Educating Special Needs Children

The Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

The keystone of modern special education, IEPs serve as record-keeping, as a source of information for future educators, and as a tool for assessing the child’s progress. Each IEP contains information about the child’s diagnosis, known expressions thereof, and a record of every technique and tool used in the attempt to educate the child. Without an IEP, there is no individualization and thus, there is no special education. Your child’s doctor and/or the school’s specialists will tell you if they’ve been diagnosed with a condition that puts them in the ‘needs an IEP’ category. Not all children with a given diagnosis do there are plenty of kids with ADHD who get by in mainstream school with no IEP, for example but there are absolutely those who require special effort even if they receive and properly use a prescription such as Concerta or Adderall. Deciding whether a given child can cope with the school system ‘as-is’ or whether they require legitimate specialized education is part and parcel of the process.

The Special Education Crew and Room

Dealing with one special needs child at home can be quite difficult imagine dealing with six, eight, or fifteen in a classroom setting! There’s simply no teacher, no matter how expert, who can predict how the kids will interact. When the ADHD kid jumps up partway through an assignment because he decided that spinning around in a circle is more fun than addition, and in his spinning he quite accidentally smacks the child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the back of the head, what will happen? That’s why almost every special education classrooms features a ‘safe room,’ with padded walls and noise insulation a child can retreat to when they know they can’t cope. It’s also why every special educator comes with a squadron of assistants. Some of them are specialized therapists, like the speech pathologist or the occupational therapist; others are ‘simply’ other educators that are trained to deal with the occasional full-classroom breakdown and keep control.

Take-Home Lessons

As a parent, you can learn from these realities. Of course, you already individualize the attention you give your child but do you keep a record of problems you encounter, solutions you attempt, and how well they succeed or fail? Can you see how that will be useful within a month or two? Do you have a ‘safe space’ the child is allowed to retreat to when overwhelmed? Ask your child’s teacher what tools they use that have worked for your child, and how you can implement similar strategies at home. Special education doesn’t have to and shouldn’t stop just because your child left the classroom.