Teacher Conference Materials

The Four Basics to Understand when Working with Children with Special Needs

Love Them, Understand Them, Communicate with Them, Train Them

I  Love Them

  1. A child with special needs is love and accepted by Jesus

Luke 18:16 NIV

But Jesus called the children to him and said,  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”


  1. We all want and need to be loved. Who could not help but to love these sweet kids?


  1. We all have some imperfection and while our culture and society might tell us that some of us deserve to be loved more than others because we are better looking, or kinder, or have more money, or more influence, that is not the truth, or what Jesus says.


  1. I want to insert here that I am a Christian and I cannot help but use the Bible as my primary reference source when it comes to moral and ethical issues. I am not attempting to unduly influence anyone and I don’t want to offend anyone, but it is just who I am. Most people who don’t consider themselves to be Christians acknowledge that Jesus was at least a good moral teacher. Therefore, please when I refer to scriptures from the Bible at least listen to them. If you question any of the statements I will be glad to give you the references.


  1. We are told in the New Testament to not show favoritism to anyone. Jesus said we are to love each other. Not just those that are easy to love, but all people.


  1. I am here because I truly love the people of this beautiful country, which includes each one of you. I also love children, especially those with special needs and want to make a difference in their lives and their families by making a difference in the lives of those who care for and teach them.


  1. You can’t tell from the outside of the package all the wonders it might hold inside, and so it is with each individual. We need to take the time to see what’s inside.


II  Understand Them


  1. Identifying the child with special needs
  2. Sometimes the child with special needs are very obvious. They may look different, they may move different, talk differently, their learning differences and needs are obvious.
  3. Sometimes they are not so obvious at first and may already be in your schools.
  4. What I want to do is talk with you about with you about the four most common diagnoses of special needs that you are likely already encountering.


  1. The first one is: Learning Disabilities
  2. These are challenges that manifest themselves in difficulty learning to read, write, spell, speak, do mathematical calculations or listen.
  3.   Dyslexia is the term associated with specific learning disabilities in reading.
  4.   Dyscalculia is the term associated with specific learning disabilities in math.
  5.   Dysgraphia is the term associated with specific learning disabilities in writing.
  6. Word-finding problems in children with language disorders, and learning issues like dyslexia.
  7. Or a combination of the above
  8. Which effects the ability to learn social skills and expected behavior.


  1.   National Center for Learning Disabilities
  2. Learning disabilities are not a prescription for failure. With the right kinds of instruction, guidance and support, there are no limits to what individuals with LD can achieve.” Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., Director of LD Resources


  1. Associated Deficits and Disorders
  2. Auditory Processing Deficit is the term used to describe a weakness in the ability to understand and use information one hears.
    1. This child may not respond to you calling their name the first two times you say their name.
    2. They may not understand, or remember verbal instructions past the first step but be able to follow written instructions.
    3. They may say “What?” a lot.
    4. And other challenges
    5. Visual Processing Deficit is the term used to describe a weakness in the ability to understand and use visual information., or what they see.
    6. This often accompanies Dysgraphia and/or Non-Verbal LD.
    7. This results in kids losing their place when reading more often than average
    8.   Not being able to copy written materials well
    9. confusing where the vertical line goes on letters consisting of a vertical line and a circle like d,b,p q, also, letters like n and u or m and w.
    10. Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities is the term used to describe the characteristics of individuals who have unique learning and behavioral profiles that may overlap with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia but that differ in significant ways.
    11. These children may be frequently late or seem to get lost on their way to                                       class.
    12. They may seem to be uncoordinated, dropping thing or bumping into                people or stationary objects.
    13. They can be socially acquired not being able to see non-verbal facial and    body cues or language
    14. Executive Functioning Deficits is the term used to describe weaknesses in the ability to plan, organize, strategize, remember details and manage time and space efficiently. This accompanies many learning disabilities as well as ADHD.


  1. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD is a brain-based disorder that results in significant inattention, hyperactivity, distractibility or a combination of these characteristics.
  2. Children with ADD generally have normal intelligence but have a difficult time focusing for an extended period of time.
  3. Children with ADHD include those that have a difficult time focusing and have a hard time sitting or being still.
  4. Children with ADHD often have additional learning disorders.

Source for information: https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/


  1. May talk about myself – story of English teacher, other teacher and elementary principle


  1. C. High Functioning Autism
  2. Autism is a spectrum disorder. There are those who are very high functioning, able to interact well with others, participate in and contribute to their society. Then there are those who are severely involved, needing to be cared for all of their live, and everything in between.


  1. High functioning Autism used to be called Asperger Syndrome.
  2. Most likely everyone in this room had a child with High Functioning Autism in your class when you were growing up or as a teacher now.
  3. The child most likely has no formal diagnosis, but you know that they are just different. Their behavior is just a little peculiar. They may take longer to learn social manors, when not to interrupt and how to respond appropriately when spoken to.


  1. These children can be successfully integrated into the regular classroom with typically developing peers, and into society as they mature.


  1. Children with high functioning Autism sometimes have:
  2. Poor Social interactions
  3. Poor Communication skills
  4. Poor play skills
  5. Interest in rituals or always doing things the same way.
  6. Presence of unusual mannerisms
  7. These children also:
  8. Often prefer to be alone
  9. May need more training to behave in culturally appropriate ways, which they can learn
  10. They may have digestive disorders and/or be picky eaters
  11. They are often very intelligent and become engineers or experts in technical careers.
  12. Children with High Functioning Autism and some with Learning Disabilities are often thought of as problem children. Sometimes their behavior can be a challenge. We will talk about this in just a little bit.


I want to tell you about one little girl we had in our school.

Sally has High Functioning Autism. When Sally was 4.5 years of age when she started school at the LLH. Lilly graduated from the LLH when she was 6 years old and went into a class with typical peers at a public school. Three years later when Sally was in the third-grade, Sally’s mother called to tell us that she was functioning very well in school academically and socially. That year Sally not only won the spelling bee for all of third grade but she also won the school wide spelling contest and went on to compete in the city-wide spelling bee for children 6-12 years of age. This is for all children, not children with special needs.


Some people you have heard of that had or have learning disabilities or high functioning Autism include Alexander Gram Bell, the inventor of the telephone, Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the electric light, the camera and many other things we use daily. Albert Einstein, the famous physicist who is known to be a genius is also thought to have had a learning disability or high functioning, Henry Ford, the inventor of the motor car, as well as some of the people that have brought computers and the internet into our lives.


Talking about behavior leads us to Sensory Processing Disorder. Sensory Processing disorder is another common but generally over looked development challenge.


  1. Sensory Processing
  2. Sensory Processing is the way our brain processes the information it receives from our sensory system. This includes our five basic senses, hearing, touch, taste, smell, or sight.


  1. A Sensory Processing Disorder is a difference in the way one perceives and responds to typical input from one or a combination of our five senses. People can be over- or under-responsive to typical input such as being very sensitive to everyday sounds like a car horn honking, or not tolerating clothing made from some materials.


  1. We all have some sort of sensory processing challenges.
  2. I am one of the millions that do not like tags in the back of their clothing.
  3. Other common challenges are being startled by unexpected touch’
  4. Some people do not like certain foods based on texture or color. It is more than just no liking the taste of some foods. I worked with a woman that would not eat anything white. This included potatoes, white bread, vanilla ice cream, or southern cream gravy. All things I really like.


  1. Sensory processing challenges can affect their ability to learn which often is reflected in their behavior.
  2. Behavior that is a result of true a sensory need or processing challenge is not the child willfully being bad.
  3. What is alright with us, such as the noise level, can be too much for them.
  4. Children on the Autism spectrum and some with other learning disabilities may also have sensory processing challenges.
  5. Some of the students at our school wear head phones that are not connected to anything to cut down on the volume of the sound around them. Other adaptions and strategies to help these children can be found in the adaptions book in the LLH curriculum on The Little Anchor web site. It is free, but it is in English. I will leave the websites up on the last slide.


  1. This is something to be aware of and to consider when you are dealing with inappropriate behavior. This will be discussed in another presentation.


  1. Visual Impairments

1.This is uncorrected, or uncorrectable vision impairments can also lead to a challenge for the child in your classroom.

  1. Visual impairments can result from abnormalities in the physical development of the eyes or in the nervous system.
  2. Visual impairments can occur alone or in combination with other conditions.
  3. Visual impairments can affect mobility, socialization and learning in general


  1. These children will most likely become obvious as you get to know them.
  2. They may squint to see the board.
  3. They may be copying from a neighbor’s paper rather than the board because they can’t see the board.
  4. They may complain of a headache at about the same time each day.
  5. They may be clumsy, have trouble with stairs, not be able to judge the distances well or catch a ball.


  1. Some simple fixes that might help:
  2. Some children will need to sit in the front of the room to see the board.
  3. Some may need extra light or extra time to copy information off the board.
  4. Some may need extra light to see their papers.
  5. Others may benefit from translucent colored plastic sheet to put over the page to help them read.
  6. I don’t know much other than that this is possible.
  7. If you would like more information on working with children with visual impairments that are effecting their ability to learn you can contact us through The Little Anchor and we will get you some information.


Working with children with a visual impairment that results in extremely low vision or originates in the brain is the subject for a seminar in itself. However, I do want to mention one condition briefly, just so you are aware of it.


  1. A more complex visual impairment is Cortical or Neurological Visual Impairment affects how the child’s brain processes what the eyes see.
  2. This is a condition of the central nervous system, or the brain, not the eye
  3. It is sometimes misdiagnosed as autism or blindness
  4. It is common in children born prematurely or with other neurologic challenges.

III. Communicate with Them

  1. The Definition of Communication
  2. The exchange of thoughts, messages or information by using speech, signals, writing or behavior.
  3. Involves direction to another person who in turn provides tangible or social rewards.

When working with children who have challenges with communication, it is important to give children a means to communicate and recognize all attempts at communication.


  1. We also need to recognize that all behavior is an attempt to communicate something. Even the behavior we consider inappropriate. (Young children are not able to name their emotions so we need to help them. “Oh, you are telling me you are angry.” “I know you want a cookie right now, but you are going to have to wait until after lunch.”


  1. Critical Communication Skills
    1. Asking for a desired outcome, I’m thirsty, My hands need to be washed
    2. Asking for assistance, Help me please. Pick me up please
    3. Asking for a break, I’m tired, I’m need to go to the bathroom
    4. Affirming, Yes, That is nice
    5. Rejecting, No, I don’t like that, Please don’t
      1. For their self-image, safety, behavior control it is also important them to say no appropriately.


  1. For their self-image, safety, behavior control it is also important them to say no appropriately. These skills are critical because if the child cannot calmly and effectively engage in each skill, then the child will most likely try other means to obtain the same outcome, which often are mistaken for purposely misbehaving for no appropriate reason.


  1. Other important keys when establishing communication with a child

It is important to take a little more time to get to know your students. Sometimes, especially when they are young, you might need to help them learn to identify and express their emotions properly.


  1. I don’t know how many of you have iPads available but they are proving to be very useful in helping a child communicate. We use the iPad for communication or the educational games we select. We do lock out the internet and other games that are “just for fun”. It is important if they are using the iPad for communication and educational purposes that they understand it’s purpose.


  1. For the young ones and those that may be slow to develop speech-using pictures to communicate their needs and chooses is helpful.


  1. Also, letting all children know the school day schedule also help alleviate some behavior challenges. We use picture schedules in all of our classrooms, once the children are able to read a written schedule is helpful.


  1. Again, more information on ways to help children with communication can be found on The Little Anchor.


  1. Train Them

  2. Behavior Training
    1. We know we need to teach children to talk, read, do math, so why not how to behave.
    2. We think that behavior management is about managing the children’s behavior, and it is.
    3. But it is just as much, if not more, about managing our own behavior.
    4. We emphasize the positive as a way of building self-esteem and confidence, and it’s also one way we model for the children what we want to see and hear from them.


  1. All discipline should be grounded in love.
  2. Have the child’s best interest at heart.
  3. Focus on what you want the child to do rather than what he should not do.
  4. Look at the abilities of the child rather than the disabilities.
  5. Look for behavior you can praise.


  1. One way to approach behavior is to investigate what is going on in the child.
  2. hunger
  3. anger
  4. over-stimulation
  5. difficulty with transitions
  6. not understanding the task?

Changing behavior is much easier if you understand where it comes from and what purpose it serves.


  1. Another approach is to investigate what is going on in us.
  2. frustration
  3. expectations too low or too high
  4. lack of communication
  5. lack of respect
  6. inconsistency
    1. Inconsistency teaches a child that we are not dependable, and it doesn’t matter if he listens to us or not.


  1. Tell the child what you want them to do, not what they are not to do.
  2. They will hear and focus on the last thing they hear. If you say, “Get down, don’t stand on the table.” The child hears “Stand on the table.”
  3. Instead end with what you want them to do. “Don’t stand on the table, get down.” “We eat on the table and we stand on the floor”
  4. For very young children and children with special needs or cognitive delays, make it very simple. “Feet belong on the floor.” Or ”Feet on floor”


  1. Closing I will summarize the four main action points:
  2. Love them
  3. We all want and deserve to be loved.
  4. To love any child, or person, we must know that we are loved by our Heavenly Father, the God of the universe.
  5. We are all created by God: Psalm 139:14 (NASB) 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”
  6. Created in the image of God: Genesis 1:27 (NASB)
    27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
  7. Created to have fellowship with Him: 1 John 1:3 (ESV)
    3  tat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
  8. Created to be crowned with glory and Honor: Hebrews 2:7 (ESV)
    7 Yu made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor,
  9. Created to live with Him forever: John 3:16 (NASB)
    16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.


  1. Understand them
  2. Look beyond their physical appearance or disruptive behavior and ask yourself if something else is influencing this child’s behavior.
  3. They could be dealing with one of the challenges we have discussed or they could be dealing with emotional, trauma, or both.


  1. Communicate with them.
  2. Recognize that all behavior is an attempt to communicate something.
  3. Help then find a more appropriate means of communication that making a loud noise or acting out.
  4. Focus on positive training.


  1. Train them
  2. Focus on the child’s abilities.
  3. Look for something to praise.
  4. Consider what lead to the inappropriate behavior.
  5. Consider your mood, what is going on in yourself.
  6. Be consistent.


  1. Thank you
  2. When looking for resources and information online, look for something from a reputable organization.
    1. It should not offer a “cure” for genetically related disorders.
    2. The website should not want to sell you anything
    3. Look for other resources to confirm the information of first one.
    4. Look for websites on the topics by well-known organizations,
      1. such as; teaching hospitals, i.e. the Mayo Clinic
      2. or longstanding international charitable organizations such as the March of Dimes.
  • There are many diagnoses related national support groups, i.e. Autism Speaks, and Spina Bifida Association.
  1. The US government has good websites, i.e. the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC.


  1. Remember our resources
    1. littlelighthouse.org
    2. thelittleanchor.org
      1. Written by the LLH professional staff


  1. We have discussed challenges, some of the causes, and a little of what can be done to help the children.
    1. We hope to be able to share more interventions with you in the future.
    2. In the meantime, interventions and other information may be found on the LLH training web site, The Little Anchor.
    3. Web address, thelittleanchor.org.
    4. We invite your questions and stories in the comment section of The Little Anchor.


Thank you again for your time and attention.








https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928″ rel=”nofollow”>www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions





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