There are around 7.3 million special needs students in the US. These numbers have doubled since the 1970s, from 3.6 million. This significant increase is because schools are now more aware of the diversity of special needs that students may have, which enables schools to cater to them effectively.
As a special education teacher, you are crucial in shaping your differently-abled student’s educational journey. Developing learning strategies that encourage them to learn and enjoy going to school is essential, as 80% of students with disabilities who don’t receive at least a middle school education cannot focus throughout their lives.
So, to promote the joy of learning, utilize the following strategies in the classroom as a special needs educator.
1. Pursue certifications
There are more than 667,914 special education teachers employed in America. Yet, only 27% hold a master’s degree, and only 1% hold a doctorate, mostly because of the intense demands of teaching. Between the difficulties of teaching classes and grading papers, how can you squeeze out the time to develop your understanding of special education?
However, there are skills you need to learn beyond your undergraduate degree to develop effective strategies for your differently-abled students. So, pursuing online certifications can be ideal for special education teachers. Programs such as Advanced Special Education Teaching Endorsement can teach you the following:
- Understanding different neurological perspectives
- Real-world application of teaching materials
- Effective teaching strategies catering to the diverse needs of your students
- Using research to develop a personal teaching approach
This program can increase your confidence in your abilities and prepare you to lead your lessons effectively. You can take these classes 100% virtually and learn as you teach. By pursuing a graduate certificate in special education online, you can further your skills and use them to support your students by applying what you learn during these courses.
Suppose you have a student on the autism spectrum in your class. Your advanced Special Education Graduate Certificate has lessons that teach you language, communication, and instructional strategies explicitly catering to children with ASD. And you can use this knowledge to support your student effectively.
2. Create small groups
Large groups can be distracting for both teachers and students. Teachers may have a hard time keeping track of all of their students, and students may get easily distracted by their peers. This can be especially true for students with attention issues or physical impairments.
For example, a student with ADHD may have difficulty focusing in a large group because of so many distractions. They may be easily pulled away from the task at hand by other students talking, moving around, or making noise. This can make it difficult for them to learn and participate in class.
Similarly, a student with a physical impairment may have a hard time keeping up with the rest of the class in a large group. They may need more time to complete tasks or may need to take breaks more often. This can make them feel isolated and frustrated.
One way to address these challenges is to break students into smaller groups. This can help to reduce distractions and make it easier for students to focus. It can also help students to feel more supported and included. You can divide your students according to their skill levels or group them according to similar needs, which helps them keep the same pace in solving problems.
3. Adapt your teaching style
It would be best to adapt your teaching style to match the needs and capabilities of your students. You should be open to various techniques that can make your classroom more engaging and inclusive. Try to use more than one learning medium. Use pictures or activities to make your lesson easier to understand. If you have a student with dyslexia who struggles with reading, you can use pictures and videos to teach them the course contents.
Using such technology can also be helpful. Introducing your students to learning games like Kahoot can increase engagement, energy levels, and motivation, according to a 2021 study. The gamification of lectures can help maintain your student’s focus and improve their class participation.
4. Set clear goals
Your students should know what you require from them before you start teaching. Set achievable learning objectives, and provide a timeline for achieving them. When your students know what to expect, they can mentally prepare for the following lectures.
You can also use this goal-setting strategy to impact your student’s behavior positively. For example, your students may interrupt your lectures by loudly declaring they need help instead of raising their hands. In that case, you can set the appropriate behavior by telling them to raise their hand when they want to answer or ask questions.
5. Be consistent
Studies suggest consistency is vital to maintaining positive behavior, especially in children with special needs. A fixed schedule with rewards, breaks, and tasks can be positive reinforcers. As a teacher, you should also coordinate with your student’s parents to keep reactions to specific behavior constant. This consistent response keeps the environment of your differently-abled student predictable, which can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
6. Engage senses
Stimulating your student’s visual, auditory, and movement senses can help ground them. This technique can help them focus on the present and engage more with your lectures. You can incorporate fun activities encouraging movements, like dancing or jumping, and use bright, eye-catching colors to keep their attention. You can also use hands-on exploration by having your students explore different textures and shapes. This technique allows them to focus entirely on the object they feel in their hand, keeping their attention and stimulating their learning.
Educating a special needs student might be more challenging, but it is also more rewarding. You can improve your students’ lives by providing them with the quality education they deserve. You can also equip them with the confidence and skills to succeed.
The strategies provided in this blog are meant to help all special needs teachers create a better classroom experience for their students. So, good luck!