2 Inclusive Ways to Teach Students with Special Needs in 2021
Teaching children with special needs is an underappreciated job. They need an extra serving of love, encouragement and support apart from specialised instruction designed to meet their unique learning needs. Attending to children with special needs alongside the daily duties of a teacher can be exhausting. With online classes, some special children need extra attention to get them to concentrate on a screen.
Although no two children with special needs are alike, the following two inclusive strategies help make teaching-learning easier.
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Children with special needs must be taught in a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). LRE is not a place — it’s a principle that guides their education program. In some cases, special children don’t respond well to rules, restrictions and cramped physical spaces. Unless there’s a strong reason, they need to be in the same online class or physical classrooms as regular children. It is worth mentioning that the LRE for each child may look different because children are unique.
‘Mainstreaming’ refers to selectively picking students with mild disabilities and other learning disorders and placing them in classrooms with other children during specific time periods based on their skills. This way, it will help them adjust to routine education without experiencing any sudden changes. Dr Kenneth Shore, a clinical psychologist, says “Determining what is the least restrictive environment for a particular student requires balancing the need for the child to learn to integrate socially with his non-disabled peers with the need for the child to receive instruction appropriate to his abilities.”
Ideally, before placing them in a separate online class or physical classroom meant only for those with special needs, the school should try to help the special students blend in with ordinary students in a regular online or physical classroom with extra learning support. Alternative learning spaces for specially-abled children must be the last resort in most cases.
Kruti Beesam, a disability-rights activist and fellow contributor at the Next World Magazine notes, “The first step in the process of imparting knowledge to special children is to accept them as part of the student community while catering to their unique needs. Recognising the difference between knowing their needs as special learners and working around them makes a great difference in their academic progress. As a person challenged with cerebral palsy, I’ve been fortunate to grow in an accommodative and inclusive academic environment. However, the percentage of such inclusive institutions is still meagre in India. Millions of children with a variety of disabilities are waiting to join their non-disabled counterparts in the classroom. Don’t keep them waiting! Be an inclusive academician.”