Adapting for Special Needs Learners
not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
During my third field experience, I had a boy named Palmar in my grade 2 classroom. He has severe autism but is a very bright boy. These were some of the fantastic strategies I learned of:
Palmar had his own laminated schedule card. Each morning he would Velcro the appropriate laminated subjects to their place on the card. His card would mirror the large class schedule that would be changed every morning on the blackboard.
If Palmar had repeated trouble with something in particular, a social script would be created about the issue by a speech therapist. For example, Palmar struggled with listening to adults who told him to stop and come back. Each time he did not listen, he and his aid would read a story about how everyone at the school follows the rule to listen to adults.
Use your thumb as a visual for “first” and your index finger as a visual for “then.” Point to your thumb as you say the first action he is required to complete and to your index finger as you say the second action he must complete, forming an L with your fingers. For example, “First tie your shoes, then go sit on the carpet.”
I Need You To…:
Palmar needs specific commands told to him in a language that is to -the-point. Simply saying “Palmar, I need you to finish writing your last paragraph,” goes a long way in helping him focus on the task at hand.
The Rule Is…:
All staff members used this phrase to help Palmar through his stubbornness. He understands rules and has a deep desire to please everyone, so telling him that there is a rule for his actions helps him choose the right ones. We might say, “Palmar, the rule at Dorset is that we don’t run in the hallway.”
We used his agenda so it would not be obvious to other children. His mom would write in it before sending him to school in the morning and a teacher or aid would write about how his day had been at the end of the day. It is important to keep the communication brief so that nothing is misleading.