All children have the basic needs of belonging and feeling significant. They come in all types, with different learning styles, background, and interests. It might seem challenging to cope with varying abilities, but that's the best way to see children make progress. There has been growing concern about how best to meet the educational needs of diversity in the classroom.
This article aims to discuss relevant content about learning disorders and disabilities. We will look at at the characteristics of dyslexia, ADHD - attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder and subsequently bring some practical suggestions to help teachers in the classroom, in order to better guide students with special needs to achieve success in school. We will also get to know Positive Discipline as a different approach to use with our students.
Am I planning for inclusion?
A learning disability is a lifelong challenge. Appropriate support can help young learners with special needs succeed in the learning process. A positive approach can help teachers identify strategies to be adopted in the classroom, aiming for a more effective inclusion, improving well-being, and a sense of belonging in the school environment.
It is essential to consider some adaptations that suggest changes, recognizing the diversity in the school community. Tasks and management should focus on the organization and didactic-pedagogical procedures aimed at student participation and learning.
Education is a social process in which we participate as we make a choice between different values and goals. From a multicultural perspective, the school can enable students to recognize difference, respect and diversity. The school environment can be seen as the public space where we learn to participate in social life.
The critical pursuit of the appreciation of cultural plurality is urgent, so that it is included in all actions of the school, working towards the formation of identities which are open to diversity in a perspective of education for citizenship, ethics in interpersonal relations, and criticism of social and cultural inequalities.
Positive Discipline is an authoritative approach built on a foundation of mutual respect with an emphasis on problem solving and teaching valuable social and life skills. It might not be a cure for misbehavior, but a new lens for teachers to view their students (and themselves) differently through.
Too much kindness without firmness may become permissiveness, and too much firmness without kindness may become excessive strictness. Children probably do not develop responsibility when parents and teachers are too strict and controlling, nor do they develop responsibility when parents and teachers are permissive.
How can teachers help?
I’ve got a student whose name is “Josué” and he is 9 years old.
He is cheerful, popular and talkative. However, he has difficulty learning and pronouncing new words. He spends a long time taking notes and copying things down. He makes spelling mistakes and avoids tasks that require mental effort. He has poor auditory short term memory and seems unable to follow simple instructions.
I am going to share with you some of the actions I learned from my research, which have been really useful so far:
Make sure that the tasks are appropriate to the child's skill level.
Sit the student near the teacher.
Teach individually or in small groups whenever possible.
Avoid noisier or distracting places.
Do not correct mistakes excessively, but rather value the correct answers whenever possible.
ADHD - attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder
Children with ADHD may show frequent difficulties in relating to colleagues and respecting rules. Other difficulties include learning content and performing school tasks, organizing and planning.
I can refer to “Leo”, a 10-year-old student of mine, as an example. He can’t seem to sit still. Leo is extremely impatient, and cannot wait for his turn, and blurts out answers when he feels motivated. Most of the time, he seems to be daydreaming. He likes to sit next to the window and spends the whole time opening and closing it. He also draws on the wall. His material is always spread on the floor.
Based on my research, suggestions are:
Give them tasks that are more compatible with their abilities. Praise what was done, and make them realize that they can.
Place the student close to the teacher. Avoid places with many stimuli.
Allow movement. Create specific moments for the student to move.
Provide visual reminders.
Increase active participation in the class.
AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER
Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder whose main features consist of social and communication impairments, interest restrictions, repetitive and stereotyped behavior. They have difficulty understanding other people's oral language, as well as their facial expressions and voice intonation.
My student “Michel”, 9 years old, was diagnosed with ASD.
Michel needs longer to process information. He lacks organization and planning skills. Michel struggles with background noise. Routine changes cause him stress and anxiety.
Be clear and consistent.
Keep the instructions short.
Say that a behavior is inappropriate whenever it occurs.
Make a chart that represents the rules of the room.
When giving instructions, make sure to be very simple, use concrete language and refer to the pictures to show the child a concrete model
Perfection is something that does not exist. According to Positive Discipline, we have to work towards improvement, never for perfection, otherwise, dealing with frustrations can be too hard.
Understand your student's uniqueness. Appreciate their temperament; recognize their strengths and learning challenges.
This article should work as a basis for further studies in this area of knowledge. It did not intend to exhaust the subject. Through this new lenses, I invite you to look at your students. We might struggle from time to time, but it is essential to remember that we are not alone, and young learners want to succeed and belong as much as we want them to.
Ariadne Catanzaro has been an English language teacher since 1995. She is a CELTA holder and is currently taking a postgraduate course in Learning Disabilities. She also holds a Master’s degree in Contemporary Communication and postgraduate certificate in Globalisation and Culture. Ariadne works as a pedagogical coordinator at Colégio Anglo 21, managing a team of teachers who work with 4 to 14-year-old students.
COSTA, Danielle de Souza; MALLOY-DINIZ, Leandro Fernandes; MIRANDA, Debora Marques de. APRENDIZAGEM DE A a Z. CARTILHA DE APRENDIZAGEM. Núcleo de Investigação da Impulsividade e da Atenção – Nitida da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais - Ufmg. Pearson.
NELSEN, Jane. FOSTER, Steven. RAPHAEL, Arlene. Positive Discipline for Children with special needs. Three Rivers Press.New York, US. 2011