Working with Students who have Disabilities
As classroom teachers, one of the biggest challenges facing you is accommodating the needs of every student. In a class of thirty students, knowing how to help each child can be an overwhelming responsibility. Two teachers from New Jersey share with us how they alter tiny things in their lessons to make a big impact and how they teach other students about fairness and disabilities.
How To Deal With A Disability
Special Education Specialist, Patricia, offers children a chance to understand what accommodations really mean when she visits homeroom classes in Belleville, New Jersey. “When a student with a disability, such as autism, is placed in a general education class, I am often asked to provide information about that student to that student’s teacher and classmates,” she says. “One of the issues teachers are often concerned about is fairness. Some teachers fear that students will think it unfair that this new child may receive different forms of support than they do. To solve this dilemma, I use a box of band-aids and a short skit to show that fair does not mean everyone gets the same thing. Three students are the actors. Student #1 enters the room crying and claiming he was hurt on the playground. I give that student a band-aid, tell him I hope he feels better, and ask him to sit down. Student #2 enters the room crying and claiming she has a headache. I give her a band-aid, tell her I hope she feels better, and ask her to sit down. Student #3 enters the room crying and claiming he has a stomachache. I give him a band-aid, tell him I hope he feels better, and ask him to sit down.”
“When the skit is over, I ask the class to discuss what they’ve just seen,” Patricia explains. “They offer responses that have to do with the uselessness of giving a band-aid to someone who has a headache or a stomachache. I counter with the idea that they were all crying so, in order to be fair, I treated them all the same. It doesn’t take long for the class to grasp the idea that fairness does not mean everyone receives the same treatment. We also explore the difference between wanting something and needing something. I close the discussion by announcing that the box of band-aids will remain with the teacher as a reminder of our lesson.”
Color Your Way To Better Teaching Techniques
Lauri, a K-Grade 8 Teacher in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has hit upon a simple alteration in her lessons that makes a big impact with her learning challenged students. “I’ve discovered that bright colors have many benefits when working with learning-challenged students. For example, I use a variety of brightly colored dry erase markers on my white board to emphasize points and create graphic organizers,” Lauri explains. “I find that the bright colors help my students focus, understand, and retain the material better than when I limit myself to using black markers only. I also allow students to use the colorful markers when working on individual white boards.”
“I also make available to students a bin filled with brightly colored highlighters,” she says. “The kids use the markers to highlight directions, flag answers, target vocabulary words, etc. For my students, color helps accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative!”
How do you address the needs of special education students in your classroom? What is the thing that challenges you most about making accommodations?