With the help of some of our amazing educators currently working in Special Education Settings we have complied a list of wise words to help you working in Special Needs schools.
- Ask for student information – there’s almost always a folder with key information including triggers for behaviour, and what support the students require
- Don’t take it personally – sometimes a student is going to have some very challenging behaviours, and it might seem that you’ve made things worse – change your approach where needed, but don’t expect to have all the answers
- Be approachable! Talk to the students about what interests them. Building a rapport, even if you’re only there for one shift, will make a difference – and sometimes they even remember you two years later (has happened to me!)
- ASSUME COMPETENCE – never assume a student can’t do something. They might just do it in their own way. (Jen Cooksley, TA)
- Be prepared to approach the same task from all different angles – it might be effective to use repetition, simplification, modelling, visual cues, examples, or take a break and then come back to it.
- Pay attention to what each student likes – observing little things like characters on their pencil case can help you to build rapport
- Work as a team – teachers and support staff work together to best support the students. (Loreta Schepis, CRT)
- Don’t be afraid to get involved, get hands on, sing, dance, play, whatever it takes to engage with the children. (Siobhan Divilly, TA to CRT)
- Bring a hair tie – you’ll need it!
- If in doubt, ask questions – everyone is happy to help. -Observe other teachers and ES’s ways of managing behaviours and learn from them.
- Every child is different – not one size fits all. Be open-minded to learn about different diagnosis’ and their qualities. Use multi-sensory lessons to engage students. (Claire O’Sullivan, CRT)
- I never assume that if they can’t speak, that they don’t understand… or if they seem disengaged, that they aren’t taking it all in. (Anita Ayling TA)
- Limit distractions – Limiting any distractions will really help keep students engaged in their learning tasks and activities, as well as providing some short breaks when needed. For example some students may require frequent movement breaks and this really helps them to feel more calm and focused again when they return to the classroom. Every child will have different needs and be distracted by different things, so again catering to the individual is crucial (Cilla Blanchard, CRT)
- I always ask twice about any medical alerts or particular behaviours that kids engage in to always make sure they’re safe, other children in the classroom are safe and that the staff are safe. (Eimear Hughes, CRT)
- Always use inclusive language – focus on the person not the impairment.
- Opt for literal, explicit instructions.
- All behaviors happen for a reason.
If you are interested in working in SEN settings, click here for more information and to get in touch!