No matter what we call them (e.g., specials, allied arts), specials can be challenging for students in special education. Some schools have classes for art, music, etc. dedicated just for students with special needs. Others make a point to include the students from special ed. with their general education peers.
These 4 strategies can help make specials (art, PE) meaningful for students in #specialed
Regardless of how students are involved in specials, many teachers struggle for how to make the most of this time for their classes. I've had a number of questions about this recently and decided it made sense to post some thoughts about how to make specials a meaningful for students in special ed.
Ways to Make Specials Meaningful
DEFINE GOALS FOR EACH STUDENT AND CLASS
Define specific goals of what you want the students to be doing / learning in the activity. If they go all at the same time with their grade level, what do you (and their parents) expect them to get out of it.
Just "being" with other kids isn't really a goal unless active inclusion is being taught to all. You'll have more luck advocating for ways your students can actively participate if it's clear there is an educational plan for them during that time.
Goals for PE, for instance, might be focused on interacting with peers, taking turns, following directions, completing an exercise routine, or working independently.
Develop peer buddies
Next, work with the general ed. teacher and the specials teacher to promote some peer buddies. It's important to include the teacher of specials because their goals for the activities they teach may not be the same as what you expect.
Perhaps have a group of typical peers that they also have recess with. Use some of the recess time to teach the peers how to facilitate. Then have them pair up with them during specials as their partners. This can help to engage some of the students and allow the paras to facilitate or work with the more complex kids.
Case in point, I had a group of students working with a girl with autism who were absolutely amazing with her as peers. They included her with everything. But the PE teacher wouldn't let them do it during his class. He said they would be missing their PE goals by helping her. So, always make sure to include the specials teacher in determining the goals whenever possible, or you might be surprised.
Educate the specials teachers
Often the specials teachers don't know what to do with our students or how to engage them. But you may need to do this training. While the paras may know perfectly well what needs to be done, the teachers may not listen to them in the same way they will to you.
Giving the teachers tools to be successful is another way to help educate them. For instance, I had an art teacher who was so happy when I gave her the Climbing Art Obstacles book from Tasks Galore. Using it, she could plan meaningful art activities and have them ready to go for the students with special needs. And she found it was useful with some other classes as well.
One of the things that you can definitely do that will help both your students and the teachers is to establish mini-schedule visuals that they can use. Making it easy for them to use visuals in their classroom is a great way to help them be successful with your students.
Looking for visuals you can use? I've created mini-schedules for general use that include tons of visuals for PE, for art, for music and other uses within the school day.
General / Academic Mini-Schedules
These tips won't solve all the challenges of specials, but hopefully they will give you some starting places to build strong relationships with the teachers and make it a meaningful time for your students.
Until next time,