“It takes someone special to teach someone special.”
Special educators across the world believe that – If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.
Children with special needs require unique instruction by specially trained professionals to help them achieve their highest potential and strive to progress beyond their limitations. Special educators are patient, understanding and dedicated in giving each individual student the tools and guidance needed to help them maximize success. They provide instruction and support which facilitates the participation of students with special needs in a classroom. A special educator help students achieve important learning milestones by using various teaching methods, tailored to the specific needs of each student.
“Every student can learn just not on the same day or in the same way.”
Every student whether or not they have special needs learn in different ways. Some need visuals, while others need to get in there and kinaesthetically feel through learning. Thus, special educators develop teaching plans according to students’ learning needs by providing ample opportunities to explore the subject in different ways. Special educators develop activities and resources as per each child’s educational requirements.
A special educator also adapts new ways to instruct students. Curriculum adaptations come in many forms.
For example, providing graphic organizers/mind maps and other visual aids during presentations, highlighting text and adjusting font size for visibility, pre-teach key concepts or terms before the lesson and breaking down lessons into smaller, easier chunks.
This will create a positive learning environment that encourages students with special needs to learn in the style that fits them the best.
Another role of special educators is to conduct regular assessments to determine whether students are achieving academic goals. They conduct periodic evaluation to determine whether the students are sufficiently challenged. However, to fully measure what a student knows, the assessment should be relatable to their everyday lives. Special educators come up with alternative assessment techniques for their students to help them prove their success and show their knowledge in their own way. These little ways will motivate them every day by maximizing their strengths.
For instance, a student who struggles with writing but is good at oral expression must be allowed to give oral presentations instead of writing essays. Assignments/projects can be given in the form of PowerPoint Presentations. Learning by doing approach facilitates the best form of learning in the students.
Further, for teaching-learning process to take place effectively in classroom environment, a special educator closely collaborates with the school counselor, speech therapist and occupational therapist to provide a full range of support in order to overcome obstructions to students’ success.
For instance, a special educator voices a concern about students who have difficulty with handwriting that requires a lot of fine motor strength to the occupational therapist. Similarly, students with speech disorders can be referred to the speech and language pathologist.
The core aim of education and learning is to foster holistic development which includes intellectual, physical and social development. One cannot deny the importance of non-academic activities in holistic development of a child. When theoretical curriculum and non-academic activities are integrated together, then the chances of learning more and exploring more about strengths, interests and abilities of students becomes higher.
By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Many students with learning disabilities have impressive talents despite their academic struggles.
Here comes the role of a special educator who recognises and promotes these talents in students and also guides them to pursue it as a career prospect. One never knows, the same talent may become a lifelong interest.
Special educators also encourage students to participate in non-academic activities which improve social skills, academic performance and self-esteem.
Sports are known to teach students about leadership and teamwork. Music and dance lead to better cognition and creativity.
Field trip develops observational skills and understanding of co-relation between physical and social environment. Such first-hand learning experiences stays with them for a considerable period.
Meditation is an excellent way to deal with stress and anxiety in classroom. Drama/Role play has many academic and social-emotional benefits for children with learning disabilities. Multiple script readings help children improve their reading fluency, including vocabulary, reading accuracy, and intonation.
Such activities promote skill based learning as well as develop self-confidence.
Along with the above, the most important role of a special educator is to maintain the record of support services received by students as well as to monitor their educational accomplishment. They communicate with parents more often to provide detailed progress report as the parents are important stakeholders and play a major role in their child’s achievement.
Thus, the role of special educators has evolved over time and has changed with contemporary educational mandates. They do more than teach children to read, write, and compute. Not only they transform them into productive members of the society but also prepare them for future roles.
During this pandemic it has become more challenging to retain students’ interest online. Yet, the special educators have employed educational technology and left no stone unturned in maintaining the zeal and enthusiasm among students just like they did during physical school.
Author: Avani Mishra
Teaching Faculty – Senior School
The Aditya Birla Integrated School