When classroom doors open this year, pre-schoolers with various strengths, experiences, and challenges will be getting in. For some of the children, it will be their first time inside a classroom and they might struggle to grasp concepts and follow routines.
Other children will have a lot of experience with language and books and some might be dual language learners. A few children in your new class might have developmental delays or disabilities that impact their social skills, learning, or behaviour.
You might be wondering how you can support children with developmental delays or disabilities when you lack the training to do that. All children learn best in a developmentally suitable program that provides the support needed to successfully participate alongside classmates.
Children with disabilities often benefit from simple modifications and accommodations, while others might require more specialised, individualised support provided by special education professionals. You will work with those professionals, the children, and their families to ensure that the children learn and thrive.
To be an effective teacher, always remember that children are first and foremost children regardless of their individual needs and that best practices for young children even those with developmental delays or disabilities are best practices for all young children. To help you set the stage for a great year for all, here are some excellent ideas.
Try Basic Modifications
Drawing and Painting: Children sometimes have a hard time drawing or painting on a tabletop since it involves the use of tiny muscles in the wrists and hands that might not be developed yet. Try also setting up easels that allow children to stand and use bigger arm movements originating from the shoulders, which is usually easier.
Books: Provide board books and add extra-large paper clips to standard book pages so that children find them easier to turn. Such modifications not only benefit children with motor delays but can also be fun for all.
View the Child as a Child First
Each child is unique and each child has the potential to learn. Try looking beyond a child’s label or disability, and get to know them as an individual. Observe children to learn what interests each one as well as to get ideas about what is likely to motivate them.
Playing with and talking to children presents important opportunities to build trusting relationships, assess the progress of children, set learning goals, and select suitable strategies. Just as you do for the rest of the children, have high yet realistic expectations for children with developmental delays or disabilities.
Re-examine Your Knowledge and Belief
To be a great educator for all children in the classroom, it is always important to keep in touch with your inner teacher. Review what you know about child development as well as your toolkit of practices.
Have an honest examination of your beliefs about children and families. Think deeply about your responsibility to make learning as well as the physical environment developmentally appropriate, engaging, and accessible to all children.
Tap into the Expertise of Special Education Professionals
Children with an identified developmental delay or disability receive services specified in their Individualised Education Programme (IEP). The child’s teacher should either receive a copy of the IEP or opportunities for reviewing it. If you find anything confusing, don’t hesitate to ask the early intervention coordinator, special education teacher, or administrator for an explanation.
All these professionals can help you adapt and modify your curriculum, educational expectations, materials, and physical space to allow the child to participate as fully as possible in classroom routines and activities. The professionals can also support you in identifying the child’s interests and strengths, helping you find relevant ways of connecting your teaching to each child.