What every Special Education Teacher needs to know

Alister looked at the parents over his glasses.
It was so tedious having to deal with these parents. Their son was simply a very ill mannered,rude child and there really was no need to take up his valuable time discussing things with them.However, they had sought and got a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and now he, Alister, head teacher of this church funded school, was having to deal with them. Because of the boy’s diagnosis, Alister could no longer fob them off with exclusions, excuses and letters, he had to see them face to face and discuss this child.

Alister gave up. Parents nowadays had choices. If your child mis-behaved, get a diagnosis! Then the school were obliged to help. Of course, as a Christian, Alister had tried to help. He had written to the house, discussed the boy’s behaviour on the telephone with these blasted people, called the LEA who suggested a Statement (Alister’s school had never had a child with a statement and he was not about to start doing this now – think of their reputation!).

Alister’s school was middle class, took children from a large catchment area and selected them on a points basis, most points being gained if the family attended church and lived locally. He had taken this boy because his older brothers attended the school (and they were well behaved so proved the parents can do it when they want to!) However, their third child had proved himself difficult and problematic from the start. Alister wanted rid but now they were persuing this idea of a statement and diagnosis. The boy was not naughty but ‘special’. Alister did not like the situation.

This might sound like a story to you but it is actually what we felt when our son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome while attending his first primary school. We thought that gaining a diagnosis would help and allow staff to access material which would help them support our son. Our first two children were well behaved and high achievers so our relationship with the school,up to that point, had been great.

Now,however, began four long years of trial and torment with the head teacher determined to split our boys up and that our youngest leave the school. We eventually did move him but the LEA upheld seven separate complaints.The school ended up with a poor reputation for SEN and had to work hard to improve in this area.

So, here is what every special education teacher needs to know.
1) Never alianate parents – they are your best support for children with special needs. Parental understanding and input can be valuable and really help you understand the child and why their behaviour is different

2) Learn about the condition – if you know a child has a diagnosis a simple read about the condition will really help both you and the child

3) Never tell the child negative things – they are not ‘bad’, ‘evil’, ‘the results of bad parents’ or anything like this. Dealing with children with special needs can enhance the reputation of the school and pleased parents will tell others (so will unhappy parents).

4) Seek advice from experts – a statemented child will achieve access to many support staff. Use them and seek advice at all levels.Never be afraid to say you do not know about a certain condition -learn and advance!

5) Make sure the child is supported and knows they are valued. Help them make friends and achieve in the school environment. Remember each day is very hard for them as they often have to fit into an environment which they may not really understand and find hard. They may feel they lack talent academically or socially. Encourage the good things and praise them as much as you can.

6) Kow how to deal with other parents – we had parents at our son’s new school who said they did not like our son being in the choir because he flapped or jiggled and ‘spoilt’ the row. The SEN co simply stated that they should realise that it was hard for our son and also realise how wonderful it was to include all children of the school in all activites. She also told them how other children benefitted from having our son and what a good,loyal friend he proved to be. They soon realised they were making a fuss about very little and stopped.

These things all go to make sure a special education teacher is supportive, feels supported themselves and does not destroy the confidence of the child and parents for ever.