V A Jyothi
Managing any classroom is a challenging task as each child is unique in the way it learns. But if the classroom is inclusive, the challenge becomes that much tougher, even for the best teachers. Teachers who have special children in their classroom need to put in a greater effort to make these children feel comfortable and accepted. Even as the teachers carry on with their classes, their antenna should always be tuned to what their ‘special’ students are doing. Here are some ways of ensuring that the special students in class don’t feel out of place.
What you can do
Students with special needs and learning disabilities may find listening to instructions or following directions difficult, especially if there are too many distractions. It is, therefore, best if teachers can schedule breaks throughout the day and seat students with special needs in an area of the classroom that limits distractions.
Children with special needs should be made to sit in the front row, and teachers should check their hearing aids and other assistive devices. The teacher should be aware of how attentive these children are in the class and whether or not they are follwing the lesson being taught. It is best to use simple, concrete sentences, and break down a step into smaller steps to ensure that they understand what is being asked of them. For better understanding, the teacher can give the directions both in writing and verbally.
The class teacher should maintain a congenial relationship with other subject teachers and parents for good scholastic achievement of the special children. Audio-visual aids, charts and pictures need to be used to illustrate a topic more clearly. The normal children in class should be encouraged to interact with the children with special needs, they should be sensitized to the conditions of their special classmates and discouraged from induliging in teasing or misbehaving. Students with special needs must be given opportunities to succeed. They often feel like they are no good, that they are lesser than their peers, but structuring lessons that lead to successful results will keep them motivated. Be consistent with rules and discipline, correct errors and reward students when they make these corrections themselves. If they fail in tasks given to them, the teacher must take remedial classes for these students and if necessary involve the parents too as they are the primary caretakers and guide them as to how to do follow up activities at home. Good communication between schools and parents is crucial for children with special needs.
With the pandemic setting in and classes moving online, teachers with inclusive classrooms have their work cut out. They need to instruct the students with special needs to use their assistive devices such as hearing aids or braille books and sit near the system and observe, hear or follow the teacher closely. Ask the parents to help when their children sit for online classes. Let them check to see that the volume of the hearing aids is comfortable and high enough, take down notes given and help their children with the homework.
Assessments and encouragements
During examinations, the teacher, if necessary, should explain the questions properly and give these students extra time to finish their exams.
The principal of the school has to ensure that the special children are being included in the classroom setup, and that facilities and concessions provided to them, such as language exemption, fee reimbursement, free books and clothing, etc., are reaching them in time. Parent-teacher meetings have to be conducted frequently to ensure that such children perform to their potential. Regular meetings with the parents will make sure that the parents and teachers are on the same page as far as these children are concerned.
The author is a special educator in the Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Speech and Hearing Disabilities, Regional Centre, Secunderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org