The only path to happiness is soothing your needs.The only path to successful learning environment is soothing the needs of every learner.And the needs can be with both obstacles and challenges.
I have completed a SEN course (Special Educational Needs) and it has opened my eyes on variety of learners we have in our classrooms. We somehow immediately recognise the one less fortunate and with difficulties in acquiring knowledge that we forget the ones who seek more. I write this post to list the needs hoping to help my fellow colleagues in recognising who their learners actually are.But please take care not to jump to conclusion since it is possible that the child is having difficulties at that point.I just ask you to have in mind that every child is peculiar and that there are no two same abilities or needs.So let’s start…
Gifted and Talented
I am guilty for this one.I have often heard a student of mine saying that he is bored.At times I thought that he was just trying to attract my attention.And he was but I didn’t understand what he wanted.
Gifted children are considered those good at main curriculum subjects,while talented are those good at Art,Music and PE.These learners are highly intelligent and they usually need more challenging tasks. And they get bored with things being done the same way.Their memory is amazing and they are good at things that interest them.They won’t be good at all subject,but in what they like they can be splendid.They need to be encouraged and helped.They are eager to learn new things and ask a lot of questions;if neglected they will shout out and wither.They do things in detail,have extensive vocabulary and what’s the best can concentrate for long periods.
Multicultural and multilingual
We all have multicultural learners,some multilingual and tend not to hurt the feelings of children or insult them; but do we pay attention to include them thoroughly in the mainstream classroom or consider it a need?! Children coming from different cultures and speaking another language need time to understand and assimilate to the new surrounding. Why not letting them do a project on their culture or the way they learnt a language and thus help them?It’s difficult for learners to adapt especially if at home they are expected to live under the rules and customs of the home country.Don’t let them shell in! There might be a beautiful pearl hiding within.Not only will they adapt but other learners will learn new things about another culture.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
I hear people say that some learners are just misbehaving and that they are not cut for school,but what if we are wrong?! Children diagnosed with ADHD have problems to concentrate,focus,sit still, follow instructions and they don’t have good working memory.Whatever might be the reason for ADHD,a teacher should bear in mind that he/she can do a lot to help learners.They need support, rules they can stick to, help in managing bad behaviour.They need to feel loved and accepted by both teacher and other learners.
Don’t we all have children who at times seem clumsy?I had a few. These learners have difficulties with motor skills, coordination and concentration. Their handwriting is very difficult to read and they lack social skill and self-esteem. They will complain on headaches and migraine. Sounds familiar?We notice that learners have difficulties but we don’t know why or how to help them.Adjust the table,give them more time to finish tasks,avoid too much copying and have posters with clear instructions and rules.
I am often surprised with the written tasks of learners who are amazingly good at speaking. Dyslexic learners tend to have difficulties when writing and reading,along with the low self-esteem issue. They flip letters, it’s hard for them to link sounds,have problems with memory (both short term and working),are disorganised etc.These are some of the indicators to help you realise that you might have a dyslexic learner in your classroom.Let them learn step by step, don’t give many instructions at the same time,use pictures,symbols,and other visual aids to help them learn.
Visual,Hearing and Physical Impairments
Visual Impairment covers learners who have problems with their sight,from low vision to completely blind children. Hearing impairment means that a child has difficulties with hearing other people and learners. Physical impairment refers to wide range of mobility problems. These are obvious difficulties but, though they may seem less problematic,it is essential to know that they influence one’s learning and that it’s up to a teacher to create learner friendly classroom and adapt teaching to it. Arrange tables so not to be obstacles, reinforce listening activities;when explaining something to children,stand still and face them so that they read lips,use videos,photos etc.But the most important part is to create a friendly classroom and induce peer cooperation.It helps a great deal.
Social,Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties
We all have good and bad days,and I know that it is very difficult to control ourselves. But can you at that point imagine how children with SEBD feel? Their behaviour is difficult to handle at times,they tend to have mood bursts,break the rules,do mischief to attract attention,sometimes even be aggressive. The reasons for such behaviour can vary,but adjusting teaching to them will help them for sure.For them,the most important thing is to feel safe.Only then they can acquire.Think and speak positive,train yourself to keep calm and tend to control what you can.
Speech and Language Difficulties
A learners that has difficulties with speech and language is considered not to have skills sufficiently developed for his/her age. It usually goes along with some other need or it can be a result of abuse. Learners don’t commence conversation,have problems when using words (don’t end words,don’t understand questions),their coordination is poor etc. Work with the learner to find out the way he/she can learn and acquire.Give time to order pictures in his/her mind.Allow time off,use signs or symbols when a learner doesn’t understand something.Let them use technology if it’s easier for them.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Learners with ASD have difficulties in social communication,relationship and imagination;and they don’t necessarily go together.They can overlap but they are not the same.Social communication means that a learner has difficulties when communicating properly with other people.Social relationship means that he/she has difficulties when behaving and interacting. Social imagination refers to difficulties in understanding and accepting other people’s point of view,perspectives,rules and routines.Learners with ASD learn better when they visualise things.So use graphics, charts,colour codes to help them overcome their difficulties.Introduce pair and group work but with a safe haven.Let them use computer when working on their part of a group work. And the most important thing link what you mean to something easily understood and concrete.
As you can see,there is a number of needs hiding in our students and they vary from learner to learner. It can be a particular need,but it can also be a present state of mind and soul.Teachers should tend to differentiate the tasks so to help their students and have understanding for their growing minds. Though a learner can have a special need,that doesn’t mean that he/she is not intelligent.One should find a way to adapt and adjust to suit the need.Learners can develop a kind of passion for things of interest.
Hope it helps. 🙂