The number of individuals dealing with learning disabilities has risen tremendously in recent years, and for children who suffer from conditions of dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and others, their ability to process and understand becomes more challenging. Most learning disabilities are manifested through difficulty in some form of writing, thinking, listening, speaking, mathematical calculations, and spelling. Even those with disabilities such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorder have difficulty in the classroom and with traditional learning methods. Students with special needs and learning disabilities require accommodations in the classroom if they are going to meet their academic potential. Here are some ways you can help kids with these challenges succeed in school.
Maintain an Organized Routine
Your classroom needs a healthy balance of structured and semi-structured activities and processes to help children with special needs feel in control of their environment. Teach your students to be organized, with specific places and labels for things like backpacks, notebooks, and school supplies. You can use checklists or color-coded tags to help students who have more difficulty with reading or remembering things. Allow students some mobility or flexibility during independent work in order to break up the day, but also move students to locations where there are fewer distractions that can get them off track. It is best to not sit children with special needs near the door, window, or air conditioning unit.
Use Transitional Activities
It can be hard for children with special needs to move quickly between one activity to the next. Use a transitional activity like a song or a chant to help prepare students for the schedule change. Don’t compromise on the proper pronunciation of words or phrases, but singing instructions or using different voice inflections can help grab a student’s attention and encourage them to respond appropriately.
Engage in Multisensory Strategies
Children learn in a variety of ways, and being able to incorporate all of the ways into your classroom is a valuable benefit to students with special needs. While not just for special needs students, incorporating online activities into the curriculum can be a way to address specific learning areas for children who need extra help. Math and reading are often two areas where development occurs more slowly in students with learning challenges, and using an assessment program like i-Ready can help determine their i-Ready levels and specific areas of weakness in both math or reading. The assessment can be taken online, and based on the i-Ready scores, a student will receive a unique instructional path that is personalized to them and their unique needs.. Using apps or games online can also be effective as a teaching tool, but working to incorporate manipulatives and visuals into your daily instruction is also beneficial.
Create Simple Tasks
When dealing with special needs children, it is easy to lose their attention in a long list of assignments or instructions. Those with ADD/ADHD also have a hard time processing several instructions at one time. To be effective in your instructions, break down each task or item into a simple yet concrete statement. For something that will get repeat attention, such as classroom rule, use a visual chart and reference it each time you verbalize a rule or issue a reminder. Have students repeat directions and demonstrate their understanding. Break down larger steps into small, more manageable pieces for those with learning difficulties, and don’t rush to the next step or give additional instructions until the previous task has been finished. Part of the challenge for special needs kids is trying to overcome the feelings of self-doubt and performance insecurities. By encouraging your students in their strengths and letting them know that you believe in them, you can help give them the confidence to reach that next level of potential.