Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Strategies and Approaches

Learning disabled children often struggle with oral comphrension and will require strategies and approaches to ensure that they can comprehend material and information that is presented orally. In the classroom, much information is presented orally and it is critical to ensure that those with deficits in oral comprehension have their needs met. The following strategies will assist both teachers and parents:

1. Present information in short and simple sentences.

2. Always check to ensure that the child understands by repeating or rephrasing your instructions/directions. Use voice intonation to keep his/her attention.

3. Whenever possible, use visual aids and or charts to reference as you're talking.

4. Use organizers whenever possible such as sub-titles, lists of instructions, sequence of tasks to be done and reference them as you're giving instructions/directions.

5. Provide ample 'wait' time. As the student to repeat for the class what the expectations are.

6. Teach strategies to these students that include rehearsing mentally, how to focus on key words and how to use mnemonics (an example of mnemonics would include the steps for long division - Dracula Must Suck Blood which prompts the child for divide, multiply, subtract and bring down)

7. Provide group learning situations whereby the student is prompted and or assisted by group members.

8. Review orally presented material regularly and provide taped versions if necessary.

Remember, just because you've stated it orally doesn't mean the child understands - part of our job as parents and as teachers is to ensure that understanding and comprehension is in place. A consistent approach with regular monitoring will be an effective strategie to support children with oral comphrension difficulties.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Special Education and Inclusion

The inclusive classroom means that all students have the right to feel safe, supported and included at school and in the regular classroom as much as possible. There is ongoing debate about placing students completely in the regular classroom. Views from both parents and educators can create a great deal of anxiety and passion. However, most students today are placed in agreement with both parents and educators. Often, the placement will be the regular classroom as much as possible with some cases where alternatives are selected.

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), amended version 2004, does not actually list the word inclusion. The law actually requires that children with disabilities be educated in the "least restrictive environment appropriate” to meet their “unique needs.” The "least restrictive environment" typically means placement in the regular education classroom which typically means 'Inclusion' when ever possible. IDEA also recognizes that it is not always possible or beneficial for some students.

Here are some best practices to ensure inclusion is successful:

  • An Overview of the Inclusive Classroom
    In the inclusive classroom, it is important that the teacher fully understands the learning, social and physical needs of the students. A teacher has a special role to play when trying to maximize learning potential for students with special needs. It becomes the educator's role to create a welcoming environment and provide students with ongoing opportunities to learn, share, and engage in all classroom activities. Determining what alternate assessment needs to occur is another area where the educator needs to make changes to specifically support the student in the regular classroom.
  • Preparing Students for the Inclusive Classroom
    This checklist helps both parent and teacher prepare the student for the inclusional classroom setting. The child needs to know what to expect, equally important is to ensure that there are no surprises.
  • The Inclusional Classroom Checklist
    I am a big fan of checklists. This checklist provides educators with guidance about maximizing success for students in an inclusional setting. There are 12 key items that will guide the establishment of a successful inclusional setting. Each item points to some form of action which will be key in maximizing sucess for the student with special needs. You'll find that the checklist includes strategies for academic, social and physical success.
  • Using Peer Support in the Inclusive Classroom
    Peer support is one of the most essential ingredients in the inclusive classroom setting. Peer support helps to build rapport and a sense of belonging and community among students. Students with special needs often become the targets for inappropriate behavioral conduct from other students, however, by education the whole class and having members of the class become peer supporters, the problem of teasing is often minimized.
  • How To Reach and Teach all Students in the Inclusive Classroom
    It always helps to have great resources to help out. Without a doubt, this resource is my favorite! The pages of my book are dog-eared, marked up and highlighted. I have come across and read many books and articles about inclusion but this book is the practical one that my colleagues all agree on as needing at their fingertips.
Some food for thought regarding some of the challenges of the full inclusional model include:
  • How can you ensure that the student relationsips in your class are not superfical?
  • How will you provide intense one to one instruction? Time for this is often greatly reduced.
  • How will you ensure that equal rights are in place for all students?
  • Sometimes you'll be faced with research that suggests the inclusional classroom may not be as successful based on the specific needs of the student.
  • Many parents want both inclusion and alternative settings. Sometimes the full inclusional model just won't support all the needs.
Although inclusion is the preferred approach, it is recognized that for a number of students, it is not only challenging but sometimes controversial. If you are a special education teacher, there is no doubt that you have discovered some of the challenges of inclusion.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Become Your Child's Best Advocate

7 Steps To Being Your Child's Best Advocate:

1.Positive Parent/Teacher Relationships
Positive interactions between parents/teacher is best for your child. Both parties need to ensure the child comes first and that the goals for the child are key and shared. Share your views, offer advice and become a good working team. Make shared decisions about the child's goals. Touch base often, share concerns in a friendly manner always anticipating outcomes. Learn how to have effective conferences.

2. Be Well Informed About Your Child's Needs
Learn as much as you possibly can about your child's needs. Find out what the best practices are and how your child's needs are best met in the school setting. Ask good questions! Find out who the organizations and professionals are regarding the needs of your child and learn as much as you can. Learn about the issues and controversies and be practical. Sometimes our expectations can be high but they also need to be practical and manageable.

3. Be a Note Taker
Keep good records. Keep a running diary/journal of all correspondence you have with the school staff, organizations, support services, phone calls etc. A record of all verbal and written dialogue will help you to become an expert on your child's program and needs. It will provide you with review type information and can be used to persuade school staff to follow through with verbal commitments and take you seriously because you are on top of things!!!

4. Know What Records the School Is Keeping
Always ask for copies of records or information that is kept in the student's file at school. Make sure you have all letters, documentation, program plans, conference notes and anything else pertinent to your child's education. Make this a part of your record keeping.

5. Ask Questions
Be candid, if you don't understand terms being used, ask for clarification. Make sure you completely understand the process, procedures, planning and interventions being discussed on behalf of your child. Getting the answers to the questions you may have will avoid any sense of frustration.

6. Include Your Child
The whole process is about your child. Talk to your child, your child's point of view is very important, he/she should not be left out of the loop. His or her feelings are extremely important.

7. Remain Positive and Think Positive
Sometimes this is the most difficult step. How do you get positive outcomes? Certainly, it isn't by becoming aggressive. Build a productive working team by remaining positive, it's your best method to getting those positive outcomes. You can be assertive but know the difference between aggression and assertion. It will help to build a two way trusting relationship. Remember: anger, hostility, aggression and frustration will not be productive in ensuring the best program is in place for your child. 2-way trusting relationships will maximize your child's benefits.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Benefits of teaching chess to children

The game of chess is a real test to the mental capabilities of a person. By testing and training the mental capabilities, the game refines the character of the person who plays chess on a regular basis. It is this special quality of the game of chess that made it withstand the travails of time and technology for the past 1500 years and still fascinates people. It is no doubt true that the game of chess will be there for many more centuries to come as long as this humankind, in its present form, exists in the world.

Teaching chess to children and encouraging them to take up the game seriously is one of the best gifts that as parents and well-wishers we can give to our children. It is not an exaggeration, but a well-researched and proven fact. Students who were taught to play chess as part of their curriculum in their schools performed extraordinarily in comparison with other students who were not playing chess or not exposed to the game in their schools.

By taking up chess as a sport or a favorite pastime in the young age and practicing the game frequently, children cultivate very good habits that will not only help them gain expertise in the game of chess, but also guide them for a better, brighter and prosperous life qualitatively.

Children have the unique capability of learning things quickly and grasping them. Once a child is taught the basic elements of chess and encouraged to play the game, he or she will develop an interest for the game and try to go up the ladder of growth in chess. In his pursuit to learn more about the intricacies of the game, he will be anxious to read more about the grandmasters, the different types of games, tactics and strategies. This curiosity will lead him to read more books related to chess, and in the process, he, without his explicit knowledge, cultivate the habit of reading.

One of the things a chess player should do while playing games is to note down the moves or record the notations, which will be useful for later analysis to find out the flaws or mistakes in the concluded game. Children playing chess will be interested in recording the notations. This exercise not only helps improve the understanding of the various squares, but also makes them write, which will ultimate improve their writing skills.

In the game of chess, each of the pieces has a set value and identity relative to their capabilities and utility. The Queen is given 9 points, the rook gets 5 points, the bishop and the knight are assigned 3 points each and the pawns are given 1 point. Knowing the value of the pieces and their importance is very essential in the game of chess so that some sort of balance or equilibrium in terms of the pieces on the board is maintained. This analytical ability and assessment of values will be of much help to the people while they learn the skill of mathematics or such other analytical skills.

Children learn the most important trait of decision-making skills right from the tender age as they gain expertise in the game of chess. Planning, analyzing, assessing different options, taking the right decisions and making the right moves are all developed as one plays the game of chess with passion and love. These virtues are very essential for success in life.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dyslexia - Getting to the heart of the debate

Heated debates in the media about dyslexia are nothing new. Whether it centres around how best to diagnose and help dyslexic children, or whether the learning difficulty even exists, dyslexia continues to be an emotive topic. When Labour backbencher Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley in north west England, stated that the condition is a 'cruel fiction', the debate was re-ignited.

As an expert in teaching children with dyslexia, I follow these debates with great interest, but was dismayed to see that yet again, the real issue isn't being addressed here. In my experience, the central issue isn't whether dyslexia exists or not, it's about how the individual learning needs of children are being addressed by the school system.

Mr Stringer wrote; "To label children as dyslexic because they're confused by poor teaching methods is wicked." I think this generalisation about teaching methods is misleading in this latest dyslexia debate. Is it possible for a system that needs to teach children in large groups to match teaching style to each child's learning style? The answer is inevitably no. This is not about teachers failing - it's about the fact that all children are different and schools cannot accommodate individual learning styles.

So where does this leave the thousands of parents who know that their child is struggling to flourish in a system that cannot cater for their needs? Many go down the route of getting their child formally assessed and labelled as having a learning difficulty, which can create other problems. I believe instead that a different approach is required, one that is at the centre of my attitude towards every aspect of a child's education and development: avoid labelling. In my experience, and those of the private tutors that work for my agency, when one adapts the teaching style to the needs of the child, the 'need' for that label disappears.

I'm not saying that as a tutor I ignore dyslexic symptoms and pretend there is nothing to address. On the contrary, many of the children that I have taught with dyslexic profiles have extraordinary strengths in pictorial reasoning and logical inference which are impossible to ignore! I prefer to teach these children with the attitude that their dyslexia has no negative impact, it simply means that teaching them has to be approached differently. If these children are taught in such a way that these strengths can be capitalised upon, with techniques that make any difficulty with the written word simply irrelevant, then they develop into students with more resources for learning. There are also psychological benefits as they form a self-perception that is untainted by any negative labels. To me, that is the most important result, but sadly, debates such as the one triggered by Mr Stringer do nothing to achieve that.