding of others’ emotions is a critical skill for academic and overall success, as it helps build relationships, find happiness, and promote economic growth. Teachers can support special needs students in appropriate interactions through techniques such as role modeling, scripting, and social narratives. Additionally, teaching components of friendship and relationship-building is essential. It is important to remember that learning social interaction takes time for special needs children and requires plenty of practice.

Provide opportunities for success:

Maintaining a positive outlook is crucial when working with special needs students in the field of education. These students may progress at a slower pace than their peers, and it is important to focus on creating opportunities for their success and celebrating their achievements. Teachers can foster an inclusive classroom environment that minimizes stress and distractions as much as possible. They can model appropriate behavior, provide praise, and offer assignments in various formats, accommodating students’ individual needs and preferences. Highlighting important information, breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and incorporating music or short activities for transitions can be particularly helpful, especially for students with ADHD. These actions provide students with more opportunities to thrive and succeed.

Also Read: What Students Need to Know About Summer Break and Getting Ready for School

Put relationships, safety and health as a priority:

Teachers have educational goals, tasks to complete, and curriculums to cover. It is their responsibility to ensure that no child falls behind academically, especially those who are struggling in their academic skills. However, it is crucial for teachers to prioritize developing positive relationships with special needs students and prioritize their safety and health. These students may experience stress if they don’t feel a sense of connection. Many special needs students face physical and mental health challenges, and they require inclusion and extra attention. Teachers should provide additional support and instruction, recognizing that these students may struggle to process information. Therefore, prioritizing relationships and health is essential. 

Become familiar with common difficulties:

In a typical classroom, there may be students with various types of special needs. Understanding common difficulties can help teachers design Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and group activities for students with special needs. For example, students with dyslexia may struggle with reading and decoding speech sounds and relating them to letters and words. Students with dyscalculia may have difficulty with mathematical calculations, while students with ADHD may struggle with attention and focus. By studying common difficulties, teachers can prepare appropriate activities for students with different types of special needs. Research the challenges and needs of your students and take action accordingly.

Help students participate during lessons: 

To support students with special needs, teachers should create a fear-free environment where these students feel comfortable asking questions and participating in lessons. Teachers can implement certain practices to increase student engagement. It is important to allow sufficient time for students to solve questions, considering their processing time, before asking them for answers. Avoid using sarcasm and criticism, even if a student provides an incorrect answer, as this can draw attention to differences. Utilize a variety of audio-visual and graphical materials to enhance lesson delivery and keep students engaged in learning.

Help students focus:

Focus is a skill that many special needs students struggle with, and it can significantly impact their academic performance. Teachers can support them by providing gentle reminders for assignments, breaking tasks into manageable steps, and encouraging group work. Additionally, teachers can ask students to reflect on a topic for a few minutes, have them discuss their thoughts with partners, and encourage the sharing of ideas as a collective.

Teachers of students with special needs should strive to simplify tasks as much as possible, breaking them down into manageable steps. It is important for teachers to be realistic about the challenges they face and learn to manage their own emotions in order to effectively support students with special needs. Celebrating small achievements can provide motivation for both teachers and students to continue growing and putting in effort. Collaborating with parents of special needs children can alleviate some of the burden and, most importantly, teachers should not forget to take care of themselves.

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