The Right School for Your Special-Needs Child

Find a preschool that meets your child’s unique needs.

If your child has special needs, you probably have many questions about choosing a preschool. What programs are you eligible for? How do you assess which are right for your child? Here are the answers you need to help simplify your search:

What Are We Entitled To?
By law, any 3- to 5-year old with documented disabilities is entitled to free preschool special education and needed related services, like speech therapy. To determine eligibility, your preschooler must be evaluated by your school district. The free testing will verify whether your child has a “handicapping condition,” which can include vision or hearing impairments, developmental disorders such as Down syndrome, milder speech or motor delays.

Where Should I Start?

1. Check with disability organizations. They will help you learn about special-education resources in your area. If your child received early intervention services as an infant or toddler, ask your services coordinator to recommend preschool programs.

2. Contact your school district’s Department of Special Education. Arrange to have your preschooler evaluated. A team of experts — usually including a psychologist, social worker, and teacher — will conduct developmental testing and gather medical history and observations from you and professionals who’ve worked with your child.

3. Consult on your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). It lists the services she requires, along with short- and long-term goals. The committee on preschool education will write the plan, with your input. Your child has the right to be educated in the “least restrictive” environment, meaning that, if possible, she should have opportunities to interact with children who are not disabled.

What Are My Options?
Programs vary according to school district, and may be full or half day. Here are some choices you might be given:

• A self-contained special-education preschool. Your child will be in a class comprised solely of special-needs kids. He’ll receive direct instruction from teachers trained in developmental delays. But there will be little opportunity for him to interact with typically developing peers, who can model skills and behavior.
• A special-education preschool that includes children without disabilities. Disabled children and low-income preschoolers from the Head Start program are often combined in one class. Your child gets individualized attention, plus the chance to interact with non-disabled peers.
• A traditional community preschool, with support services. Your child attends a mainstream community preschool, and your school district provides a special-education teacher to act as a consultant there. That teacher meets with the preschool staff regularly to modify the program to your child’s needs. Sometimes the district also provides free speech, occupational, or physical therapy at the preschool.
• Combination plans. If your school district offers you a half-day special-education class, consider supplementing it with another half-day program in a traditional community preschool.

What’s Right for Your Child?
If your primary goal is socialization, a community preschool may be fine. But if you want your child to master functional skills, the better choice might be a special-education preschool that works on those throughout the day. When weighing your options, remember to:
• Visit programs. Talk to the director and teachers, and explain your child’s challenges. Make sure the staff is willing to accommodate your preschooler.
• Ask about the curriculum. It should be play-based and developmentally appropriate.
• Discuss how IEP goals will be met. Will they be part of the class’s daily routine, or will your child be pulled out for support services?
• Consider class size and number of teachers. Small groups are best — ideally no more than 12 children, with at least two teachers. Also talk to the school district about an aide if your child needs one.
• Foster partnerships. The preschool staff should be open to your feedback and willing to work closely with your child’s therapists.
• Advocate for your child. If you feel the recommended program is wrong for your preschooler, negotiate before accepting what the school district offers. Ask professionals who have worked with your child to write letters on your behalf. Get an independent evaluation done, at your own expense, to support your position. Then meet with the committee on special education to calmly discuss other options and, hopefully, reach a compromise.

How to teach students with learning problems

Teaching students with learning problems

As teachers, we provide our students with the best of ourselves because we want them to succeed. We choose the most appropriate methods, the best tools and wrap up our courage to deliver our lessons effectively. We are concerned about their academic development and are enthusiastic when we spot any positive change in their behavioural and cognitive development. However, we get depressed when we are faced with students with learning problems who fail. We are lost and feel our efforts are useless. This happens because not all teachers have had the type of training that provide strategies to cope with these types of problems.
Teachers can do many things to help students with learning difficulties. They can improve their teaching methods, the assignment they want their students to do and the way they assess their work. Here are some strategies you can use to cope with students with learning problems.

Methods
1. Have students attention focused on you before you start the lesson.
2. Instead of teaching with sophisticated language, use simple language and speak slower.
3. Teach new vocabulary.
4. While discovery methods are better for normal learners, this creates high affective filter and may hinder slow learners. So since students with learning problems are not good problem solvers try to use explicit instruction.
5. Don’t use open-ended questions often. Ask precise questions needing particular answers and build on them to reach your teaching objectives.
6. Repeat, review and recycle on regular basis. This can be very helpful to foster long-term memory.
7. Use concrete materials and pictures.
8. Give one instruction at a time and don’t hesitate to have students tell you what is to be done and repeat given instruction to check full understanding.
9. Provide a checklist of work to be done.
10. Vary your teaching methods to meet all learning styles. Present the material orally, visually, kinesthetically, in group work and in individual work…
11. Write key points on the board, use colored chalk or markers
12. Present new information in the form of tables, charts, pictures…
13. When you present important points repeat them many times and say” this is important” to get their attention.
14. Provide examples of the work to be done.
15. Teach students how to ask for help.
16. Summarize key points at the end of the lesson. You may use graphs, tables, charts…

Assignment
1. Allow students to choose from different forms of assignment: an interview, a role play, a demonstration, pictures and drawings with descriptions, written text…
2. It is also helpful for students with learning problems that teachers provide them with controlled or guided tasks instead of free tasks.
3. Allow enough time for students to answer question or do tasks and exercises.
4. Vary the way students do their work: use whole class, small group and pairs.
5. Provide outlines and graph organizers to help students deal with assignment.
6. Reduce the amount of work to be done. Focus on quality instead of quantity.
7. Split large assignment into small parts.
8. Give students opportunity to ask for assistance when given a task.

Testing
1. Teach students study skills. Inform students with the teaching points that will be covered in the test.
2. Prepare students for the test. Provide a review sheet to be done as a homework to be corrected later in the class. While correcting the review sheet give students time to ask questions or review concepts.
3. Teach key elements in tests: “fill in the blanks”, “match the following”,” analyze”, “define”, “choose the right answer”…
4. Read the test to the students.
5. Make sure you test what was taught. Don’t ask from them things they don’t know yet or expect from them to come up with new information.
6. Vary the type of test questions: matching, true/false, multiple questions, short answers, essays…
7. Provide a quiet place for test assignment.
8. Show students how you will mark the assignment. Provide clear criteria of marking.
9. Provide feedback so that students learn from their mistakes and improve their learning.

10 Tips to Teach and Improve Slow Learners

Slow learners – Isn’t this clinical term deplorable for children with below average IQ levels? Seems like a lifelong tag suggesting that such children are non-achievers. On the other hand, slow learners are being a part of regular schools, thus only proving that they are not physically or mentally disabled but only pace disabled. The only problem with them is that they learn concepts and achieve developmental milestones at a pace slower than their peers if they do not suffer from any other disabilities.

Teachers and parents play pivotal roles in a slow learner’s life. Their support and motivation go a long way to help such children overcome their hurdles. This duly signifies that teachers and parents have added responsibility from schools and society toward them.

Creating a healthy and conducive environment for a slow learner is of utmost importance to improve their pace. Often teachers who have a slow learner in their class face grave problems: keeping up with the term syllabus, fear of losing empathy toward such students, and many others. We have put up a few motivation tips for teachers alike to help them cope with at least the basic issues.

10 Tips to teach slow learners

1. Be patient with slow learners
The foremost aspect of teaching a slow learner is that the educator should be patient and consistent throughout the entire process. The core problem of slow learners’ education is their weak cognitive skills coupled with the slow speed learning. A teacher has to be understanding and patient toward their ability to get distracted easily and having a low attention span. Moreover, teachers must find creative ways to cope with this situation so that the entire class is not affected. One of them is patient repetition. Try repeating every basic instruction, keyword and concept time and again without being boring. Do not over speak, but over teach.

2. Seek school management’s help
Request the school to arrange special classes for slow learners after/before school. Also, check whether you can get a co-teacher or an assistant teacher for your class. This will help you concentrate better on them.

3. Engage fellow classmates in your efforts
Teach the other students to empathize with the sEspeciallyudents. Specially ask them not to bully or tease slow learners. Inform them about their condition and how they could make a difference. Ensure you have these timely sessions in the slow learner’s absence.

4. Provide minimum homework
We all agree that homework although with its benefits is more of a burden for a child and her parent. Slow learners, in particular, find it difficult to be attentive throughout the school day, let alone coming home and completing homework assignments. For such children, quality matters over quantity. Having minimum homework would help them understand learning and reduce their anxiety. This, in turn, would maintain their enthusiasm toward school. An educator can assign and alter homework personally and leave out small details that may be of little importance. For example, a homework of writing an essay on an English chapter could be modified to reading the chapter twice, and telling the summary to the teacher would be a better idea.

5. Let a buddy teach
Peer tutoring works better for slow learners. When their teachers are of the same age, they get encouraged. Let them select 1 or 2 of his friends to form a study group. Assign the study group the task of reiterating the new teachings of the day and assisting with homework.

6. Encourage and Teach the right things
Invite them to come forward during art classes, school activities, or volunteering. Recognize and reward their participation. This would do wonders to their self-confidence. Teach special skills rather than unnecessary skills. This may include following the correct instruction words (count, color, circle, etc.) or listening and focusing on keywords. Remember the main goal is to make them self-sufficient.

7. Give them special takeaways
Hand out special cheat sheets, mini dictionaries, or visually graphic information sheets. One good idea is to give lesson pamphlets for pinning them to their soft boards so that they are surrounded by constant reminders of lessons and activities. Do check out our stash of Math tips and tricks to help motivate them.

8. Praise and raise them
Always praise every tiny effort of a slow learner in front of the class or in public. This would raise their self-esteem and confidence.

9. Encourage constant Parent–Teacher Association
Work very closely with their parents. Ensure the homework and tasks assigned are successfully completed on a daily basis. Be accessible and open to communication. Make sure to listen out to parents’ problems and help to solve them. Conduct special meetings for their parents of apart from the general PTA meets.

10. Lastly, a few don’ts:
• Do not reprimand in front of the class. You may do that in private.
• Do not emphasize on writing, concentrate on reading. Oral education is more beneficial for them.
• Do not let them quit trying. Encourage them to continue their hard work to complete their tasks even if it means postponing it.
• Do not be overprotective. Let their slow learning not become their introduction.

We all need to remember and timely remind ourselves while teaching slow learners that it is okay to let them learn things slowly than not learn at all. If you find this post beneficial, please leave us a comment. Also, do read our posts by our experts in Child Psychology and behavior. Remember, no student should be left behind. Best of luck!