As a special education teacher, I am always looking for ways to make learning easier for my children. No two children are the same and they same goes for those in a special education curriculum. C
hildren are grouped in special education according to trainable mentally handicapped (TMH), educable mentally handicapped (EMH), varying degrees of exceptional behavior (VE), mentally or behaviorally impaired (MH), and gifted for those with intelligence scores over 130. Many do not know that gifted is considered a special education class. There are also classes for those who are visually impaired and hearing impaired. I have mostly taught EMH children. Listed are some of the cognitive difficulties these children have and how instruction can be changed or differentiated for them .
1) Reads and Comprehends below grade level. A child that can not read at grade level can read out of an easier grade. But the child will feel bad about himself when he finds out he is reading below grade level. Many companies make an age appropriate materials written at an easier reading level. I often rewrite a portion of the lesson, using words that the child can understand. A teacher can also steer away from the reading, and focus more on visual or auditory learning.
2) Has difficulty completing mutli-step tasks and directions. I often find this to be the case with Educable Mentally Handicapped children. A lot of work goes into modifying the lesson, but it can be done. It is surprising how a complicated task, can be broken down into simpler steps for a child to understand. I usually give no more than three steps at a time.
3) Has difficulty working in large groups. EMH children often get frustrated. They also try to compete, but what child doesn’t. I find it best to let them work in groups of no more than two. I pair a higher learning child with a lower learning child to serve as a peer mentor. Otherwise, the two would sit and not do the lesson. Some children do better learning alone. I find out what a child’s style is and allow them to work accordingly.
4) Has difficulties memorizing math facts. This is an easy problem to solve. There are graphic organizers for math, such as the multiplication pyramid for fact families. I also allow the children to use calculators, and multiplication grids. Around the room, I have poster with math facts, such as the words in a word problem and what they mean. For example, less than means subtraction. These aids help the student understand math better.
5) Difficulty in copying notes from the board or overhead. I allow children who are auditory learners to bring a tape recorder to school. If it is a test review, I have even taped it and given a copy to any child needing it. I also simplify my notes and what the child is expected to write down. Teachers often put down unneeded information. A teacher can merely make a copy of what they are writing or using on the overhead and give it to the child having problems copying notes.
Hopefully these tips will help students with cognitive difficulties. If you learn to incorporate them into your daily teaching, you will be surprised how smart your students really are.