Having a child with special needs creates obstacles that typical children do not usually encounter, especially in the academic setting. There are many specific accommodations that could be helpful for your child in advancing their academics but the following are some general things to keep in mind when helping your child throughout their day.
Time – Provide plenty of time for responses and processing. A difficult homework question could take another child a few seconds to answer but an individual with special needs could require a few minutes to process the information and respond.
Environment – The surrounding environment plays an important role to everyone. An environment that is clear of distractions provides more opportunities for clear instructions. If an environment is too cluttered and unorganized, the assignment or task may be difficult to focus attention. Keep the area clutter free, offer structured teaching segments and keep it as organized as possible
Visuals – Using visual supports to aide in academics is a strategy many teachers use to motivate and teach difficult concepts. Many individuals with special needs are visual leaners and require tangible items to facilitate learning. Using tangible items like counting bears, break cards and multi-colored markers can create a fun and supportive learning session.
Noticing pre-cursor – Homework can create frustration that can lead to other challenging behaviors. To prevent the feelings from manifesting is just noticing the pre-cursor behaviors such as grimacing, short/fast breathing, whining and non-compliance. By noticing these precursor behaviors, you may be able to deescalate a situation form forming.
Providing choices – A simple and helpful way to increase compliance and task completion is to provide choices. By simply offering a choice of activities, even if it’s only 2 options, lends the feeling of control and independence to your child. This strategy also comes in handy when you must deny a request (For example, “I’m sorry ice cream is not available but we can play with bubbles or have some grapes!”) By giving an opportunity for choice, you provide your child with redirection and fulfillment.
Structured time and free time – To accommodate a child with special needs, fill their day with structure and built in free time. Many challenging behaviors occur due to a lack of structure. Create a visual schedule of activities, games and free time. Provide opportunities to go outside. Play games that are open ended in time and set limits like cars, LEGO, playdoh; as well as, close ended like puzzles and board games. Always remind your child of the following activities by letting them know how much time and activities are left.
Tension reduction strategies – A great method to keep in mind while outlining accommodations for your child is to teach tension reduction techniques like squeezing hands, deep breathing and counting to 10. Children with special needs sometimes have difficulty self-regulating their emotions and often get worked up for little things. By teaching tension reduction techniques early, you can teach your child methods to independently self soothe and cope with life’s stressors.