Special Education Students in the Mainstream Classroom
How to prepare your mainstream students for a special education student in their classroom.
By Elisa Jackson
In many schools, there are mainstream classrooms and a number of special education classrooms. These special education classrooms include rooms for students with learning disabilities, speech issues, mental disabilities, and emotional disabilities. While some with disabilities may look and act like all the others, those with certain disabilities, such as emotional difficulties, may not. Here are some ways to prepare your pupils to welcome those in the class who live with any of these types of challenges.
The first thing to do is to be up-front and age-appropriate in discussing the differences this person may have with your class. Having an open class discussion will bring up questions, and it is up to you to answer them honestly, keeping in mind the appropriateness of your answers. For example, explaining to your learners that we are all born differently is something they understand. We have different skin, hair, voices, etc. Some people have developed differently, and this is how this person came to be the way they are. Having this discussion about their differences is important, but it is equally as important to discuss the similarities they have with this student.
Another strategy that worked very well in my classroom, was to read an age-appropriate book about this person’s specific disability. There are many books out there, told in story form and not informational text. As you read the book, stop and discuss the behavior of the students. Discuss how the people in the book react to the pupil with the disability, and if they feel the reactions are appropriate or not.
Speaking of reactions, it is important to discuss how learners should react if an emotionally challenged person has an outburst. You should tell them to not interfere, and let an adult handle the situation. On the other hand, discussing how they can help this particular person with their specific needs is always something your kids will want to do. They feel important and sometimes take these learners on as their responsibility. Talking to students about how they can include these students in their activities is important, because an emotionally challenged student may want to participate, but may not have the language, confidence, or know how to join in.
Working together as a class to help these types of students when needed can help bring your class together. We all have differences and some of us need more help with those differences. Teaching your students how to handle situations and include these special students is a skill they should learn early on and carry with them. Here are more activities to help your mainstream students prepare for a special education student in their classroom.
Special Education Students in the Mainstream Classroom:
Work in groups to modify classroom activities to include the special education students.
Explore living with disabilities and create a poster as an awareness campaign.