Pupils who have difficulty learning always present a challenge, these students can learn but might require a lot of guidance, teaching of basic life skills, or assistance with daily care (teachers frequently experience fear and anxiety when first called upon to mainstream students with severe handicaps in their classrooms), this practice is referred to in the literature by a number of terms: integration, mainstreaming or inclusion. One of the issues facing teachers and educators today is the impetus to include children with severe handicaps in regular classrooms. This implies that the integration of all pupils into classrooms is a primary goal, beginning with including those who have previously been left out – students with special needs.
All children with special needs have a right to equal opportunity in the regular classroom. They need the regular classroom environment and stimulation of typical peers in order to gain functional life and work skills, and to develop social relationships (Thousand & Villa, 1991). From an educational perspective, attention has been given to the importance for children with handicaps to be around typical peers for at least a portion of their days in order to learn and utilize social skills. Stainback (1988, 1990, 1992a) advocated that all children benefit from the practice of including students with severe handicaps. Pupils can assist one another, develop friendships, and come to accept individual differences. Given the benefits to all pupils, many authors concluded that there is no justification for the separation from a regular class.
Following is a list of some positive Qualities for Teachers of At-Risk Students (new migrants pupils with special needs for example)
Effective teachers of pupils at-risk display the same characteristics of effective teachers; however, teachers of students at-risk understand and accommodate for the unique challenges facing their pupils. They respond to pupils’ academic, social, and emotional needs. The following list of positive qualities and red flags of ineffective teaching is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but one that underscores certain aspects of effective teaching.
- Gets to know pupils’ cultures
- Pay attention of languages skills problems
- Inquiries into issues facing the students’ communities
- Believes that all students in difficult home environments can succeed
- Establishes rules and procedures on the first day of school
- Uses nonverbal cues to address inappropriate behavior
- Rewards positive behavior
- Ensures that students are exposed to content and skills that they are expected to know
- Engages pupils in higher-order thinking activities
- Uses a variety of instructional strategies
- Expects pupils to hand in completed work
- Uses both higher-level and lower-level questions in class
- Provides time for pupils to reflect on questions
- Makes specific written comments on assignments
- Provides specific feedback for correction without making general, negative comments such as “poor work”
Red Flags of Ineffective Teaching
- Believes that pupils cannot overcome familial and societal issues
- Refuses to offer help before or after school
- Lacks patience to deal with pupils’ unique learning needs
- Emphasizes negative rather than positive reinforcement
- Doesn’t make students aware of behavioral expectations
- Is described by pupils as “mean” or “unfair”
- Fails to intervene in difficult situations
- Fails to incorporate district or state subject standards into lesson plans
- Plans for mostly lower-level knowledge and comprehension of content and skills
- Uses the same few instructional strategies on a daily basis
- Accepts partially or poorly completed work without expectation of completion
- Uses mainly lower-level questions in classroom instruction
- Provides little to no wait time once a question has been asked
- Hands back assignments with little or no constructive feedback
- Makes general, negative comments about student work
Following is a list of some of the common indicators of learning disabled students. These traits are usually not isolated ones; rather, they appear in varying degrees and amounts in most learning disabled students. A learning disabled student:
- Has poor auditory memory—both short term and long term.
- Has a low tolerance level and a high frustration level.
- Has a weak or poor self-esteem.
- Is easily distractible.
- Finds it difficult, if not impossible, to stay on task for extended periods of time.
- Is spontaneous in expression; often cannot control emotions.
- Is easily confused.
- Is verbally demanding.
- Has some difficulty in working with others in small or large group settings.
- Has difficulty in following complicated directions or remembering directions for extended periods of time.
- Has coordination problems with both large and small muscle groups.
- Has inflexibility of thought; is difficult to persuade otherwise.
- Has poor handwriting skills.
- Has a poor concept of time.
Support Providers. Team members who can provide support to the classroom teacher who is involved in mainstreaming are: school principals, special education teachers and consultants, colleagues, paraprofessionals, parents, and pupils themselves.
Benefits of Collaborative Teams (Circles of Support). The practice of using collaborative teams and group decision-making has been demonstrated to be a key factor in achieving optimum results in schools through the merging of special and general education strategies. Preparation: Part of the preparation should include providing all relevant information about the child. Learning of the child’s medical and/or educational history, social and family environment, cultural baggage, parents’ situations, the nature of the special need, the potential and the difficulties, allows teachers to know some of the expectations for that child and for themselves.
Recommendations for Teachers
- Maintain ongoing communication with the administration and other support personnel. Make your needs known and ask for those supports which will increase your effectiveness in the classroom for all pupils, those with and without special needs.
- Ensure that relevant information about the child coming to your classroom is received as soon as possible. Request a visit to the child’s setting and a meeting with the parents to augment this information and to provide a picture of reasonable expectations for the pupil and yourself.
- If a teacher assistant is provided for all or a portion of the day, whenever possible, utilize this individual as a helper to not only the child with special needs, but to all students and yourself.
- Use the supports of colleagues in the school and beyond. Network with other teachers who are mainstreaming pupils with challenging needs. If it is more expedient, request that the consultant arrange and facilitate networking meetings.
- Recognize that the goals for the child with multiple or severe handicaps will be different, but as meaningful as those of the “typical students.” Celebrate those successes, both large and small.
- Focus on your pupils’ strengths and be supportive of their weaknesses. Let each student know that you believe in him or her. The rewards will be tremendous for both you and your students.
Title: Meeting the needs for special needs
Objective: To prepare teachers to work with children with special needs in the classroom.
Remember that the positive and negative behaviours exhibited by teachers determine to a great extent their effectiveness in the classroom and, ultimately, the impact they have on student achievement. Several specific characteristics of teacher responsibilities and teacher behaviours that contribute directly to effective teaching are listed for each of the following categories:
- Don‘t forget that the teacher as a person
- Analize the classroom management and organization
- Focus also in planning and organizing for instruction
- Strategies and timeline of Implementing instruction
- Monitoring student progress and potential is an important task
- Professionalism in the whole process
2. Evaluation, revision, creation:
You can use this checklist If you are going to work with children with special needs in your classroom:
- All relevant information about the child before he/she incorporate to the classroom: Information about child medical and/or educational history, the nature of the special needs, the potential and the difficulties.
- Visit to the child setting.
- Meeting with his/her parents.
- Reflection about my expectations.
- Looking for support and talking about my feelings.
- Develop the “Circles of Support”
Step 1: Define the objective of the support group, the necessary support profiles, intervention log sheets, interventions log, meeting plan, referral and intervention protocols, monitoring method.
Step 2: Networking with close teachers that work with children with special needs too. Involving: School principals, special education teachers and consultants, colleagues, paraprofessionals, parents, and students themselves.
- Be part of external collaborative teams.
- Asking for support to increase the effectiveness in the classroom for all students (Student leadership development).
Materials: paper, pen, agenda, computer.
George is an 8 years old pupil that presents characteristics of intellectual giftedness. He has a very rich vocabulary (he expresses with unusual words for his age). He writes without any orthographical mistakes, he performs simple mathematical operations, he quickly understands explanations, etc.
The Psycho pedagogical team of the school reports that George has mastered the skills related to his school grade and that he has an above-average intellectual capacity and a high level of creativity.
He has no special friends and he is used to being alone. Some pupils make fun of him and call him “nerd”.
He has good behavior when he is working at class but when he finishes his work (he uses to be the first one at doing it) he manifests disruptive behavior.
Questions for reflection:
- Do you think you need any preparation to work with people with special needs and why?
- If you had been informed about George before starting the course year, would you apply any measure in advance?
- What strategies would you employ to support the learning and development of this pupil with specific needs?
- Would you establish rules and procedures on the first day of school in order to enhance inclusion at the classroom? What kind?
- How would you act when George is having disruptive behaviour?
- What would you do to prevent his disruptive behaviour?
- How would you act when other pupils are making fun of George?
- Do you consider it important to talk about special needs to the pupils? If yes, justify the reasons why.
- How could it be overcome?
- Would you engage another/s class pupil/s as support?
- Would you engage parents as support?
- Would you asked for collaborative Teams support (Circles of Support)? Please explain your concept.
- What strategies would you employ to work mainstreaming in the classroom?