Teaching Special Needs Children: From Birth to Adulthood

You may know from the moment your child is born that he or she is a special needs child but many parents don’t find out until much later. Even then, when the child displays slow cognitive skills, a parent might deny this in fear of the truth. For your child’s sake, even if you think it only for a moment, visit a physician, tell him your worries, and have tests done if needed. The best time to find out that your child is a special needs kid is immediately. The sooner you know the sooner you can help him to learn and grow into a contributing part of society.

Special needs kids have various disabilities which require various training techniques. Begin working with baby as soon as you know about his special needs. The child’s doctor can tell you specifics such as nerve damage, blindness or loss of hearing, but you know your child the best. You and the family are the ones who can help him the most in his initial learning. Interact heavily with the child. Say the name of foods as they are fed to baby, mention the name of toys as they are being held, and read to your child – several times a day – everyday. Even if the child cannot understand, somewhere his brain does grasp some of it which is important for later years.

Parents who postpone enrolling the child in school or help programs, and parents who do not interact a lot with the child will find that training and teaching are much more difficult. The child should be almost born knowing that he wants to learn. And he will want to, as long as it is a part of his everyday life. Take the time to tell your child things you are doing, such as “Now we’re running the water for your bath” or “Here’s how we turn the water off”. Be sure and include lots of informative and caution words and phrases, like “ouch, hot water” or “boys”/ “girls” when entering public restrooms. Even though it’s okay to speak in regular sentences throughout the day, keep teaching time simple. Rather than say “the stove will burn you if you touch it because it’s hot”, stick with simple sentences like “no, hot!”

Don’t fall into the habit of leaving the child laying around in the crib or a car seat. Move him around the house or apartment throughout the day. For an hour or so, let him play alone in the crib, then move him to a high chair in front of a window. Point at things through the glass and tell him what the objects are. Don’t wait until the baby is fussy and tired of the game. Have lunch then move him next to a blanket on the floor with several different types of toys. Place a chewing toy, a cuddle toy and a noise toy within reach. Help baby touch the toys to face, hands or mouth. When baby stays busy he not only learns but he sleeps better and becomes better behaved than children who stay in one spot too often and are ignored as long as they are quiet.

As special needs children get older, they often tend to throw tantrums. Most toddlers, special needs or not, try this as well. Do not give into these fits – ever. Simply walk out of the room and close the door behind you. Come back in when baby stops crying. This will teach him that fit-throwing means he’ll be alone but having a good attitude means mommy or daddy will be here with him. If baby does not stop crying within a few minutes of leaving him alone, reenter the room and move him to another position or place. If he stops crying at that point, continue to play with him. If he continues to throw the fit, say something like “oh, you’re still acting up?” then leave the room again. After doing this several times, the child will usually stop crying so that you will stay in the room with him.

Never permit the child to act out in public. If he does, immediately remove him from the situation, even if this is a great bother to you. Teaching him early is the name of the game, when it comes to special needs children.

There are centers that can help with schooling special needs kids long before public school age. These centers work wonders with children who are having trouble giving up their bottle, communicating even in small ways, or ones that are seemingly impossible to potty train. Skilled professionals help teach the kids colors, numbers, ABC’s and much more. In addition, the kids get to interact with one another. Making friends, even to a special needs child, is very important. Check with your local Social Services department for assistance in finding this type of classroom for your child at an early age.

Some parents resign themselves to the fact that their child will not learn like a normal child but that’s the wrong attitude to have. Pay for or give the child lessons in swimming, skating, painting, computer and internet, or just nature. Taking walks in nature doesn’t cost a dime and is very fun and educational for any child. Take your child, if possible, to the YMCA. There, they have classes for pre-school ages where they let them run, jump, climb and play sports. These classes are usually designed for parents to help the child during this learning process. Moms and dads help the child learn to tumble, skip, jump rope and much more. The cost is not exorbitant and the weekly classes are a tremendous learning process for any child.

When it comes time to decide on enrolling your child in public school it can be a difficult decision to make. If you have the time and willingness to continue teaching the child, home school might be your best option. Public schools often have highly qualified teachers who are trained to help special needs kids with difficult things like getting dressed, tying shoes, communicating and understanding. The decision is entirely up to you but it’s best to at least try the public school system to see if they can help your child, giving you a break from the routine at the same time. If you see that public school isn’t helping as much as you thought, it’s still possible to go back to home schooling methods.

Expose your child to as much as you possibly can. Pets, sports, music, art – make a list and check it often. Just because your child isn’t able to do certain things is no reason to keep them from participating. You will find that most people are understanding to the child’s slower development and will help in various ways.

As your child gets older he or she may be able to find a job through the vocational resources in your home town. The kids are often tested on various levels to see if they can do simple tasks repeatedly, then hired out to factories and such for minimum wage. This gives the child-adult a way to earn money and allows him to find a place in life – all his own. One of the local special needs classroom teachers can give you more information about the area resources, or check with the Department of Social Services for a list of services in the region for special needs adults.

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