Students with Special Needs (What are the signs of a student who might…
Students with Special Needs
What are the signs of a student who might have special needs?
A child that can't communicate his needs/wants/emotions is a lot more likely to display aggressive or undesired behaviour. Every behaviour has a message behind it. So if a student has many behavioural issues, Teachers would need to really see beyond the immediate behaviour presented but observe what is the antecedent of the behaviour.
A child's family background and circumstance can have a huge impact on their way of learning and behaviour in the classroom. Communication with the parents is vital to determine whether any troubling behaviour is normal for them or whether they are going through a difficult time emotionally at home. This is something which we do regularly at my school to better understand the mind's and behaviour of our students.
This is an area where we have to work closely with the occupational therapist. Certain Behaviours like verbal Swimming, rocking his chair constantly, running around, noises etc are potential triggers. It can affect the learning of a child greatly and cause distress.
Either the child is behind or struggling or their scores have recently suddenly dropped. Scores and grades are not just a way of judging a student's intelligence but also a way of seeing how they were as learners and whether something needs to change in how they are being approached/taught.
This is for their behaviour in class as well as outside. Teachers need to keep an eye out for the way a student connects with other students, especially when there is a sudden change.
Singapore Korean International School Directive for Identifying and Dealing with Special Needs Student
Entering the school
: Every student who joins our school, apart from Kindergarten, has a student record that will include their academic/behavioural and health history. We are provided this material before we choose to interview the student.
This will take place with the student and the school entry panel, which I am part of. We will have assessed the student record and will ask specific questions of the student mostly regarding their academic performance and study plan for their new school.
with the parent: If there are some questions which emerge from the student record that we would not want to go into detail with the student themselves, we will discuss with the parent. We discuss new students with every parent, but any student who has a history of special needs will have their parent come in multiple times before they join to discuss their condition and how it needs to be treated. They will also make the school and the counsellor aware of any special considerations the student will need. The school is also at liberty to decide if they think this student would benefit from going to a special needs local school here in Singapore (SPED).
Individual Action Plan:
Once these steps have been taken and the student will be joining the school the heads of department, along will make an action plan for the student as to how they will differentiate the education of the student. We currently have 5 such students who have a slightly different syllabus and schedule to other students so that the school caters more to their needs.
Noticing something during school
: Explain the behavioural problem to the Head of Discipline Mr. Huh SeongTae
SeongTae will meet with the student to discuss their behaviour, ask for reasons why it happened and suggest sanctions for that behaviour. If the student is not struggling and the behaviour improves this is the end of the process.
If the behaviour continues then there will be a convention of a meeting between the Head of Discipline, the Head Counsellor and the parent of the student in question. They will then consider a plan of action for the student depending on the outcome of the meeting. This will be equally done by the parent and the school.
If it gets to the point where there is still no change in the student's behaviour after the initial steps then a school committee is formed and a plan of action will be formed. This does involve sending a student to professional therapy as we have had a case of this in the last few months. Thankfully the student in question has made a lot of progress.
The first step is always an informal check with other teachers to see if the poor results are exclusive to your class or across the board. We discuss about students results and performance a lot, especially if we see some slightly different behaviour and result patterns so this is usually the first indicator that something might be wrong.
The homeroom teacher is in charge of the students' in their grade welfare and their academic results. Therefore they are usually knowledgeable about how the student is doing both academically and emotionally. They will also have direct communication with the parent's of the student, this is done to an incredible amount at my school, parents are extremely actively involved in what they child is doing in our school. You will inform the homeroom teacher and they will make an investigation about the student.
The homeroom teacher will speak to both the student and the parent to see what can be done about the academic results and see if there is anything more behind it than just a dip in performance.
If the student is struggling to keep up with the work and there maybe a reason other than academic ability then they will be sent over to the counsellor (if it is purely academic, we tend to assign a peer tutor from grades above, which is an excellent system we have in our school). The counsellor will help decide a plan of action and suggestion to the parents and the students.
Once the stage has been reached where there is a clear need for something to be done a committee, comprising of the heads, the counsellor and the parents will come together the prescribe a course of action. This may be an individual learning plan for the student (of which we have 5) outside therapy, or a suggestion to attend a SPED (local special needs school). This happened in my first year in the school with a student who was hard of hearing and it was degenerative so it came to the point where our school was no longer able to give him sufficient support.
Differentiated Learning Strategies
Interview and Survey Students
– the aim of this would be to learn students favourite and preferred learning styles so that the lessons can be more based around their needs and expectations.
Consider Seating Arrangements
- before the class begins have the students who need more time and focus closer to the front of the room so they can see what is happening as well as be in your direct line of vision.
Create Learning Stations
– Divide your classroom into different styles of teaching by creating learning stations. This could be done by having a listening area (with things such as audiobooks for example) or designing area (more of a creative place) and a research area (internet access or small library etc). This will help the students have a different environment than just their desk, helping keep their attention and keeping the focus on the task in hand.
Creating Differentiated Instruction through process/activities
– there are a huge amount of video resources now available on the internet and it can really help for visual learners to use these to aid their learning.
– a dense page of text can be changed into an engage and interactive infographic that can really capture a student’s attention.
– this is something that I do in my classes when we are reading Harry Potter in middle school. I find that a range of different voices telling the story can help the students, so we do group reading (focused on pronunciation and fluency) teacher reading (where I will stop and check for retention and understanding) and then audiobook where they will be given a set of questions to answer so they have to listen intently. For the record I use the one voiced by Stephen Fry as he has excellent enunciation and really brings the characters alive with a range of voices.
Getting students to act out a scene
– this can be really fun to do and I have had a lot of success with it in the past. I allow the students to bring their own clothes to perform in as costume and we also use a projector screen to act as a background for the scene. It really helps with performance and it is as if they are giving a presentation but with a more creative approach.
Giving both spoken and written directions to tasks
– I will either write the instructions on the board first or do after I have spoken but I will always do both. Never underestimate a student’s habit of saying they have understood when in fact that have already forgotten but do not want to be shown up in front of the class. By writing it down simply, on a centralized whiteboard they will always have something to refer back to.
The use of Literature Circles
can really help a class in a number of ways. Firstly it gives the students more independence and experience of group work. I use them from G7 all the way to G10 for example so they can be used with a wide range of ages and levels. The key elements are that each student has a defined role – be in discussion director or enrichment – which can be changed as you do it for different activities throughout the semester.
and I find this more and more, Literature Circles (much like the system in Finland) do not come in a one-size-fits-all concept. I find that different classes react in very different ways to literature circles so I have slightly changed the format. Mostly though it is the roles they perform which has taken the biggest changes. Depending on the class or level the roles have become more advanced or had less asked of them. This can also change as the year goes on so that things do not stay the same. The way that the roles are performed can be changed as well so they could present their findings in different ways such as infographics or videos.
I found the video in Finland very inspiring and would love a similar structure in my own school. I think there are three ways to achieving the best quality of education for Special Needs Students
The Finnish Way
This process involves collaboration between teachers sharing their feedback and experiences about the student, which I think happens in many schools, but also dedicated full time professional Special Needs Teachers who can make the student an individual study plan to suit their needs.
More focus should be put into training teachers at being able to spot, understand and teach Special Needs students. Through my research whilst doing Teach Now I have seen that the number of students who qualify as being part of IDEA is increasing every year, unless teacher training is increasing at the same level then there will be a shortfall. In my own school we are not given any training in these matters but I really wish we were. It is something I am going to push for in the future.
This is the model of Special Needs Education here in Singapore. We have schools which are dedicated to the teaching of specific learning difficulties (called SPED schools). Although this is a great option to have I sometimes wonder if taking these students away from the central school system might have an effect on them later in life, as if they had missed out. However according to my interviewee, Zhen Hui, the aim of the school is based on the best outcome for the student.
"Our school's vision is to enable people with autism to lead dignified and meaningful life, through quality education, training and care. Our school's focus is therefore to help them achieve independence after graduation, to live independently, contribute to society meaningfully and gain employment. In addition to academics, daily living skills and vocational skills are also important."
Zhen Hui - Special Needs Teacher for Autism