Teaching students with cognitive disabilities
Most modern schools have systems in place to ensure all kids get a fair go whatever their emotional or physical status.
This means there can be are extra challenges for teachers. You can’t operate a one-size-fits-all approach to education. As a teacher, you have to be immensely adaptable and open to the entirely unexpected.
Kids with autism or Asperger’s can be unpredictable. Kids with learning disabilities can find it excruciatingly hard to keep up. Any child with special needs - be it due to a mental issue or physical disability - will require a more considerate, sensitive and supportive approach to their learning and school life experience. Here are 7 ways to do just that.
One: Stamp out the cruelty
Some kids can be mean. Why? Because they don’t know any better yet. So teach them how to be better.
Help them to be empathetic towards kids they may see as ‘weird’ simply because they’re not like them. Encourage all your kids to be class heroes by helping those who need help.
Two: Focus on role models
Few things inspire kids with disabilities more than seeing someone like them succeed. They don’t feel alone anymore and there’s a sense of “If they can do it, I can do it too!”
Three: Tag team with the parents
Take the wrestle out of teaching kids with special needs by knowing all the moves first. That means spending time with their parents and doing some important learning yourself. Find out the issues, the triggers and the best ways to calm and reassure.
Interested in finding out how to manage students with ADHD? Read our previous blog.
Four: Focus on strengths, not weaknesses
Again, the parents will give you some hints. But most children, no matter how challenged their life may seem, have talent. Often, it’s the hidden talent you have to find. Equally often, it’s talent that can grow from a simple interest.
So, throw them a paintbrush, hand them a guitar or let them loose on a basketball court. Experiment and experiment some more.
Five: Build dreams
A lot of kids with disabilities have neither the time nor the inclination to think of the future; to imagine a wonderful life or a career dream. Help them get excited about something.
Agitated, hyperactive kids might love the idea of being a firefighter. More internalised kids may like the idea of becoming a writer and creating the next Harry Potter.
Six: Get them buddy breathing
Okay, it’s a scuba diving term where two divers share one regulator when one runs out of the air. Figuratively speaking, your special needs kids need the same. So find them a buddy, another kid in the class who can sit beside them and offer peer support when it’s needed most – right now.
Seven: Invest in a Teacher Aide
As teachers, we naturally want to believe we can deal with 20 or 30 kids on our own because that’s the way it was when we were growing up. But really, how effective was that? How can one teacher possibly cover off every issue; every confusion; every panicked child?
Realistically, with today’s changing times, it is challenging to run a class on your own; not if you want every student to come away from that class with the best education possible.
A Teacher Aide is your roving classroom assistant who can slip quietly in beside a struggler and help them along without disrupting the flow. They can assist you by easing your load and ensuring kids, be they special needs or not, get the education they deserve.