Unlocking ADHD writer, Nidhi SD, has no regrets sacrificing a corporate career to teach ADHD kids.
What does a SPED Teacher Do?
Unhappy with the mundane routine of micromanaging in the office, I found the transition from the Hospitality industry to the teaching profession very appealing. I paused after my first child’s birth and decided to follow my passion for teaching.
While I was immensely excited to pursue my passion to finally get to teach young children, I was not sure if I was ready to commit to becoming a special education (SPED) teacher. Coaching kids with special needs (i.e. students diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or Global Developmental Delay) could be demanding. Nonetheless, I took the plunge and began my journey.
These children learn differently and they process and apply information differently. We plan different activities and methods to suit the needs of each child so that they can actively participate. It is very important to build a bond with both child and caregiver, so that we can work together in the same direction and use the same techniques and methods.
Each child with ADHD will exhibit different and interesting behavioral traits, so identifying those traits and devising suitable teaching strategies is key.
Case Study – Maxi*
Maxi*, a lovable child with ADHD, routinely struggles to stay focused on any task in class and would often disturb other kids around him. But in art class, we observed that he consistently exhibited positive and focused behaviour — quite unlike his regular self. He was extremely focused on coloring, used a varied combination of colors and was productively occupied with making interesting designs. We realized art is his comfort zone, and now we plan and work on teaching strategies based on this.
As a teacher, our role is to evaluate each child’s individual needs and strengths. We then develop strategies that will help students with ADHD to focus, stay on task, and learn to their full capability. For ADHD kids, teachers usually focus on enhancing memory skills, expanding reasoning abilities, and developing listening skills. Nowadays mindfulness, meditation and yoga techniques are also practiced as a routine in schools.
*name has been changed to maintain confidentiality
Tools for SPED Teachers
As a teacher, we can make changes in the classroom to help minimize the distractions and disruptions of ADHD. These changes typically include:
- Creating a quiet area free of distractions for test-taking and quiet study.
- Creating outlines for note-taking to organize the information as you deliver it.
- Summarizing key points.
- Encouraging exercise during school hours to release pent-up energy. Going for walks/run, and using sensory rooms and playgrounds are helpful.
- Telling students what they’re going to learn and what teacher’s expectations are when opening each lesson.
- Informing students exactly what materials they’ll need.
- Varying the pace and including different kinds of activities. Many students with ADHD do well with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense.
- Avoiding chain commands. Give one instruction at a time and ask them to repeat what they heard to make sure they fully understand.
- Having in-class “time out zones” to calm their bodies and overstimulated minds.
It brings me joy to see my students improving with the right intervention. They deserve to be a part of a classroom with all the usual fun and occasional silly things that form part of school life. A SPED teacher needs to be patient, passionate, creative and compassionate to enrich the student’s life.
Having now been an apprentice SPED teacher for a few years and regularly taking up courses/workshops to enhance my knowledge and experience, I can cheerfully say it’s been much more rewarding than my entire corporate career.