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Children with Special Needs: A Reflection Paper

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1265
  • Category: Child

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Dedication, patience and understanding are the key attributes to become a good teacher.  However in my brief visit to a Jr. High autistic class and a Jr. High Emotional Disturbed class as part of my practicum experience, I realized that such qualities needed to be tenfold for one to take the challenge of educating children with emotional, behavioral and mental disorders.  Indeed, teaching children may be the noblest profession.   But teaching children with special needs is beyond compare.

Class of Children with Autism

Upon arriving in the class, the usual greeting that children give to visitors in a traditional class was not present. The students are busily preoccupied on their own as the teacher attends to each of them individually. Each child in the class has a unique unusual behavior. Some are preoccupied with a specific object (e.g. book), some have repetitive mannerism such as finger flicking, some display fascination to moving objects like rotating fan while some are simply silent and seemed pondering. According to the teacher in charge, children with autism have permanent developmental disability that prevents an ordinary person from understanding what they see, hear, smell, hear or feel.  That alone made me wondered because instead of seeing the children to be incapable of understanding, the teacher emphasized that it is the normal people like me who are unable to understand them.

In as much as every person is unique, every student in the class is attended to by the teacher in quite a unique way.  As explained by the teacher to me, she keeps an individualized and meticulous record for each student which contained: their personal, assessment and educational data; information about their strengths, weaknesses and needs; progression; and other related information (i.e. transition goals and objectives as well as resources and strategies to be undertaken).  The records were kept confidential including from visitors or observers.

The most apparent difference that anyone can observe in an autistic class is the instructional approach applied.  Because most children with autism have a pervasive impairment in communication and social interaction, basic communication alone is very challenging and takes a lot of perseverance and withiness. The teacher more often than not implements a visual approach to communicating, instructing and teaching through the use of gestures (sign language), photos, flashcards, etc.  In some instances, the teacher uses different expressive skills for different students to communicate. A common feature however of instruction is emphasis for paying attention.  The teacher explained to me that it is important to inculcate to students the functional use of language (e.g. for play and social interaction) to promote its use because most children with autism hardly communicates. Moreover, one must be extremely patient not to burst out or shout to the children because a loud sound can over stimulate them which can make them uncontrollably aggressive or anxious.  Instead, the teacher heartily gives positive praise and other forms of reinforcement over and over while a student is learning.

Reflection is an important part of the teacher’s profession because children with autism have deficient cognitive abilities.  It is therefore important for the teacher to keenly observe the students’ actions and reactions in order to identify their particular interests and abilities, strengths and weaknesses from which the teacher can devise a plan on how to approach, where to focus and how to enhance each student’s learning.  

Class of Emotionally disturbed students

While one can be sensibly patient and understanding to children with autism because they have mental deficiencies, an ordinary teacher without proper training and experience can easily be frustrated, irritated or agitated in a class of emotionally disturbed children because one thinks that they are normal and are consciously and voluntarily performing antisocial or irregular behaviors like defiance, aggression, passivity and even tantrums.   Hence, the class of emotionally disturbed children except for the teacher does not show a welcoming and receptive atmosphere for visitors at the very start.  Some children show signs of suspicion, indifference, disappointment, depression and even aggression or excitement among others upon our arrival.

The classroom set up was similar to a traditional class where students are seated together at one end of the room while the teacher’s desk is place in front of the group.  One aggressive student even tried to sit beside me until the teacher told him to get back at his designated seat or will be marked absent.  Rules are strictly implemented inside the class as told by the teacher to create a framework for self-discipline.  And these rules are actually posted prominently in one side of the room that is visible to everyone. While talking to students, the teacher exhibited a very mild mannered approach to the students and seemed careful in her speech and actions so as not trigger any unwanted or negative reaction from the students.  Moreover, she also often provides positive reinforcement to motivate the students, which despite its sincerity is usually acknowledge by students with skepticism and mistrust.  I myself have reservations approaching students because they display a distrustful and uninviting vibes that’s why I decided to personally see their teacher for further information.

  In a short chat with the teacher after the class, I learned that “trust” is the first thing you must build with every student by finding a way to reach out to them at the same time letting them reach out to you.  In order to do this, one must be equipped with information about every student i.e. educational history, family background, behavioral problems, etc so that one can formulate a way on how to approach, and not to “intervene” with the student.  As a teacher for “emotionally disturbed” students, there are times that one becomes a counselor or a confidant.  According to the teacher, she does not attempt to understand her students but simply assist on how her students can recognize their emotions and thoughts to appease or reduce their own worries.  She concluded moreover that there is no such thing as a hopeless case of an emotionally disturbed student. She had her fair share of success in helping some students but failures as well.  But helping at least one in ten to change successfully is a no small feat.  And becoming an agent of change for the better to even a single life is the most rewarding thing in this world.


Aside from learning the attributes of becoming a great teacher, I learned that the greater the difficulty of teaching makes even greater its rewarding experience.  Moreover, teachers of children with special needs like those with autism and emotional disturbance called for deeper dedication, patience and understanding. The multifunctional profession of teachers as a parent, counselor or psychologist, nutritionist, nurse, police officer, among others becomes more apparent in handling these types of classes.  In terms of educating children, teaching children with special needs is entirely different in facilitating learning which is highly customized placing emphasis to the unique needs for every student. At the same time, the need for assistance is implemented while cautiously preventing interference with the students’ opportunity for a normal experience just like ordinary children. This approach follows the concept of “Least Intervention Needed” where education is a form of “inclusion” of students with special needs to the mainstream so that they become normal productive and law abiding citizens of conventional society. (Adelman and Taylor, 2005)


Adelman, H.S. and Taylor, L.L. (2005). The school leader’s guide to student learning supports: new directions for addressing barriers to learning, 2nd edition, Corwin Press

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