Every child needs Special Ed

“We want our children to get the best education” – Most parents. But “Most Parents” have the idea of education skewed to such an extent that they compare it with grades. I recently met one of my clients who started discussing her daughter’s grades and she compared it with her classmate. But that led me to thinking – Do our exams test everything? No. They assess only memory. What if a child’s strength is dancing, or art, or athletics? How do our schools determine these aspects of a child’s life? Each child is different, so each child should get a personalized educational plan.

Assessment should be less restrictive as well. We should not limit tests to paper-pencil test. Alternate methods of assessment can also be used. Observations, on-field activity, analytical thinking matter too. Tests should also not be standardized as the learning pace of each child is different. So how can we make every child get special education?

Teachers can use newer techniques in teaching and try to practice blending learning. Questions can be more analytical which helps the child to think creatively and practically. Most important of all, teachers should create Personalized Educational Plan (PEP) for each child.

Prepare a PEP

To start off, you first need to have a team of people who know the student, to create a PEP.

PEP Team should have

  • The students’ class teacher
  • The school resource teacher / Special Educator / Counselor / Medical specialist
  • Parents/ Guardians
  • School administration (vice-principal, headmistress)

What should the PEP Team focus on?

  • Social and academic strengths of the student
  • Social and academic needs of the student
  • Educational goals and objectives for the coming year
  • Best way or combination of different assessments requires for the student

With the help of these steps, a teacher can enhance the strengths and address the needs by creating a plan with specific goals and objectives. The progress can be monitored while teaching takes place or after various assessments. Although planning of a PEP should take place before the course starts, regular planning and follow ups with parents and professionals is important to get the over all feedback of the child, which again helps with creating or improving the PEP.

(If you have created a PEP for your students, comment how it has helped you.)

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Game Therapy

I have been brought up playing board games all though childhood and during therapy I realized that some games can help as an ice breaker and make it easier for the client to open up. I decided to write about a few games that I use during therapy with children and adolescents. Generally, I make use of digital games online or go with my personal favorite, board games.

Chess: For sportsmanship, acceptance of defeat, motivation

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A great game for children who cannot take defeat. Chess is a powerful analytical game, where the rules have to be followed. As the game progresses it also gets more competitive. It enables the child to get completely involved in the game and think of all the possible scenarios for the upcoming moves.

Now during therapy, most of the time we let the child win in the first game, which usually boosts his confidence level. But in the second game, the child is not allowed to win the game as easily (or at all) to drive home the point that not every game can be won.
After two games, have a discussion with the child about losing and acceptance. You can also mention how this defeat is going to motivate him to be better in the next game. He then knows that there are other possibilities he missed and could have taken in order to win the game and motivates himself to do better. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, the child can now deal with accepting defeat and motivating himself.

This game usually works for age groups 8-15 years.

Taboo, Pictionary, Charades : For communication skills, ice breaking, team work, group dynamics, trust issues, group therapy

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Taboo is a game where the person has to explain a word without giving specific hints that are taboo ( not to be used for explanation). During this game the children, not only have fun, but realize how important communication can be. It is usually played in a group and this invariably leads to group dynamics and team work.

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Pictionary is a similar game but instead of talking you have to communicate though pictures and symbols. You can also extemporize the game by making your own set of cards where you make the words related to “P” can be people, “O” can be objects of influence (like cell phones, ipads, tablets, laptops), “A” can be action during certain situation, “D” can be describing a feeling and AP can be left as “All Play”. It is a relatively easy game, but can turn out to be insightful after playing.

Charades are again, a communication game where we have to act out the word on the card. Here the words can be related to issues faced by children like bullying, failure, stress, arguments, etc.

After playing the games, the individuals are asked how they feel to be in the group they were placed in, most of them feel united with their group, trust quotient and cohesiveness increases. Every game has a different outcome and it is interesting to know what the children are thinking.

This game can be played with people from 8 years and above.

Jenga : For sharing feelings, thoughts, emotions on a variety of topics.

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Jenga can be played for a variety of issues faced by people. It can be played for talking about “Feelings”,”Family”, “Social issues” and “communication”.

For feelings we can denote each feeling to a color. For example, happy = yellow, angry = red, sad = blue, stressful = green, peaceful = orange. Now the game begins like this. When you get the color on the dice, you need to speak about what you feel while taking out the jenga block. For example, “I feel angry when…”, ” I feel peaceful when…” I feel happy when..”.

For family you can assign each color to a family member. Red = mom, blue = dad, green = brother, yellow = dog, orange = cousin. Make you the family member who are close to the client are assigned the colored and not just random family members. When you start playing the game, you can talk about the family member the color is assigned to. For example, you pick out a green block so questions asked could be “what do you like about your brother?”, when a blue block is removed you can ask ”  what is the one thing you can change about your dad?” so on and so forth.

For social issues you must first ask the client about the people he/she usually spends most of her time. Friends = red, relatives = blue, cousins = yellow, family = green, and red = yourself. Make sure the client knows that they are a part of social settings. When you start the game questions can be asked about friends, family and the client as well. For example, ” how would you react to someone complementing you on your dress?”.

This game can be played with kids above 6 years.