They are in no way guilty that they differ from others in their behavior, mental capabilities, lack of attention, hyperactivity and inertness to surrounding world. They all differ from one another with their special educational needs but they are all united by one and the same thing: they all need a constant attention and a special attitude. I understood this most important principle when I began working at Primary school – garden as an English teacher. At first I wasn’t a success. I thought that it was impossible for them to learn a foreign language, and I concentrated all my attention on ordinary and smart learners. The painful affect of boomerang didn’t let me wait long. New and new learners began following and imitating their behavior, and if I had gone on doing the same thing, my classes would have come out of my control. I turned to the children with special educational needs with all my attention and soul, and everything changed. For example, there is a hyperactive learner in Grade one. He was constantly deviating the learner’s attention who was sitting next to him by making senseless movements, dropping and picking up some small objects, standing up and walking in the classroom. I tried to use the hyperactivity of that boy in the organizational work of the lesson. I began calling him to the computer and asking him to turn on the computer and then open the file of our lesson. During conversations I made him take part in asking simple questions. In a word, he was soon fully involved in all the stages of my lessons. I began praising him for his activeness during the lessons. The result was more than simply positive.
Another example: I have a learner in Grade 6 with some characteristic features of autism. Last year some lessons weren’t a success because of him. With his inadequate behavior he drew everybody’s attention in class. I compiled an individual syllabus of English specially for him and began paying him more attention: in fact I started to teach him individually. I made him sit at the front desk and gave him assignments according to his individual syllabus. Every day I checked his home assignments and encouraged him by putting good marks in his diary. Now he has entirely changed. Every day he is ready for the lesson and wants to answer the questions addressed to the whole class. He has now developed a responsibility for his lessons, and furthermore, he thinks that he doesn’t differ from other learners.
There is another learner in Grade 6 with some characteristic features of autism. He is very clever, and sometimes he seems to be gifted. At first he was very inattentive during the lessons. He wasn’t listening to me during the lesson. He was always busy with other things. His mother complained about the methods of teaching by saying that teacher of English didn’t give any home assignments. I established an email contact both with the learner and his mother. I sent the home tasks both to the learner and his mother. Now this learner does his home tasks every day and is attentive during the lessons because I very often ask him questions and he is to be ready to answer at every moment. He feels that he has an important participation in our lessons. Compiling an individual syllabus helped one more student to make progress in English.
When in October I was offered to take part in the British Council online course “Teaching Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)”, I immediately gave my consent as I expected two important benefits:development of my English language competency in the field of pedagogics and gaining new skills in teaching children with special educational needs. And I wasn’t mistaken as the course was not intended for the highly specialized personnel at schools (speech therapists and psychologists). It was intended for the currently working teachers who have learners with SEN in their classes, and that was the reason why it wasn’t overloaded with different and, sometimes, even contradicting to each other theories. The course was made up with directing questionnaires and tasks requiring practical approach. The answers to the questionnaires were being assessed. The scores were equal to the number of right answers, and it was allowed to retry answering the same questions and in this way the participant could both find the right answer and increase the score. This principle of assessing the initial knowledge of teachers at teacher training courses doesn’t develop inferiority complex in teachers, on the contrary, it stimulates them to broaden their competence and reinforce self-confidence.
Nevertheless, I was particularly interested in Case Study tasks related to the main directions of the course:
1. Dyspraxia (DCD) Developmental coordination disorder
2. ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
3. ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder
4. Gifted and Talented Learners
5. Peculiarities of Assessment of children Having SEN
The case Study tasks in this online course suggest that the participants help a particular teacher to solve the problems with his/her particular student. Each Case Study document consists of three parts: a) The teacher says, b) The learner says, c) What solutions to the presented problems do you suggest?
The participant of the course is assessed according to his/her pedagogical approach to the given problem. Below I am presenting my suggestions to 5 Case Study tasks. I want to mention that all my suggestions aren’t only theoretically thought of. I am working according to my own suggestions. I keep contacts with the parents of the children having SEN, and they are all pleased with the results of my work. I hope that my suggestions will also be helpful to the teachers of our Educomplex who have learners with SEN in their classes. Teachers may also suggest their own solutions to the given Case Study tasks and in this way become partially participants of that interesting and important course.
Case Study 1. Dyspraxia (DCD) Developmental coordination disorder
Ramon’s teacher says:
«I feel really frustrated by Ramon because he’s so good at English but he just doesn’t seem to listen to anything I say. He’s nearly always late and forgets everything, coming without his book or his homework every day. He is so lazy he never finishes anything, just gives up half way through. His handwriting is so hard to read that it is difficult to mark his work. I know he is gifted at languages but I don’t know how to encourage him to try harder.»
“I am always getting in trouble at school because I keep forgetting things and losing things. I don’t mean to, it just happens! The teacher tells me what I should do but I only remember the last bit she said and I never remember the first bit. She thinks I’m not listening but I am. It takes me ages to put my things away and change my shoes, so I’m often late. I like English a lot, but when we have to write exercises it makes my hand so tired and I can’t read what I’ve written because I’m so bad at handwriting. Sometimes I have to stop because I get cramp. I don’t tell the teacher because it sounds silly. It doesn’t happen to anybody else – just me..”
Here are the solutions suggested by me:
· The teacher should have an individual approach to Ramon. During the lesson he should ask Ramon to repeat the idea which has just been said.
· After having explained something the teacher should come up to Ramon and explain everything to him in a simpler way.
· The teacher should have an email contact with Ramon’s parents and explain everything o them too.
· The teacher should make Ramon write the home assignment task in his diary.
· Ramon should be seated at the front desk in class and always be in the center of the teacher’s attention.
Case Study 2. ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Mirek’s teacher says:
“Teaching Mirek gives me a headache. He is always walking around the class, picking up pens and other things from other pupils’ desks. He never pays attention and he’s always distracting others in the class with his behaviour. He’s like a spinning top which has been wound up and just can’t stop. I am always having to tell him to sit down, sit still, stop messing about, focus on his own work. He waits his turn and is always calling out in class. He is not rude to me, but can’t start any work on his own, always insisting I stand near him to help him. Other pupils in the class find his behaviour annoying. I want to help him but I don’t know how.”
“I try really hard in English but the lessons are too long and I can’t sit still, my body won’t let me. I just have to get up and touch stuff, I don’t even know how to stop myself. Sometimes we are allowed to walk around and sometimes we are not. That’s confusing. Sometimes we have fun in English and shout out answers in a game and sometimes we are not allowed. Sometimes when I shout out I get into trouble. I don’t think the teacher likes me because she always walks away from me when I need help. Other kids don’t want to work with me.”
I have suggested the following solutions to this Case Study:
· During the lesson the teacher should ask Mirek to perform useful actions which require movements: clean the board, sharpen pencils, turn on and turn off the projector, when Mirek has finished to do something, the teacher should praise and thank him.
· The teacher should organize a role play game on the text which has just been read and involve Mirek in it.
· Sometimes the teacher should stop the lesson and announce a short break for physical exercises, and ask Mirek to play the role of the teacher of physical culture.
· The teacher should send the written text of his explanations to Mirek.
· The teacher should divide the home task into smaller parts.
· The teacher should have an email contact with Mirek’s parents.
Case Study 3. ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder
Charlie’s teacher says:
“Sometimes Charlie won’t do the work I give him. He flicks through the book or just stares straight ahead. When I ask him a question as part of a class activity he either ignores me or says, ‘I don’t want to tell you’. He often refuses to join in pair work or group work. This behaviour makes him unpopular with the rest of the class. I tried to get him to sit nearer to me but he got quite upset and refused to move. I feel stuck and don’t know how to get through to Charlie.”
“When the teacher wants me to talk in front of the class I feel bad. I don’t like it when they all look at me. Sometimes he wants me to join in and talk with a group or another kid. I don’t like that either, it makes me anxious. If we have to pretend to be in a shop or something I don’t see the point. I like doing things on the computer when I don’t have to talk to someone else. I like learning new words and how to make sentences in English that way. I like English because a lot of things on the internet are in English.”
I have given the teacher the following advice:
· The teacher should understand that Charlie has characteristic features of autism.
· The teacher shouldn’t make Charlie speak in front of the whole class.
· Charlie should be given more practical tasks which are not to be unreal.
· Charlie shouldn’t be involved in language games which require quick speech.
· While the rest of the class are busy making up a role play, Charlie should be assigned to do the same task on the computer. In this way Charlie will feel that he is appreciated. And loved by the teacher.
· The teacher should use as many visual aids as possible during the game.
Case Study 4. Gifted and Talented Children
Noura’s teacher says:
“Noura is clever but she can’t work with other children and she constantly interrupts and causes trouble. She never seems to listen to instructions and as a result makes silly mistakes. She shouts out answers and doesn’t give others a chance or she says nothing and sits at the back and causes trouble. She is at his best if she is doing something different from the others and she can show off. That is hard work for me, requiring extra preparation and marking. She needs to do the same as everyone else or there is no proof that he has covered the curriculum. Noura sometimes does very little in the class and does not always finish his homework to a high level. I think she is good at English but sometimes she just doesn’t try.
““I am good at English and I want to be better. Sometimes the lessons are so boring and there is nothing new for me to learn so I play with my friends at the back of the class. When the teacher gives me special work I really like it, I am proud to do that work, but that doesn’t happen often. Sometimes I shout out the answers and my friends laugh and the teacher gets angry and everybody laughs. When I make mistakes I get frustrated. It is because I can do the work and I don’t check because I know I can do it. This makes the teacher angry as well. She says that I don’t listen. I am not stupid but I do some stupid things and that makes me look stupid.”
What advice did I give to Noura’s teacher?
· The teacher should make up separate more difficult assignments for Noura.
· Sometimes Noura can be sent to the reading hall with a list of additional literature so that she could satisfy her interests by self-education.
· Noura can be seated in front of the computer and be given more challenging tasks.
· Noura can be given project work to do.
· The teacher can ask Noura to help the students who are left behind.
· The teacher should make up online lessons for Noura.
Case Study 5. The peculiarities of assessment of children with special educational needs
“I have to do some testing and assessment with my class but I don’t know what to do with the learners with special educational needs. I don’t think they will be able to do the end of term test and I don’t want them to feel demoralised and give up. I want to help them to show what they know but I am worried because my headteacher says I have to give everyone grades to show their progress. I also know that the parents will expect grades in the school reports.
“I really don’t know how to deal with my new English class. Some learners are really badly behaved and just don’t do anything I tell them. Some never say anything and just look worried all the time. Some are always shouting out and asking for help. I know that there are different levels of ability and I think there might be some learners with special educational needs but I really don’t know how to start helping them.»
I am not going to speak about my suggestions on assessment of learners with SEN. I suggest that the readers of this article write their own suggestions in the “Comments” section. I also expect our teachers’ solutions to all the study cases in this article no matter what subjects they teach: Mathematics, mother tongue or a foreign language. They are all pedagogical problems. We should remember that they are beside us and they need our greatest care.
I sometimes used the following sources during the course