Special Education & Learning Support: Equipping Students with the Resources they need to thrive.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do at Linden? What does Special Education mean to you?
To me, special education or learning support is about equipping students with the skills and resources they need to thrive and meet their educational and life goals. As a special education teacher, you often strive to “work yourself out of a job” as students gain the confidence and skills they need in order to learn independently with minimal or no support. Most of my work at Linden is supporting students in improving their foundational math and literacy skills. I also support older students with study skills and essay-writing.
What is your approach with children? Do you have a particular technique to help them open up?
Celebrating and building off of students’ strengths is a great way to engage them with the learning process. Listen to their ideas – some of my best math games have come from students! They can feel when you genuinely want their involvement and leadership in the process. One of my passions as an educator is for students to start taking ownership over their learning. This means that they aren’t just going through the motions, but rather that they are aware of how each building block is contributing to the larger picture and helping them achieve their goals.
How can parents help at home? Do you have any advice for them?
Be positive! Show a love for learning and reading. Toss a ball with your child to practice skip counting, play store to practice making purchases and giving change, and of course read with your children (can be reading together, audio books, or also a half hour of independent family reading- they will benefit from seeing you model interest in reading). Many students with learning differences feel stressed about being behind their peers, and you can help them by not exhibiting stress and making extra learning at home be fun. Make sure to do activities that celebrate their strengths, as well as help develop their weaker areas. Playing for the sake of playing is also extremely important for children’s development. Make sure their schedule is not too full of extra support that they do not have time to relax and be creative.
At the same time, do not be afraid to have high expectations for your children. All children are highly capable of learning and should not be underestimated. Many students with learning differences benefit from having consistent structures around homework and materials organizations, and parents can be extremely helpful. Try to involve them in the process of creating these routines so that they feel ownership around them. Set goals and give positive reinforcement when students are making steps towards meeting those goals.
Do you have any tips for parents with children that are struggling at school? What are your favorite methods for helping kids thrive in school?
Talk with your child’s teacher(s) about what would benefit them the most. The school may be able to provide additional supports, whether adults or connecting you with an older student who can tutor. Depending on your child’s needs, you may consider finding outside support, such as a learning support professional (like me!). The school may also be able to make short-term changes to the curriculum so that it is more easily manageable for your child while they get their bearings. Whether being required to do only half of the math problems on a given page or having extra time to finish a task, there are many accommodations a school can make that will help students to feel less overwhelmed and more confident.
A growth mindset is another crucial element for students to thrive in school, and parents can help develop it at home. Growth mindset or “grit” includes expecting mistakes to be part of the learning process, and being willing to persevere through difficulties.
You can have discussions about this with your child, but just as importantly, you can model it for them the way you talk about their learning as well as your own learning or challenges. Resiliency is important for all students (not just those who struggle) in their success at school and beyond!
Do you have any favorite apps, books, videos or resources to support bilingual children or those having some learning difficulties?
Khan Academy- excellent video tutorials about math concepts (especially for secondary students), has expanded into other subject matters too.
NewsELA- news articles modified to various reading levels
Timers to support time management. This online timer has fun visuals and sounds – https://www.online-stopwatch.com/
Or an analog visual timer like this can be an excellent support –
Kate has worked as a licensed special education teacher for seven years in the USA. She specialized in supporting students with mild-moderate learning difficulties to thrive in mainstream history classrooms and taught intervention math and science courses. This varied teaching experience from large classes to small group and one-on-one interventions has equipped her well to be a tutor that can support a student’s success in his or her classroom. Kate earned a MS in Special Education in New York and holds an Educational Specialist teaching credential and bilingual education authorization from the State of California. One of her favorite parts about being an educator is supporting students to take ownership of their learning process.
Kate will be leading Math Explorer Day Camp this summer. Math Explorers makes math meaningful, relevant and fun by showing children how to find it all around us. For more information click here