Last week we discussed what parents look for in a childcare service and the consensus was that for most families communication is very important.
In this article we are writing about teaching children with special needs, which can be a difficult challenge for teachers, parents and children.
Being a teacher to children can be both a difficult endeavor as well as a huge responsibility considering that you are charged with helping to shape the next generation. This is never more true than when you are dealing with children who have special needs, where the difficulties that come with teaching can be greatly magnified by a host of problems.
Children with special needs may not only feel themselves dragged down by the their developmental difficulties, but also by the negative self-perception they can develop from the poor treatment they may receive from peers or, sometimes, even their own family. One of your roles as a teacher is to help mitigate these issues by thoughtfully devising a development plan to be followed by children that is challenging, but not so overwhelming as to discourage them.
Let’s look at a few tips that may help you accomplish these important tasks:
1) Don’t underestimate children with special needs
Chances are, your children with special needs have been underestimated by others all of their life. A diagnosis by a doctor can be helpful early in the life of a child with a disability, but it can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy that unfairly conditions the child to believe in limits that may not entirely exist.
Routinely give children gentle challenges to see where they can really push themselves with their skills, and never assume that because they have been diagnosed with a condition, that it is impossible for them to improve. You may be surprised!
2) Instill social skills as well as intellectual skills
One of the bigger downsides children with special needs face isn’t even so much the need for special attention, but rather the social ostracism that they may face. Their peers, who participate in “regular activities”, may refuse to interact with them, especially when you’re dealing with younger children, and this may lead to a special needs children not having enough social interaction and growing up socially stunted.
As you already know, social skills are invaluable in the real world, and whether or not you think that your children will be capable of living independently when schooling is over, he deserves to learn the art of interacting socially with others.
Interaction is key
Always include children with special needs in school trips and other events, teach them the basics of being polite and minding the body language of others, and lightly guide children to interact with their peers at pace they feel comfortable with.
3) Focus on your children’s strengths, not their weaknesses
Sometimes, even as a teacher, it is easy to get frustrated and fall into a pattern of negativity. In order to not transfer those negative beliefs to a potentially impressionable child, it is important to brush off the child weaknesses and focus on what he/she can do. This will help to develop a good, lifelong relationship with learning, which is something critical to instill early on any child.
4) Re-frame behavioral problems
Children with special needs may be more prone to behavioral issues than others, but try not to take actions personally and understand that this is because they tend to more often suffer from unmet needs.
Patience and Compassion
They may come to you not knowing how to communicate effectively, and may only know how to throw a tantrum to get what they want. This is where much patience and compassion is needed, as children need to be taught how to treat others with respect and to ask politely to get their needs met.
5) Give examples of successful people who had special needs growing up
Many children with special needs can become discouraged, and they may allow the voices of those who surround them to convince them that they will never amount to anything.
Give Examples of Successful People
You can blow these perceptions out of the water by simply providing examples of perfectly successful people with disabilities. Some of the most wealthy and admired people in the world have ADHD, ASD or other social and learning difficulties (e.g., Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Branson, Justin Timberlake …).
It is important to stress that children with special needs are no less than other children and that they are simply a little bit different! We are all different from each other aren’t we?
Following these tips, hopefully you will be able to bring out the best in your children with special needs. Most of all, just keep in mind that you have the opportunity to serve as a sanctuary away from a world that may be harsh to them sometimes; take advantage of this position to build up your children’s self-esteem and allow them to see their own worth.