Teaching children with special educational needs can be challenging and requires a specific temperament as well as a specialised skillset.  Firstly, understanding the needs of the child with learning disabilities is fundamental to knowing how to plan for their lesson and in how to behave towards them.

Regular observation and interaction will improve your relationship with the child, while maintaining eye contact and addressing them by name will help them to feel at ease in your presence.  Encouraging them to confide in you, especially if they are lacking in confidence when communicating with others in the school, will give you a valuable opportunity to show them a range of coping strategies.  Building trust encourages independence, and a sense of responsibility is achieved through the accomplishment of small tasks, proving to the child that they can successfully meet targets.

Discussions with parents, carers, other teachers and therapists will build up a more complete picture of the child’s strengths and weaknesses to help set achievable goals for both you and the child.

Praising successes, no matter how small, will build up confidence and encourage the child to try new things.  Allowing them to have more autonomy over their learning will increase their sense of control over their own abilities. Negative comments can cause children with special needs to shut down or become fearful, so leading with the positive is essential in maintaining that all-important connection.

Organising the classroom space should be seen through the eyes of the SEN student and involve minimal distractions. The creation of a safe space into which an anxious child can retreat until they feel confident enough to re-join class activities, is also important.

Children with special needs often copy the reactions of their teachers to help regulate their own behaviours, so being mindful of your own actions and responses is as vital as the curriculum you teach. If you remain calm and unflustered, then this will signal to the child that all is OK with the world and there is no threat to their safety.

Help the child to build friendships with other children in the classroom, as this will extend the support network outside of their family circle. This can be achieved through group activities and games where they are encouraged to interact with each other with the aim of achieving a mutually beneficial result.  Teamwork is an essential skill for a child with SEND to learn.

Lastly, show them that you believe in them and listen carefully and uncritically when they tell you something.  Patience and Understanding go a long way in the world of a child with special educational needs.