Once you have planned instruction with your child’s needs in mind, you are ready to get started on the actual delivery process of that plan. We’ve put together some tips to guide you through, from how to teach to how to engage your students with special needs.
Each of these methods for how to teach children with special needs is described in more detail below:
Strategies for Supportive Lesson Delivery
Students with learning differences often need just a little more support when learning new concepts, procedures, strategies, and skills. Here are three methods to consider using in your homeschool:
- Modeling: When thinking about how to properly deliver instruction to children with special needs, remember that oftentimes they benefit from watching and listening to more-skilled individuals perform tasks. As the homeschool teacher, you can model new procedures, strategies, and skills while verbalizing the thoughts you are having as you perform those steps. In this way, your child can both watch the steps and listen to the thought processes involved before trying the task with your support.
- Scaffolding: Start out with mostly teacher-mediated, explicit instruction. Then as your child begins to acquire a skill, move down the continuum to more student-mediated instruction. For example, use a lot of demonstration and prompting in the beginning phases of instruction and withdraw teacher prompting as progress is made by your child.
- Repetition: Students with learning differences may require more occurrences for learning to reach mastery. Provide opportunities for independent, well-designed, intensive practice. For example, create many examples of a type of math problem—with subtle variations—for practice or present the same information about a concept in a variety of different ways.
Making On-the-Spot Adjustments
Even the most carefully designed lessons will need to be modified from time to time. As a homeschool teacher, you can make those adjustments without delay when you notice your child struggling with a particular task or concept. Traditional teachers may not have the luxury to modify instruction to the needs of one student, but you do! If your child is having trouble with some material, here are some things you can do:
- Slow down the lesson or take a break.
- Try another method of presenting the information. You may want to break down the lesson into even smaller “chunks” than you had planned.
- Work with your child to see if you can figure out the point of misunderstanding or difficulty together. Then adjust your instruction to support that challenge before moving on.
- Incorporate visuals (i.e., diagrams, graphs/charts, or photographs) to organize material or make it more memorable.
- Supplement lesson content with videos (i.e., documentaries or short YouTube segments) or music videos (i.e., songs for learning particular content).
- Use music in the background to create a calming environment–especially when material gets difficult.
Using Your Voice to Support Learning
Even without modifying the pace/schedule of instruction, you still can use your voice to support the learning of your child with special needs. Here are some examples of how you can engage your student with special needs:
- Slow your speech or soften your tone to present content that is more challenging or when you need to help your child through a difficult task.
- Vary your tone and volume to create engagement for those difficult subjects.
- Maximize your inflection to build on your child’s excitement about a topic.
- Create a continuous two-way conversation that is modulated through your “teacher” voice.
- Turn certain lessons into songs to improve memory. Don’t forget to encourage singing and drum along.
Empowering Your Child
As a homeschool parent of a child with special needs, you are in a unique position to help your child discover methods of being successful and feeling successful. As you move along with your instruction plan, you’ll discover what motivates your student to learn. Tweak the method of delivery to engage your child. Here are some additional examples of how you can engage your students with special needs with the materials you are trying to teach.
- Time for questions! Get your students into questioning mode. This technique prompts students to ask questions on any subject matter. You can provide a picture, a chart or any kind of visual and the student can ask questions about it. As the teacher you can also ask questions they may have missed and “research” the answer together.
- Have your child create something. This allows you to work with your child’s unique abilities to engage them with a specific lesson and spur some creativity. This strategy also helps boost their self-confidence once they see the end result of what they’ve created.
- Provide access and encourage the use of assistive technology. Using technology as a learning tool can help your child with special needs feel more independent.
- Help them envision positive future careers. When trying to teach children with disabilities, creating connections between your instruction and real-world activities can have a positive impact. Show them links between what they are learning (their strengths) and how that fits into specific jobs or careers. Show them other students with special needs who have become successful in life to get them motivated!
Being a homeschool parent allows you to use your knowledge of your child’s strengths and challenges to maximize opportunities for success (Lavoie, 2007). Help your child understand their own learning, build a toolbox of strategies that are effective for them, involve your child in decisions related to their own learning, and teach your child how to ask appropriately for what they need (Arnold, 2006).
Watch for additional blogs on how to teach a child with special needs. Learn how to assess instruction, provide feedback, and include additional content to benefit your child with special needs!