Tips for working with special needs students
From an interview with Caitlin Smith
1. Be Patient- Things don’t always come naturally or easily to special needs students. They can take a lot longer to learn, so teachers need to be willing to work at the students’ pace. When teachers are patient with students, a learning environment is created.
2. Be Flexible and Adaptable- Use the learning opportunities that become available. Things that you have planned can change very quickly in a special needs environment. As teachers adapt their teaching to the current situation, students are able to learn regardless of the change in plans.
3. Care for students’ basic needs If children are uncomfortable, hungry or thirsty, they will be focused on those needs. Help them with the things they need help with because otherwise their capacity to learn will be decreased, and learning won’t be a priority.
4. Personalize it to the Student
Strategies that may work for one student may not work for another. For example, a visual schedule might work for one student, but another student might need an audible reminder; a touch on the shoulder might be help a student feel safe, but could trigger another. Teachers need to figure out what each child needs in order to thrive. Special education teachers really have the opportunity to teach to “the one.”
5. Keep Calm and try not to get emotional. Recognize that special education is hard, but stay calm with the students and try not to respond emotionally. Do what is best for your students.
6. Find the joy. Find daily joys in teaching. You may not always have huge gains like you do in general education so celebrate the small successes because they are important!