An ability that any teacher must have is the ability to find a student’s strengths and weaknesses in order to accurately accommodate and communicate with the student and parents. Meeting a student with special needs requires nothing more and nothing less. Learning to look beyond any label a child may have acquired is key in aiding a student to success.
Knowing the Student as an Individual
With classroom sizes increasing each year in many schools, it can be difficult for teachers to focus on the specific needs of each student. When students with special needs are in the classroom, the teacher must create lesson plans and homework assignments so that each child can learn what is being taught. Karen Rusk from IN*SOURCE encourages parents to type a one-page brief about their child to give to teachers. The page should be a brief bullet point list of things the teacher needs to know:
My child has______.
He struggles with__________.
Here are signs of when he’s becoming frustrated or overwhelmed_______________. Here are things you can do_______________.
Things to do that will help him learn_______________.
Things to do that won’t help him learn____________________.
This one page summarizes strategies and information from the child’s Individual Education Program, while giving the teacher data that is easy to understand and have access to.
What’s important for the teacher to understand is that no child should be treated with more or less favor than another based on the answers to these questions. It should never be assumed that because a child appears to have no behavioral issues, there aren’t other important issues that need addressing.
When looking at the collective needs of the students in the classroom, it is often possible that what works for a child with special needs can benefit all of the students in the classroom.
Rusk gives an example: “If a child needs a fidget toy to help focus during class, create a box of fidgets for everyone to use. As adults, some of us have trouble sitting still without playing with something in our hands at times. This applies to kids, so why not look at providing a resource to benefit the whole class? Setting up classroom rules and expectations can help all the students understand when and how they can be used.”
Communication between Parents and Teachers
Start off the school year by deciding the best way to communicate with your child’s teachers. Communication is a 2-way street that needs to be established right away and can be done so by written daily comments, email, or telephone.
Written communication through assignment notebooks or daily log books that go from school to home can help both teachers and parents know how the child is doing. Sleep problems and homework problems are easily communicated this way. This information can really help the teacher when planning the day. The biggest problem with written communication is the possibility of it getting lost in transit. Many kids struggle with organization skills, so papers and notebooks may get misplaced or lost completely.
Some teachers prefer email to keep in touch. “If I have a concern or question and email my child’s teacher, she gets back to me right away. So then I know the issue is either taken care of or what actions need to be taken to deal with the situation,” Nicole Davis, mother of 2, explains. “My daughter has medical issues that restrict what she is allowed to eat. She also is on medication, and I need to know if there are any behavioral or emotional changes during the day.”
Technology is great, but is not always reliable. Computers freeze up and some parents do not have access to email. And written communication can often be misinterpreted. Quick telephone calls can be a great way for parents and teachers to communicate. This can be especially helpful if something worth reporting happens during the day.
Some parents need to know what has happened before school lets out, as their child may come home a bit frazzled. Rusk explains, “By the time the student has come home and tried to explain why they are upset, and the parent tries to call the school, often the teachers have already left for the day. So the parent does their best to deal with the issue without having all of the information. The delay of knowledge can be frustrating for the parent dealing with the emotional and behavioral needs of the child.”
Rusk’s final words of wisdom can be embraced by parents and teachers alike: “Good communication is key and with it, many frustrations from both the parent and the school can be avoided. Figure out what works best for both parties and go from there.”