How to Work With Special Needs Students?

How to Work With Special Needs Students?

So you want to work with special needs children? That’s fantastic!

I’m sure you have a million questions though. Totally normal!

Hi, my name is Olivia Anderson and I will be sharing the tips I have gained through my years of experience.

I’ve worked with special needs students for years, so let me share some tips I’ve picked up along the way. I hope this little guide gives you a great starting point. Many new teachers ask How to Work With Special Needs Kids and we are trying to answer it.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

#1 Educate Yourself on Their Condition

My first suggestion is to brush up on the common conditions you might encounter. Don’t go into this blindly, arm yourself with knowledge! Read up on things like:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder – this is a big one. Understand how it affects communication, behaviour, and social skills.
  • Down Syndrome – learn how this impacts development and any common health issues that come along with it.
  • Cerebral Palsy – look into the different types and what challenges students with CP face physically.
  • Learning Disabilities – ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc. Read about strengths and weaknesses.

I know the list seems long! But the more you understand, the better you can serve each kiddo. Having realistic expectations of what’s “typical” behaviour for different diagnoses will make you feel prepared rather than nervous.

#2 Play Detective and Observe

Every child is unique, even if they share a diagnosis. So take some time to observe before jumping in.

Watch how little Joey interacts on the playground. Does he prefer to play alone? Does he talk with the other students? What makes him laugh or frustrates him?

Paying attention at first gives you insight into each child’s unique challenges and strengths. You’ll go in with a better game plan and avoid missteps. It’s like a little scouting mission!

#3 Become Their Trusty Partner

For students with special needs, trust doesn’t happen instantly. You’ve gotta earn it! Be patient and let your actions speak for you.

Use a soft, friendly voice. Give high fives when they do something well. Get excited about the littlest accomplishments. Play those favourite games over and over.

When they see you’re a consistent source of support, that foundation of trust will be there. This takes time but it’s so worth the effort! Gaining the trust of students is one of the teacher’s responsibilities.

#4 Map Out a Game Plan

Kids thrive on predictability and routine. So set up a regular structure and stick to it!

Use picture schedules to map out each day. Lessons or therapies at 9 am. Lunch at noon. Break time is at 3 pm. You get the idea.

Minimise surprises and changes that could throw them off. Maintain consistency across locations and staff members. This routine gives them a sense of control.

#5 Chat It Up the Right Way

You want to encourage your students to communicate appropriately for their needs. Meet them where they’re at!

If they’re nonverbal, try picture symbols, sign language, or text-to-speech apps. For verbal kiddos, model using words to share feelings.

Always allow enough processing time for responses. And smile big when they initiate communication – they’ll be motivated to keep trying!

#6 Celebrate the Little Wins

Look for chances to cheer them on. Recognise tiny milestones, not just the major ones!

  • Did they follow a new visual schedule? “Woot woot, high five!”
  • Tolerated sensory play? “I’m so proud of you!”
  • Asked for help politely? Give a thumbs up, “you rock!”

Celebrating baby steps motivates them to keep trying. Their confidence grows ten times bigger with your encouragement!

Final Thoughts

Soak up all you can about each child’s needs. Build an awesome bond. Set them up for success. And celebrating the small stuff – that’s the key I have been practising so far!

You’re going to do amazing things, I know you can do it!

And if you want to be a teacher, teaching assistant or looking for a job in the education industry, the Team Enlighten Supply Pool can help you. You just need to register.


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