Who should be working with special needs children?

Change has always been a team effort. And when helping a special needs child transform and reach its fullest potential, coordination of a bunch of people is required. Today, we discuss who should be involved in working with a special needs child, Also, we discuss what is the importance of timely therapeutic interventions.

Finding out..

Noticing a divergence in how your dear one is growing can be threatening. Getting a diagnosis done could be tiresome for both the child as well as the parents. Looking at the diagnostic report and finding out a POSITIVE remark legit feels like the end of the world has come.

Knowing that your child is a special needs child comes as a shock and is, without a doubt, distressing. It takes time to get on par with the reality and accepting your child. Learning about the kid’s condition, about his/her specific needs, and strategies to use in different day to day situations will demand a gallon of patience and time. What is even more difficult is plotting a road map for the child’s adequate development. It is important that s(he) gets the services essential for his/her physical, psychological and behavioral growth. Finding out what therapies should the child be getting and where from is important. Figuring out who should be working with the child is a bit of hard work.

Who should be involved in helping the child?

Everything will depend on the child’s specific condition and it’s severity, of course. But there are 3 people who must be included in almost all cases – A parent, a shadow teacher and a Therapist.

The roles and responsibilities of Parents:

roles of parents in helping a special needs child.

1. Do away with any shame or guilt, first

Having a special needs child doesn’t put you at fault. So, the first thing a parent(s) must do after knowing that your child is a special needs kid is DO AWAY WITH SHAME. Any internal guilt or embarrassment associated with your own child will always hamper his/her growth. Trust us, knowing that my beloved Mumma or Papa is ashamed of who I am is the last thing any child would want to learn.

Fight the societal stigma and pity stares that come your way. As parents, you are your child’s motivation. Focus on making him/her as independent as possible despite their disabilities.

2. Careful Observation

Diagnosis of having special needs could be assigned to a child at a prenatal stage or immediately at birth. A child may also be diagnosed with a disorder after a few years of being born. In the latter condition, doctors rely a great deal on parents for providing important and relevant information. That is, about the child’s specific behaviors, triggers, likes / dislikes, aversions and so on. This data supplements diagnostic test results to rule out other disorders and come down to one conclusion.So as parents, you must keep your eyes open all the time.

If your child was born healthy but suddenly diverges or regresses in behavior, you will sense it. Observe what changed in the child. Keep a note of what triggers him/her, how can you get him to listen and learn, what are he child’s fixations, if any. Also important is to report it all truthfully to the diagnostician. A doctor, when looking for a specific diagnosis, will ask you thousands of questions about the child. Any hiding or miscommunication of even minute information specific to the child can lead to inaccuracy in results and thus, the remedial plan.

3. Follow on the same goals and plans at home

Also, as parents, you are the prime change makers in the child’s life. The doctors will give their diagnosis. The therapist will work on specific areas of development. The shadow and remedial teachers will formulate and work on plans. But in the end, the child will come home, to you. It is important to be in close sync with everyone working with the child. It is always recommend that parents maintain the same goals and use the same methods as the teachers and therapists, even at home. This will keep a lot of confusion away from the child. It also will help to bring on positive change faster.

So for example, the child’s shadow teacher has introduced a token economy chart to reduce the child’s hitting behavior. At school, she uses a star sticker for every lecture s(he) doesn’t hit anybody. Follow the same pattern of rewards at home. Use the same chart and the same star sticker for every hour, for eg. , the child is calm and doesn’t hit.

4. Create a secure, growth enhancing environment

A flower blooms only under proper environmental conditions – not too much heat neither too much of cold. Likewise, for a human being to transform for the better, an adequate home environment is a prerequisite. It becomes your responsibility to create a nurturing, healthy atmosphere where the child feels safe and loved.

Foster a growth promoting family atmosphere where you talk to each other in sickness and in health. Even if you make a single parent family, always aim to reduce additional sources of stress for the child. Yes we understand, special needs parenting can be difficult at times. But work through the anguish and avoid blowing out on the child. Refrain from using any punitive measures even to discipline you kid.
As parents, be your child’s best friend. (It is not as paradoxical as it sounds.)

For special needs children, a non distressing home environment plus trusting caregivers equals heaven on earth!

The role of a Shadow Teacher:

shadow teacher working with special needs child

Who is a Shadow teacher?

Essentially, a shadow teacher is a trained educator who accompanies a special needs child throughout his/her school hours. Nope, a Shadow teacher does not equal a nanny. Such teachers facilitate the child with 1 on 1 attention at school. They tweak their teaching strategies to suit the child’s learning style. They work on academic, sensory, behavioral, social and emotional domains at school.

For example, suppose a child has Autism and a low sitting tolerance. Keeping his/her condition in mind, a shadow teacher will aim to help the child learn what is being taught in the class. And he/she will simultaneously focus on improving the child’s sitting tolerance.

Why involve a shadow teacher?

Let’s reflect on our prime concerns in educating a special needs child:

1. Should we educate the child in a special school or a mainstream school?

2. Will the child be able to cope up with school teachings and compete with his/her peers?

3. Will the child get as much personal attention as his needs demand?

Well, this is where shadow teachers come to the rescue. Having a shadow teacher does not only ensure that the child gets 1 : 1 attention of the teacher at school and learns well. It ensures the child’s overall academic, social and behavioral development outside home.

What do they do?

Having a therapist or a doctor work on specific developmental delays of the child is essential. But in a 2 hour OT session, it is unreasonable to expect a therapist to work wonders and make the child fully functional. Making a child independent in the long run is what most Shadow teachers aim at. They use creative teaching strategies depending on the child’s learning style (For example – Flash cards, Audio Visual aids, role plays etc). They also aim at improving the social skills (For example – Greeting others, personal space, no hitting etc) and behavioral domains.

As proven by research, whether a special school or a mainstream classroom, a child is more likely to fare well with the support of a shadow teacher.

The role of a Therapist:

Understand that diagnosis and therapeutic interventions are two different things. A diagnostic test denotes what is the child’s specific condition and it’s requirements. It also states the precautions to be taken. It gives a general layout of the child’s IQ, areas of deficits as well as strengths.

Whereas therapies help the child overcome the deficits. It is more like a process of getting better. Which therapies will help the child will obviously depend on the particular diagnosis assigned to the child. Most special needs children are recommended Occupational therapy or Speech therapy. A remedial therapist and a physiotherapist may also be needed.

Therapist working with special needs kids
An occupational therapist:

usually works in a clinic or hospital setup. They mainly focus on helping the child with specific areas of concern like improving attention, fine and gross motor coordination etc.. OT sessions usually are for an hour or two and they work intensively on one concern at a time.

A Speech therapist:

is, as evident from the title, specialist in helping children who are semi verbal or non verbal or show vocal delays/ deficits. Most children with special needs show language and speech delays. (Most, not all.) This is where a speech therapist is more helpful. They focus on developing accurate phonic sounds initially. Gradually, they help the child to verbally express himself/herself, speaking in full sentences.

Remedial Therapist:

mainly focus on the child’s conceptual learning. To state it otherwise,they focus on his/her academic learning. Most of the times, remedial therapists work in close sync with shadow teachers and school teachers of the child. They take study sessions at home. To summarize, a remedial therapist uses creative learning interventions to make study time fun for the child. A remedial therapist can or cannot take up syllabus. This has to be clarified with the therapist before starting the sessions.

Physiotherapist :

work on physical growth and development. They focus on everything from muscle and eye-hand coordination to brain nerve stimulation. Medications are seldom used to treat special needs children. Thus, physiotherapy is one way to intervene biologically and improve their functioning.

It’s is a team effort, always.

As stated above, it has never been a one person job to bring an all round transformation in a special needs child. The ‘One man army’ funda doesn’t seem to work in psychological fields.

Thus, it is extremely crucial to have a very balanced coordination among all the therapists, teachers and doctors working with the child. Also, one must involve the school authorities and close family members. Regular coordination and a constructive sharing of goals and progress reports will definitely speed up progress in the child.

After all, a little kid who has in place all the necessary interventions and a team of specialists is close to becoming a fuller functioning individual. It’s a slow but sure progress!

We, at Starlit Ability Enhancement Services, provide shadow teaching, counseling and other psychology related services to kids with special needs. To know more about our services, visit www.starlitservices.com

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