Children with special needs need to learn similar things to those in mainstream schools. That includes functional skills, such as literacy and numeracy, but also life skills, including how to interact with others in social settings. They may, however, need extra time and support to master the necessary basics. Special needs classes tend to cover these important areas with an approach specifically tailored to these students’ complex needs.
Areas of development in special needs classes
Functional academic skills
Many people with learning disabilities struggle with what are often considered the most basic aspects of academic study: reading and comprehension, writing and math. Some children may not be able to read the actual words, some may recognize the words but not comprehend what they mean. Special needs classes help children to improve effectiveness, confidence and efficiency through various scientific means and tools and help them to overcome these challenges.
For children with autism in particular, but also those with intellectual disabilities, problems with communication and social interaction are common. Students may struggle to understand other people’s feelings and behaviour, then not know how to respond appropriately. This can be particularly pronounced in unfamiliar situations. Therefore, social education should help prepare students for a variety of different social situations, teaching them how to self-regulate, express themselves more clearly and adjust their behaviour to suit the circumstances.
Organization and executive functioning
Areas such as timekeeping, problem-solving and adapting to new situations are all difficult when executive functioning is impaired. Children who have problems with attention and memory may not be able to organize themselves to start new tasks, to finish them in a timely manner or even to remember that they have a task to complete. This means that the structure and scheduling of classes is particularly important. A system of positive reinforcement can also help children with their organization and executive functioning.
Technology and digital literacy
It is almost impossible to survive in the modern world without some grasp of technology. Digital literacy can be particularly important for children with special needs because technology can be used as an assistive device. For example, it may provide an alternative mode of communication for children who have trouble with speech or writing. Ensuring that each child has access to the most modern devices – such as a tablet or laptop, means technology can be fully integrated into every lesson.
As children grow older, it is important they begin to master the skills they will need to live independently, or at least with the maximum degree of autonomy possible with their support needs. This means thinking about cooking, cleaning, budget management, shopping and other household tasks, as well as preparing for any future career. Teenage students should, where possible, learn to advocate for themselves as they approach adulthood.
Every student with special needs is slightly different, so each learning plan should be individualized to their particular strengths and weaknesses, but by knowing the broad strokes of areas that need to be covered, you can ensure that you use the most effective and evidence-based approaches.