I recently had a friend reach out to me for some advice. Their school had began to apply the DepEd policy on zero-reject of students with special educational needs. She now has a student in her class with some special needs she is not familiar with. And she expresses difficulty with the child.
I am aware that their school does not have a SpEd unit/department. So, I asked her if the student has a diagnostic report forwarded to their school administration; there was none. But she said the child was indeed requiring special education. I further asked were there any recommended educational program. There was none too. These spell out as B-I-G-P-R-O-B-L-E-M. The school and the teachers do not have the resources available to ease the task.
I can imagine this is how things will be like once the inclusion begins. Don’t get me wrong, the intention for inclusive education is noble. I, myself, advocate for this. And there is much work to be done for its proper implementation and transition. Many schools continue to excuse themselves as lacking or not having trained staff or teachers for this. And they cannot be blamed.
I can also see the hesitation of most teachers. I understand how difficult it will be. So, for starters, as the Philippine education system is; we’ll make do with the best we can. Regular teachers, here are a few things to consider when a special education needs child comes to your regular classroom:
Classroom Arrangement and Considerations
- Maintain an organized classroom.
- Provide little distractions for the special needs child.
- Consider the seat assignment of the child.
- If possible, assign a classmate to call the student’s attention when it begins to shift.
- Consider visual cues like checklists for things needed in a task.
- Allow some flexibility for the special needs child if he/she needs a different working space for different tasks.
Transitions and Breaks
- A checklist poster can do wonders for anticipating and accepting changes and transition from one task to another. It is very helpful in establishing a routine. It also helps to ensure organization, consistency, and time management.
- Use visual or auditory cues to signal a transition.
- Change your voice or use voice inflection and tone as most students with special needs respond well to a mixture of loud, soft, and whisper sounds. And yes, sometimes slightly exaggerate proper speech.
- Provide for some breaks or downtime.
- You may also create an area to “Calm Down”. It’s helpful to have a designated area for children to calm down after being upset or overstimulated.
Instruction and tasks
- Break down instructions into smaller, manageable tasks..Simply the sentences. Avoid using compound sentences altogether.
- If needed, break down a step into a few smaller steps to ensure your students with special needs understand what you are asking.
- At times it will be beneficial to put the directions in print and still say them verbally.
- Ask your students with special needs to repeat the directions and ask them to demonstrate that they understand.
- Use multi-sensory strategies. This can be as simple as mentioned above; using both visual and auditory cues. (Other approaches you may consider are opportunities for tactile experiences and movement)
- Give students with special needs opportunities for success. You don’t need to give them the answer but you can organize the lessons that lead to successful results. This will keep the child motivated.
- Provide immediate reinforcement for accomplishments.
- Be consistent with rules and discipline. Correct errors and reward the child when they self-correct or make these corrections themselves,
- Explain behavioral expectations, and teach and demonstrate appropriate behaviors rather than just expecting students with special needs to pick them up.
On a personal note: Be diligent about documenting the child’s behaviors and their causes. This can eventually help you plan for some behavior modification approaches towards the child. (Kudos!!! You are on your way to the A-B-C of behavior modification). Make sure to identify the behavior. What happened before that behavior as well as what happened after. Also having a behavior record helps you communicate and explain to parents what their child needs.