Friday, July 27, 2012

Is There a Child with Special Needs in the Classroom?

This post was written as a contribution to the Living Life Special Blog Carnival. The participating bloggers are sharing their experiences in parenting or teaching children with special needs.  Also included are posts on how to educate others about special needs.

One year, I had a boy with autism in a wheelchair in my Kinder classroom. He had an aide. As nervous parents and children entered the classroom for the first day of school, Mason screamed and used repetitive language to let us know he was not comfortable in his new setting. 

Photo by Tiaras and Bowties
Some parents complained to the principal and wondered how I could teach with a disruptive child in my classroom. The parents were escorted out of the room and led to a Boo Hoo Breakfast where they were assured that everything would be fine and learning would happen. Eventually, we all adjusted and were blessed to have this child with special needs teach us some things – especially about ourselves. Children helped push Mason’s wheelchair, parents were genuinely concerned about his well-being, and learning occurred for all of us on many levels.

I learned that children are much more accepting of other children regardless of any differences. In fact, they don't notice, or care about, many of the differences that adults notice. It is always interesting to me to see which children will help children with special needs. These will be the future doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers and volunteers.

How Can You Help?
  • Talk with children about Special Needs when the child is out of the classroom for therapy or when you are alone with your own child. What do we mean when we say "kids with special needs?" This means any child who might need extra help because of a medical, emotional, or learning problem. These children have special needs because they might need medicine, therapy, or extra help in school.
  • It is important to not be overly helpful when no help is needed. Children with special needs like to be as independent as they can be.
  • Some children might think it is not fair that a particular child gets to go with another teacher for play therapy, speech, occupational or physical therapies. Explain that they need extra help in some area. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we all need help with something and we all need friends.
  • Tell the children that if a special needs person is being teased or bullied, to make sure an adult knows.

How Can Children Help?
  • A blind child may need help carrying books.
  • A child in a wheelchair may need someone to push the chair.
  • A child with Down Syndrome might need a friend to play with at recess or sit with at lunch.
  • A child with autism might need a good listener.
  • An emotionally disturbed child might need a good role model.
  • A depressed child might need a hand to hold.
We all need friends who are understanding, patient, forgiving, offer encouragement and are good listeners. Remember, it is important to listen and be supportive in return.

Linked Books
That’s What a Friend is by P.K. Hallinan 
Special People Special Ways by Arlene H. Maguire
Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis
The Seeing Stick by Remy Charlip

 "I'd rather spend the rest of my life right here in Aibileen's cozy little kitchen, having
her explain the world to me. That's what I love about Aibileen, she can take
the most complicated things in life and wrap them up so small and simple,
they'll fit right in your pocket." ~ Minnie in The Help by Kathryn Stockett

For a glimpse into Kindergarten, see my book: Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents. Do you need playful, inexpensive learning activities for your preschooler? Let us help save your sanity, one easy project at a time: The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn. Also available on Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Both have been no. 1 Bestsellers on Amazon.

Be sure to check out the other amazing bloggers who
are contributing to the Living Life Special Blog Carnival.

Living Life Special: Teaching Children Compassion - Andie of Crayon Freckles recounts an encounter between her two children and a child with special needs.  Various activities are provided to help children develop compassion for others.

All Things Eyeron - Sylvia from Homeschooling Through Trials, Triumphs, and Tragedies shares a brief account of some experiences in the life of a younger sibling born into the family of a child with special needs.
From Boredom to Hyper-Focusing - Leann from Montessori Tidbits shares how special
needs includes children who are gifted, as they have their own special set of
needs that must be addressed on a daily basis.

Beating the Loneliness of Special Needs - Kim from Tiaras & Bowties explores the loneliness that can accompany children, especially those with special needs as they journey into young adulthood.  Don't miss these quick tips to help your child beat those feelings of exclusion and rejection while boosting self-esteem.

One Thing You Should Know- Kim from The Little Stories writes about a mother of a child with autism shares the one that that all of us need to know - the one thing that will show her we understand her child is important and accepted.

I Call You - Sandy from We Can Do All Things, talks about how having a child with special needs pushes a parent into action.  They quickly become not just a parent, but a therapist, medical researcher, teacher, advocate, and expert in their child's diagnosis.  They do things they never knew they could do, and be things they never knew they could do.

Fine Motor Leads to Fine Art - Debbie Clement is a children's musician/song-writer, illustrator, author, and public speaker.  The also spent 10 years as a Resource teacher for young children with special needs.  Her article for the carnival examines Fine Motor Development and shares supportive observations for children with special needs on that

Three Great Musical Projects for Kids of All Abilities - World music performer, DARIA shares 3 easy crafts including rain sticks, oceans drums and really quiet rattles for musical fun that also promotes creativity and positive self-expression. Inclusive musical fun perfect for the whole family or neighborhood! 


  1. I just came across this post on pinterest. I love the spirit of it, teaching kids how to accept and help their peers with special needs is such a meaningful lesson.

    As a special education teacher I have to say, a great addition to this lesson might be teaching your students to use person first language. That little boy in your classroom has autism; it is part of him, but not all of him. Because of that, he is a boy with autism, not an autistic boy.

    (Also, trisomy 21 is Down Syndrome, not Downs Syndrome. I know, I know, its just a personal pet peeve of mine!)

  2. Erin - thank you so much for your comments. You are correct. I like your wording much better. I'm sure you are a wonderful special ed. teacher. Have a great day.

  3. Great ideas! I'm going to check out some of these books. I wish all teachers were as caring as you are!

    1. Sylvia - I love your blog and am so glad you have been a guest on Crayon Freckles: In Here Shoes." I'm going to do that series Oct. 22 - my birthday.

  4. So true that young children can be so much more accepting than the adults. One year I had a student who had autism, and the kids looked out for him, and they would be the ones telling a new adult in the room what he needed.

    1. Thank you for visiting Rebekah. I love the new look of your blog - content still marvelous too.

  5. Found you via LOVE THAT MAX. And I laughed out loud at the advice: not to be overly helpful! I am always reminding Allie that while Boo might need her help some of the time she does not need it all of the time!

  6. Also found this on Pinterest. Thank you so much for sharing. As a mother with a son that has autism and a fellow teacher, there is just not enough understanding and patience when it comes to the adults in life. It is an everyday struggle to help people understand that a child with autism just simply wants to be accepted and understood by his peers and the adults around him. I look forward to incorporating some of your ideas into my classroom :)

    1. Christina - thank you so much for commenting. My daughter has autistic tendencies (MR and seizures). But she is so sweet and teaches me things everyday. I hope some day we figure out how to cure these disorders - in the meantime it is wonderful to meet others who share compassion for people with special needs. I hope you have a wonderful school year!

  7. I agree with you wholeheartedly about parents preconceptions about children with special needs (particularly those perceived as disruptive). Although it is not always possible, I think integration from a young age with special needs children is important. It helps form ideas of acceptance and understanding which can never be a bad thing.

    1. Yes, integration is very important. We all learn from each other. Acceptance and understanding are so important, as you say. Thank you for visiting.

  8. I also found this on Pinterest and read with interest as the parent of a child with additional needs, May I suggest another book for the list - Freddie and the Fairy by the wonderful Julia Donaldson is great for deaf awareness.

    1. Thank you for your book suggestion. I know of the author but did not know of this book. Great suggestion.


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