Working with students in early childhood special education can be really challenging. Imagine eight tiny, squirmy humans with 10-second attention spans, all having different medical and educational needs – things can get chaotic pretty quickly! In this blog post are 5 tips to support educators who work in early childhood special education.
1. Communicate with families and service providers
As a case manager, you are responsible for keeping track of parent communication and student services. Since students in early childhood sped are too young to be responsible for keeping track of the aforementioned, make sure you have a system to log communications with families and service providers.
Additionally, students in early childhood special education develop rapidly. Frequent check-ins may be necessary to keep services relevant and up-to-date.
2. Provide plenty of opportunities to interact
Students in early childhood sped typically do not have the capacity to sit still and attend a lesson. Students will need tangibles and plenty of opportunities to interact with the material.
One way to minimize distraction while inviting students up to interact with the material is to stay as close to your students as possible. Not only does this gives you easy access to guide students through the lesson, but it also allows you to prompt students effectively.
3. Keep it short and sweet
As you learn more about your students, you will know your students’ attention threshold. Typically, students in early childhood special education benefit from a movement break every 10-15 minutes.
Rather than trying to cramp everything in one seating, I find it best to end a lesson prior to any challenging behaviors due to overload. When students end a learning activity on a good note, it helps to create a positive experience to motivate future successes.
4. Supplement with digital media whenever appropriate
In this day and age, technology is an inevitable part of our students’ lives. Rather than fighting it, I have learned to use it to my advantage. There is a plethora of digital task cards (e.g. Boom Cards™ and Google Slides™), and educational videos (e.g. GoNoodle™ and YouTube™) on the internet. You will surely find some that support your teaching.
5. Provide lots of encouragement
Students in early childhood sped typically do not understand the intrinsic value of learning yet. They require lots of external motivations to keep their momentum going. Encouragement could be verbal, tangible, or physical (e.g. high-fives, fist bumps, movement breaks), depending upon your students’ preferences.