Specials can be a really challenging time for students in special education. Students can experience breakdown during specials. They are typically in a different routine, maybe in a different location, and trying to process excess stimuli. While specials can be challenging, it can be one of the most important times of day for many students to participate in inclusion. Let’s talk about how to support students during specials so you can help them be successful!
Visuals, visuals, visuals
No surprise here, the best way to support your students during specials is the same way you support them in your classroom. Visuals, visuals, and more visuals. Use a visual schedule, and I guarantee you will start to see a decrease in behavior and an increase in independence in specials. A great resource for this is the Visuals for Specials pack. You can shop this on TpT HERE. In this bundle, there are visuals for art, PE, music, computers, health, and library. There are visuals for any activity the students may complete in the specials class, so you don’t have to recreate the wheel with this one. There is also a first, next, then board you can use for a schedule. I also like to use paint sticks or laminated strips of cardstock for this! I also provide a reinforcement menu with options of preferred reinforcers for my students to work for. You can find a FREE preference assessment HERE.
Giving a first, next, then board to each specials teacher and the visuals that go with their class would be a great way to collaborate with your specials teachers! They could prep a large whole class visual schedule with this board and visuals. Then, you could give students that need an individual specials schedule a smaller version or a paint stick schedule. All staff being on the same page leads to better success for students!
In specials, students can experience sensory overload. To help students regulate, pack some sensory supports to use throughout specials. For example, we will pack noise cancelling headphones, fidgets, chewies, weighted vests, hug vests, and more to provide to students throughout specials as needed. This will also help decrease behavior in specials. When students are regulated, they are more likely to be successful in specials.
A couple years ago, I started providing drawstring bags for my paras when they took students out of our classroom. This has been a game changer for us! As we all know, our students need a lot of supports when they are in and out of the classroom. We needed and efficient way to travel with all the supplies needed to best support our students while out of the classroom. I got the bags on amazon, then I put their names in vinyl on their bag. You can find the bags HERE (affiliate link.) In these bags we keep a reinforcement treat box, any sensory supports needed, data sheets, click counters, pens, timers, walkie talkie, first aid items, emergency folder, sticky notes, visuals, visual schedules, and so much more!
Specials don’t have to be a time for breakdown! With some supports in place, your students can be successful in specials. For more ideas how to support your students at specials, check out Alyssa’s post here. What other times in your schedule do you need help supporting your students? Let me know in the comments!