Thursday, August 13, 2015

education, radzad, school icon

So, you're heading into the world of Special Education but don't know where to begin? Don't stress, read on!


Setting up a new unit?

Be sure to check out the SESS Support Page. They can provide excellent support for newly established units.

Taking over a previously established unit/classroom?

In this case, things can be a little easier as regards the first few days.There's nothing worse for a teacher than feeling unprepared!
The classroom should be pretty well organised as regards physical space and layout but of course it is up to you how you want your classroom arranged! There also may be a timetable already in place. Ideally, for our children diagnosed with ASD, try to keep a similar timetable ,even for the first few days back, just to provide some predictability for the children after the long summer break.

Some key areas to consider:

Classroom Environment

If it's a thing that you have to and/or want to rearrange the classroom, have a look at my Facebook page where I shared a link about the importance of the classroom environment.

Physical Space:

A horseshoe table like this one I saw on an Irish furniture website can be a great addition but not a necessity. It gives the teacher and pupils a clear view of each other and the opportunities for interaction and communication are great with this seating plan.

Clearly defined areas is an essential component of the physical environment. Whether you use the large movable partition boards like I had, or if you use furniture to divide parts of the classroom, it is helpful to be able to designate areas of the classroom to specific tasks and/or to minimize distractions for children while working. This image from The Autism Helper displays how you can use furniture to designate areas of the classroom. These divisions also provide extra storage which is always welcomed!

Visual Supports

In my old classroom, we ensured we had strong visual cues so the children(especially children new to the school) start to understand what is expected of them in certain areas of the classroom. For example, foot print templates on the floor near the door where we would line up to leave, have a spot on the floor where we want them to sit etc. Their photograph would be stuck on their chair/table/coat hook. The more the children understand their environment, the more comfortable they will feel. 

Schedules, as seen in the photo to the left from Pinterest are also important, especially for any children who like routine, need predictability, get anxious about transitions etc. Here's a link explaining a bit about schedules. In it's most basic definition, a schedule is a personal timetable for each child, sometimes personalised with a photo and/or favourite colour which uses images to explain what the child can expect from their day. The schedule on the left is a home schedule of a morning routine.

Wall displays
In general, good advice suggests minimal displays in the classroom to reduce distractions. I had some a simple 'colours' display and that was about it apart from our Circle Time posters i.e. day of the week, month, weather.

So, in my opinion, if you have some of the above ideas implemented, it will be a great start to creating an inviting, nurturing classroom, which your children will be happy to come to each day!

My advice for new teachers in Special Education for September:

  • Get to know the children. Don't just see their disabilities, see their abilities. What do they enjoy? What motivates them?
  • Use free play to find out what the children like to do when they can choose for themselves
  • Use sensory activities (water,sand, shaving foam, noisy toys, light-up toys etc) to find out likes/dislikes
  • Apply for any courses you are interested in early, they fill up fast!
  • Sit back, and observe! If you can, get the children engaged in a task/activity/game with other staff or SNA's and just watch. See how the child engages, interacts with the activity/other children/staff/their environment. You would be amazed how much you can learn by just stepping back and allowing the child to reveal their personality to you.

Final note:

When entering into the world of Special Education, it can be daunting and overwhelming if it's new to you but remember you are only human. We all need time to learn and adapt to new surroundings and develop new methodologies and practices. So give yourself a break and enjoy the exciting, rewarding world of Special Ed!

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