A student with special needs requires special attention. As a class teacher, it is your responsibility to ensure that the student becomes a part of the class to ensure inclusivity. Transitioning specially-abled students from self-contained special education classrooms to inclusive general education classrooms is not an overnight process. It requires thoughtful planning. Teacher training, appropriate student support, resources, personnel, and a meaningful individual educational program need to exist before the new class placement. If you’re on this journey, here are five tips, also followed by international schools in Dubai, that will help you make this transition smoother for you, the class and the student:
Establish Basic Principals
Establish general concepts about students with and without disabilities through class discussions, books, films or a guest speaker. Primarily, teach students that:
- Everyone wants to belong and be included
- Everyone is different
- Everyone has areas of strengths and areas of weaknesses
You can even let each student share their experiences.
Allow all students to talk about themselves, their strengths and interests. Allow others to ask questions. (Make sure you talk about the types of questions that can be asked before the activity.)
Address The Challenges
Address student-specific issues that are important for the class to know about to interact and learn alongside each other. For example, if a student has a peanut allergy, invite the class nurse in to talk about allergies and the importance of keeping peanut products out of the classroom. If the student with disabilities communicates with an iPad, have the student (parent or paraprofessional) give a demonstration.
Provide family, staff, or peer training increasing awareness
The aim is to reframe attitude and interaction skills, provide support, and share resources. To facilitate understanding and support, teach all staff why the child can find an accidental touch to be physically uncomfortable or even painful. It would help if you taught the students how to deal with this avoidance, which is not meant in a personal way but is an automatic response of the student.
Adapt the task, materials, equipment, or environment to the needs of the child
For students with special needs, maintaining a healthy balance of structure and unstructured processes is essential. For example, on each student’s desk, have a place for everything that is clearly labelled (use words or colours, for instance). Also, consider using checklists and help students keep their notebooks organized. Teach them how to do so on their own, but also check at the end of each day and offer suggestions for keeping it more organized.
Students with special needs often lack confidence. Some may believe that they are falling behind and cannot catch up with their peers. It is vital that you, as a facilitator, project confidence in their efforts. They need to taste little bites of success to keep moving forward. Provide immediate reinforcement for accomplishments, be consistent with rules and discipline, correct errors and reward students when they make these corrections themselves.
These tips will not only help the student with special needs but will also make other students more compassionate.