What does it take to be successful when teaching students who have Special needs? It takes patience and professionalism, consistency, caring, and a sense of humor. There is not doubt about it, special needs students can be frustrating, infuriating, rude, disrespectful, and even dangerous. That is why it is important to be patient and professional when working with them.
Teachers must always keep in mind why the students acts that way. Teachers do not need to take verbal attacks personally, but realize that they respect authority, and that a special needs student may not. Teachers must win special needs children’s trust over time, and it will take a lot of time. It is very important to be consistent with special needs children, and to create a predictable environment for them. Structure is very important to them because their out-of-school environment is usually very chaotic.
When the teacher creates a predictable, structured environment, the special needs students can relax. An anonymous teacher once said,” The systems are useful for keeping records and helping students see their behavioral progress, but that it meant nothing unless the teacher could ‘hook’ the student.” She meant that all the techniques in the world would never really work unless the teacher cares about, and believes in the student. Also, the student must care about, believe in, and trust the teacher.
If this kind of relationship can be establishes, real behavioral change can take place. One of the greatest gifts we have is the ability to laugh at ourselves. Most problems in the special needs classroom can be avoided through humor. If the special needs teacher has a good sense of humor, he/she can teach the students to laugh at the situations that happen in life instead of taking things so seriously.
Teachers have a real opportunity to make changes in students’ lives. Teachers often can have more influence on then than any other adult. After all, students are with teachers six to seven hours a day, five days a week, for eight and a half months. They can be the most important person in the students lives by being an adult who really cares about them and wants to see them succeed.
Successful special needs teachers who really care about their students. and whose students really care about them, can burnout very quickly if they are not careful. There are four main reasons for burnout: losing professionalism, caring too much about the students, letting work interfere with homelike, and attitudes of other teacher and administrators. Losing professionalism occurs when a teacher steps out of the role of teacher/authority figure and takes verbal attacks personally. It is easy to do because the students want teachers to feel attacked. If they can get the teacher to act like a peer, then they feel they are in control and that the teacher has not right to tell them what to do.
The day-to-day personal attacks, cursing, and occasional threats can wear down anybody. At these times, it is good for a teacher to have another teacher to discuss these feelings with. If a teacher tried to hold it inside and hang tough, they will burnout. Teachers will also lose their temper from time to time. After all, who wouldn’t after undergoing constant attacks? The important thing to remember is to stay professional at all times and that the students have problems or they would not be in your classroom.
Caring to much is one of the hardest things to deal with as a professional, committed special needs teacher. It is possible for a teacher to care too much for their students. It can cause terrible pain to a teacher when they have worked with a student for years, and see them go to jail, or die at a very young age. It is important for a teacher to remind themselves many times a day that they work with children that have problems.
Teachers must concentrate on their successes and be able to live with the fact that some of their students are just not going to make it no matter what. Teacher’s work life and interfere with their home life sometimes. Three ways this can happen to a teacher is: feeling as though they need to be in control all the time, taking their anger and frustration out on their family at home, and/or treating their own children like they are special needs students. Teachers must be aware of these things when they enter into this type of work so they can watch no to fall into the trap.
One of the most important accomplishments in the Special Needs classroom is keeping control over the students who are constantly trying to take it away from the teacher. But, when the teacher goes home, they need to realize that the control they have in the classroom is totally different than the control they lead at home. Working with students that try to hurt your feelings all day can sometimes cause teachers a lot of quite a bit of internal anger. Even though the teacher attempts to remain professional throughout the day, it can seem to them that everyone is “out to get them”.
When school is over and it is time for the teacher to go home, sometimes the attitude can stick with them. Some teachers have found that spending at least one half-hour away from everyone in the family when going home after school and doing something that gets their minds off of work helps them to relax and “shift gears” from professional to family member.
Sometimes it can be very frustrating to be a Special Education teacher. There are many laws that govern the profession that do not apply to regular education. These laws are poorly understood by regular educators and can cause friction between colleagues. This misunderstanding is even worse when it comes to the special education student. To regular education teachers it seems that special education teachers are “coddling” kids who have problems. The methods used to control behavior in the Special Education classroom are seen as the school system letting these kids “ get away with murder”.
Administrators get frustrated because they are the one that are responsible for curbing the misbehavior of special needs students. When a teacher gets really frustrated, they should turn to their Special Education supervisor. This is a person that can truly understand what the teacher is going through and help them understand what they are accomplishing in their work.. Here are a few examples of the disorders children could have in a special education classroom.
The child who repeatedly disrupts your class and who seldom completes assignments may not be deliberately troublesome, but could be showing signs of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Similarly, a student who constantly stares out of the window might not be intentionally ignoring you, but instead could be demonstrating behavior caused by ADD. This disorder causes impulsive behavior, difficulties in focusing attention, and sometimes hyperactivity.
Fortunately, when ADD is identified correctly, a program that combines supervised medication and teaching strategies designed to modify behavior can lead to success in the classroom. Like other children with disabilities, students with ADD are helped best when the teacher understands the students’ special problems and makes some modifications to the instructional program. However, you do not have to face these challenges alone; teachers work as part of a team that includes administrators, special educators, school psychologists, healthcare professionals, and the parents.
Another disorder in the Special Needs classroom is Autism. Most children with autism seem to have tremendous difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction. Children with autism also take longer to learn to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cues-whether a smile, a wink, or a grimace-may have little meaning. To a child who misses these cues, “Come here,” always means the same thing, whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug or squinting and planting her fists on her hips. Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world may seem bewildering.
One more disorder a student may have in the Special Education classroom is Down Syndrome. Some characteristics of people who have Down syndrome are: slanted eyes, small stature, poor muscle tone, flat facial features, a single line in the palm of the hands instead of two, Many of these people have problems with tongue protrusion and many also have heart defects and a high susceptibility to pneumonia or bronchial infections. They may also be susceptible to thyroid disorders and other health related problems.