The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 14 percent of American children aged three to 17 have some sort of developmental disability. Most teaching programs require at least one course on children with special needs (source). But dealing with students with developmental disorders is an ongoing and ever-changing task. Here are some tips to help educators deal with two common disabilities among American students.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
The prevalence of autism in America increased by an astounding 290 percent from 1997 to 2008, according to the CDC. WebMD points out that public schools are required by law to provide individualized education programs (IEPs) for students with an ASD. But some parents would rather not tell the school that their child has a developmental disability for fear of being stigmatized. It is up to the individual teacher to recognize certain behaviors and effectively communicate them to the parents.
Once you’re aware of the special needs of your students, make small modifications to your classroom to accommodate them properly. National Autism Resources recommends seating students with ASDs away from hallways, pencil sharpeners or anything else that produces background noise. Autistic students have difficulty filtering out this noise. The area around you while teaching should be as plain as possible. Large posters, globes and other visuals can easily distract them. Autistic students also have difficulty comprehending the concept of personal space. Draw borders between desks with white or black tape, and make sure desks are adequately spaced. There should also be some sort of quiet room available for children with ASD to take breaks from class.
Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder
The CDC estimates 20 percent of high school boys and 11 percent of all U.S. school children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. About 65 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD are taking Ritalin or Adderall to control the behavior. It is not the teacher’s job to judge how families and medical personnel choose to deal with their children’s health.
Communicate with both parents and the school nurse to develop a plan of action. ADD and ADHD kids hear the word “no” all the time. Try and use positive reinforcement as opposed to being negative. Incorporate physical activities, such as moving to different desks during lessons. Through all this, keep in mind that you are a teacher and not a psychologist. Know your limits, but do all you can to help make school the best possible experience for the child.
About the Author: Amanda enjoys helping children learn and achieve their dreams in elementary classrooms. In her free time, she loves learning about science, technology and taking her rescued dachshund to the park. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaRichter7
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