Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dipping my toe in the Special Ed world...

It was September 2013, I was starting my first week as a Special Class teacher in an Autistic Spectrum Disorder classroom. I had two years previous teaching experience. One year subbing in various schools across all levels, and my Dip year was spent in an all girls Third Class. So needless to say, I felt like I had been dumped in the deep end!

Luckily, I had two excellent SNA's who had worked in Special Ed for many years and without them I really would have been drowning. They guided me through the timetable, demonstrated management techniques suited to each child's needs, and explained the importance of simplifying language and directions. Sounds like common sense but I needed to ensure that my SEN children could understand what I was asking of them! 

For two years, I had been so accustomed to delivering three or four instructions to a class while taking the 'rolla', opening the windows, and powering up my laptop at the same time. This was different. I had to be different. I soon learned that if I didn't drastically adapt my teaching methods, I would get nowhere. 

Thankfully, I didn't have to start from scratch. The previous teacher had left a timetable template, lots of resources and of course the last year's IEP for each child. 

During the summer, in preparation for my new role in an ASD classroom I had researched autism, the characteristics, the educational needs and/or difficulties that can present in the classroom, but I figured out pretty quickly that I had to put aside the theory until I got to know each child and their personality. Of course the theory is helpful for background knowledge but as I once heard on a course 'Once you've met an autistic child, you've met ONE autistic child'. While children diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum disorder may present with similar traits, each child is unique and needs to be treated that way.  If I couldn't relate to each child and start to get to know their personality traits, likes and dislikes, I would never be able to help them to reach their potential. 

Changing my teaching style and methods was probably the most challenging aspect but seeing my children excel academically and socially while enjoying their daily life at school made all of the effort worthwhile. 

I hope to use this blog as a platform to share the ideas, resources and methodologies I have come across during my time in Special Needs Education in Ireland.

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