As I began my special education journey, I pondered the ways in which I could support exceptional students. I teach in a classroom in which there are four English language learners (one of the ELL students Jane Doe had no foundation once so ever), and one suspected case of ADHD in the process of being diagnosed. John Doe who has suspected ADHD, often moved around the classroom and fidgeted at inappropriate times in addition to having difficulties focusing on his work. As I started to juggle the countless ways in which I could help improve student learning, I realized that the most beneficial inquiry for my own practice would be to research some of the tools and strategies available and attempt to apply some of them as applicable in my class. I believed that having a collected pool of resources would be both helpful for myself, and my colleagues. Thus this lead to my question…
“What are some of the tools and strategies that I may utilize for special needs within my classroom”
I began my inquiry by connecting with an occupational therapist who provided and explained many tactile and sensory tools which could be used in the classroom. I was also introduced to a few electronic applications which could be used for special education and ELL students. As I steadily continued my research, I also purchased one of the applications and a couple tools to which slowly implemented into my classroom and take notes on what I found as a result.
What I found: such tools can act as good stimulation periodically for calming an uneasy student during a tantrum or used as a quick break. In my own practice, I utilized the stress ball squeeze to see if it would help John Doe sit well on the carpet. The results were that it actually acted as more of a distraction as it was being tossed. However, this tool may not have necessarily fit the needs of John Doe, yet could be beneficial for another.
What I found: seating tools can be used to help both gross motor skills of balance and help students sit for longer periods of time. In my own practice, I utilized a rubber band (as seen in the first picture) and I found that John Doe verbalized that he liked it and was sitting for longer periods of time and looking at the work in front of him. Interestingly, it drew negative attention from the rest of the class…
“Mr. Au can I use one too…I think I need it too…how come John Doe gets to use one and I do not…” – Student A
(In order: Letter School, foam letters, letter search, Choice Works)
What I found: I wanted to see how different tools and strategies could be used to help Jane Doe’s alphabet learning. What I found was that Letter School, a tracing application was good for printing but did not help with any names of sounds of letters. Foam letters worked well for recognition but this was likely due to rote memorization and trial and error. The use of a letter search worksheet sounded good on paper but in actual application, Jane Doe had trouble due to upper and lower case, in addition to different fonts. What I found was that there were countless applications which could be used for different aspects of learning such as dictation (Dragon Dictation) or day planning (Choice Works). Thus the implementation of iPads into the classroom would be a beneficial tool.
A good starting point would be to look at: