Three Fundamentals of Engaging Students with Special Needs by Patrick Dwyer Merrill Lynch
Students with special needs require a little more care, patience, and understanding from not only their teachers/educators but their guardians and every other person in their lives. As they are each unique individuals with unique personalities, a one-size-fits-all approach in the classroom might not be the best for them, says Patrick Dwyer Merrill Lynch. It is precisely for this reason that educators of special needs students undergo specialized training to give them the skills they need to teach a special needs classroom.
On the outset, the classroom set-up for special needs students look just like any other ‘regular’ classroom but upon closer inspection, you could notice a few details that differ from the usual set-up. On that note, Patrick Dwyer shares the fundamentals of engaging special needs students inside the classroom:
The very first thing that you must do to enhance student engagement is to eliminate distractions or at least limit it to a bare minimum. Students with special needs usually find it difficult to focus, so as their educator, you have to help them stay focused and pay attention to their lessons, reminds Patrick Dwyer Merrill Lynch. Keep the classroom organized and help the students keep their desks organized as well. The less clutter, the more they can focus on your instructions or lessons.
Make instructions simple and easy to understand
In a special needs classroom, the challenge is getting your students’ attention at the same time. You will find that not everyone will pay attention to you when you need them to. One way to help special needs students ‘behave’ inside the classroom is to give them instructions, from their lessons and activities to how to behave inside the classroom.
Make sure to break down your instructions into snippets so each of your students can easily understand them. It’s also best to give them specific steps to follow for each instruction. And remember to pace your instructions; refrain from giving several instructions at once. Lastly, do not proceed to the next instruction only after each student has completed the task from your previous instruction, reminds Patrick Dwyer Merrill Lynch.
Enhance their sensory experience
Students with special needs each respond to sensory stimuli differently but in general, they have an aversion to noise and what may be noise for one student may not necessarily be the same for another. And with this in mind, use a soft tone when talking to them. Similarly, if a lesson needs music, make sure to choose something that is soft and soothing, suggests Patrick.
Engage their other senses as well. Make their time inside the classroom a multi-sensory experience. Also, you may also need a multi-sensory strategy when you need to call their attention back to you or the lesson. A light tap on the shoulder, for example, can help you regain the student’s attention.