Educating Children with Special Needs
Children with special needs deserve the same free and appropriate education that all children receive.
It is true that education children with special needs is sometimes more difficult, but the reward for their learning is unmatched.
In order to truly teach these children, you must first really get a good grasp of what they are truly capable of achieving. Every child is different so you need to take the time to really study all of the information that is available to you so that you know the best direction to take the child's education. Children with special needs most often require some type of tactile learning. This simply means that they learn best when they are touching and manipulating objects rather than the traditional paper and pencil learning that is still common in the school systems. This kinesthetic movement makes their brains react differently to the proposed curriculum and it allows their brain to see things in a different light. You must be cautious when employing manipulatives however because some children are very picky about the feeling of many different manipulatives.
Every child has something that they enjoy doing or playing. The role of the teacher is to teach around a child's interests. Children with special needs often have difficulty making other connections so structuring your educational opportunities around their likes will help them to make even more learning connections. It is of the utmost importance that you start out teaching new concepts as basically as possible. You should be certain that the child has mastered the skills before you begin to make the learning more abstract. The abstract concepts can create confusion and greatly affect the concrete knowledge that was originally taught. When you use "hands on learning" techniques, the concrete concepts come much clearer for the child, usually in much less time as well.
All children love to get rewarded for their great work. Children with special needs are usually easy to reward because they often have limited interests. Knowing how to reward the child for his or her hard work simply requires you to know what interests them. Make sure that when you use a rewarding system that you gradually decrease the frequency of the reward. The hope with this extinction method is that the child will become conditioned for learning, not for a reward.
Teaching children with special needs requires a great amount of patience. You may go a little bit crazy wondering why the concept that you are teaching the child has not set in yet. Every child learns at a different rate so learn what the child's ultimate potential is likely to be, give them manipulatives for basic learning, and watch them surprise you.