Article Image

Tips For Teaching Children With Special Needs | Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD

Special needs education makes it easier for students with various types of disabilities to participate in the learning process. It aims to help children become more independent and socially active.

Some of the disabilities special needs education students have are autism (a spectrum disorder which can cause repetitive behavior, lack of social skills and difficulty with speech), dyslexia (a learning disorder that makes it difficult for children to learn and use language) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that can cause impulsive and hyperactive behavior in children and adults).

Special needs education is carried out in many different forms in both regular schools and special needs schools, such as NIE who has programmes from certificates, advanced diplomas and degrees in Special Education.

Special needs education follows a specifically designed curriculum and the educational process is led by specially trained educators. 

Below we will discuss in detail the symptoms of each disorder and how the special needs teachers are equipped to educate the children who suffer from them.


1. Symptoms of Autism.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term for a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders that are mostly characterized by difficulty in communication and lack of social skills.

The symptoms of autism may include the inability to understand social cues (for example body language or the tone of voice), being intensely focused on one item/idea, repeating the same movements over and over, in severe cases, it can compel the person to harm themselves (e.g. bang their head against something repeatedly). 

Read also: Autism Spectrum Disorders by IMH

Some children with autism may learn to speak late, avoid playing with other children, and avoid eye contact.

In some cases, children who are still unable to express adequately what they want may act out and start screaming.

ASD affects each person differently, some may have mild symptoms and be able to function just fine in wider society, whereas others may have many severe symptoms and may require constant attention. 

Training special needs teachers to help autistic children.

The demand for special needs educators who can manage children with ASD keeps growing because the number of such children keeps increasing year after year.

According to the Straits Times, one out of every 150 children in the future will be diagnosed with some form of autism disorder. This comes as more pre-school children are diagnosed at an early stage.

Many private schools and training centres also offer Autism Certification Programs. By participating in various classes students can learn about autism and gain hands-on experience. Check out College of Allied Educators' Diploma in Education (Special Needs)

Students work with trans-disciplinary teams of doctors and psychologists understand how autistic children develop and what is required to support them in their development.

Courses offered to students by the Certification Programs may include subjects such as Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder, Infant / Toddler Development, Child Family and Community, Teaching Young Children with Special Needs, and Practicum.

In addition to offering these courses, many colleges are also organizing autism-based workshops


2. Symptoms of Dyslexia.

Different people experience different symptoms when it comes to dyslexia.

In some cases, it may be possible to diagnose a child with dyslexia before they even start school.

Symptoms in pre-school children may include delay in speech development, problems pronouncing certain words, mixing up phrases and letters in words, incorrect syntax, not remembering the right words to express themselves, not being able to appreciate rhyme, difficulty learning the letters of the alphabet

Dyslexia usually becomes more obvious when children start going to school and learn how to read and write.

In school dyslexic children may have problem learning names of letters, spelling problems, they may read slower than others and make more errors, they may say that the letters seem to be blurred, struggle to learn sequences (for example months of the year or days of the week), they may also have bad handwriting and struggle to write things as fast as the other children.

Many other language-related symptoms may be present in various degrees.

Training special needs teachers to help dyslexic children.

In general, language teachers are not provided with good enough training to deal with dyslexia when they study for their degree.

Some colleges and educational institutions offer certification programs.

For example, the Dyslexia Training Institute offers its students two certification programs. They are the Dyslexia Certificate Program (which teaches students everything we know about dyslexia and how to support dyslexic children) and the Dyslexia Advocate Certificate Program (which teaches participants about the Special Education laws so that they can support the families of children with dyslexia). 

Teaching recommendations for children with dyslexia.

In general, if teachers have students with dyslexia in their class they have to approach them differently. Some of the good teaching techniques that may help children with dyslexia are as follows. 

  • Praise the child for small successes. Children with dyslexia feel that they are different from their peers and require extra praise to be encouraged to overcome the difficulties. 
  • Don’t tell them to read aloud. Dyslexic children may misread words and read slower than their peers. This will cause embarrassment and make them feel disheartened.
  • Don’t call them “lazy”. Dyslexia is a real disorder and children affected by it may lose focus easily. Even those who try very hard may seem like they are underachieving, so try to be understanding.
  • Lower your expectations when it comes to written work. Even if dyslexic children overcome oral difficulties, writing things down may still pose a challenge. Focus on their strengths, and do not feel annoyed if they cannot produce stellar essays like some of their peers.
  • Make sure they have written down the homework instructions correctly. As we have said dyslexic children are not great at writing things down so you may need to check that they have correctly written down what you have instructed them to do.
  • If the written work has been created on a computer, accept it. It may be easier for dyslexic children to type out words. A Word file is still better than nothing. 


3. Symptoms of ADHD.

The symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be divided into two categories.

These are hyperactivity and impulsiveness, and the second one – inattentiveness.

Most people have both types of symptoms to some degree, but some may be affected exclusively by either one or the other.

The form of ADHD where people are solely affected by inattentiveness is also known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers may include losing things, being forgetful, making careless mistakes, having short attention span, not being patient and abandoning time-consuming tasks, constantly switching activities, having bad organizational skills, being unable to sit still, fidgeting, being unable to wait for your turn, interrupting others’ conversations, excessive talking, little sense of upcoming danger and others.

These problems may hurt the child’s performance at school. They may also become an obstacle in forming social bonds and in everyday interaction with their peers. 

In some extreme cases, the children may be put on medication to manage the symptoms of their disorder. The medications are usually given by the school nurse in the middle of the school day.

The aim of giving the child medication at this specific time is to help them reap the benefit of the medication during the day, but have it out of their system by bedtime. 

ADHD is harder to diagnose in adults due to a lack of research.

Because it is a developmental disorder it is believed that is cannot appear in fully grown adults, it must have been present from childhood.

Even though with the proper management the symptoms can get much subtler in adulthood, 65 % of adults with ADHD still say that it has some effect on their daily lives.

Teaching children with ADHD.

Children with ADHD go to regular schools and usually have difficulty keeping up with their peers due to the lack of concentration.

To help children overcome these issues CHADD (a nonprofit organization that spreads awareness about the ADHD) has developed the Teacher to Teacher (T2T) program. It gives the participants the necessary training to enable them to better manage the pupils with the disorder. 

Various online certification courses can teach the participants how to intervene to improve a child’s impulse control, which therapies increase attention and timing awareness, which approaches are best for improving schoolwork, homework, and the sense of accountability.

Participants also learn what effect the diet, exercise, supplements and the environment have on children with ADHD. 

Teaching recommendations for children with ADHD.

If you have children with ADHD in your classroom you may find these tips helpful. 

  • The first thing you need to have is patience and a lot of it. Remember, children with this disorder are not behaving in this manner just to spite you; they genuinely can’t help it. 
  • Observe the child and evaluate the symptoms, after which you can create a personalized strategy that will help the child focus on learning. 
  • Use positive reinforcement, praise the child every time they complete a task successfully. You may even give them a special reward (write a star in their notebook, or a sticker).
  • Instead of giving out instructions only in the written form try to pair them with oral instructions. The child with the disorder may not pay attention to what you have written on the board, but the sound of your voice may be enough to attract his attention. 
  • Give clear instructions and make them short and sweet. If you go on for five minutes you will not get through to the child. Use simple sentence structures when giving instructions and make sure to pronounce the words clearly. 
  • If you suspect that they still don’t pay attention to your instructions ask them to be your “assistant” and repeat the instructions to the entire class out loud.
  • Use a timer when performing certain tasks. If children with ADHD know that the task will be over in a predetermined number of minutes they may see it as a challenge and try to focus more on completing the task. 
  • Children with this disorder may get frustrated easily and on occasion act out during the class. Make sure you set out rules of behavior in the classroom. Explain to them what the rules are and what the penalty is for breaking each behavioral rule. Make sure to calmly and consistently enforce the rules every time the child acts out. If you let them get away with bad behavior, even occasionally, they will lose respect for the rules.
  • Make sure that the child is sitting next to somebody who is a good role model for them. Children want to imitate and fit in with their peers. Sitting the child with the disorder next to someone who is always calm, attentive, and studious may motivate them to act in the same manner.
  • Also, make sure that they are sitting close to you and far away from any distractions (such as an open window for example). 
  • Establish some nonverbal cues to get the child’s attention and be consistent with the use of the cues. 
  • It is also recommended to follow a certain routine in the classroom so that the child knows what to expect every day. You can post a checklist of tasks on the classroom noticeboard, for instance.
  • The parents of the child should also be kept in the loop about their progress or difficulties. Meet the parents once in a while to update them on how well (or badly) the child is advancing.


Helping children with learning disabilities

Autism, dyslexia, and ADHD are some of the most common disorders that hinder children in the modern era, but they are not the only ones.

Mental disorders differ in severity from one person to the other and each student that is affected by either autism, dyslexia, or ADHD requires a personalized approach and understanding on the part of the educator.

There are many programs, taught both online and in-person, that will give the special needs teachers the necessary insight and skills to help the students with these disorders.

However, further medical research into these disorders is still required. By gaining more knowledge we will be able to perfect the teaching methodologies and help students affected by the disorders become functioning members of society. 

Search For A Topic
About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.

Write For Us