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Educational instruction that is delivered in such a way that it meets the unique needs of each individual is known as Specialized Education. Specialized Education is specifically targeted towards individuals who have developmental deficits that may cause learning or/and attention deficits.
Specialized Education: What is it?
We will describe various aspects of Specialized Education such as classroom modifications, curriculum modifications, and additional physical or academic support.
This includes things such as floor padding, wall padding, wheelchair ramps, and access to bathroom facilities, additional safety measures (outlet covers, locked cabinets), and easy access to each learning center.
This is also known as differentiated instruction. It is the addition to or the simplifying of an academic lesson to make the lesson understandable and manageable for each individual student. This could include the use of tangible objects for counting in a math lesson (adding to) or it might require scaling things down by covering all the words but one in a sentence while learning to read (simplifying).
Many children with special needs require major assistance with daily tasks like eating or toileting. Other children with special needs may require minor physical support for anxiety or attention deficit disorders and may find it helpful to have fidgets to squeeze or perhaps an adult to make physical contact (hand on the shoulder) to redirect them back to the task. Each child is different in their needs which is precisely why each program is specialized for each child.
Children with special needs often have processing and comprehension delays which can make learning difficult. With specialized education, those specific deficits are identified and targeted for treatment and assistance so that the child is equipped with new skills for learning and understanding.
The Importance of Early Intervention
One of the best ways to help a child with special needs is to start finding the right help and resources as early as possible. Children who struggle with communication, learning, language skills, social skills, or/and behavior are more likely to succeed if they receive intervention during their toddler and preschool years.
Children with autism require similar early intervention services with the addition of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) services to set them up for the highest chances of success by improving educational, emotional, and behavioral skills.
The most important types of intervention generally fall into these frameworks:
This process uses ABA services, and it is very important. Without being taught socially acceptable behavior, it is difficult for a child with special needs to know what the social and behavioral expectations are for sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher, or how to interact with a group of peers. These core or foundational skills are called pivotal skills because there are so many other skills that rely on the mastery of these foundational skills. Without basic pivotal skills (sitting still, using eye contact, actively listening, having calm hands, and calm bodies, taking turns to speak, etc)- it becomes very difficult to learn anything new.
Speech and Language Growth
Children with autism often have delayed speech and language deficits. Early intervention using ABA combined with speech therapy is a winning combination to promote better communication. Proper communication skills create a stronger likelihood of developing healthy and happy peer relationships in school and in the community. Children with autism need to be intentionally taught to interact, express needs, express emotions, navigate and resolve conflict, and solve problems. When these skills are taught at an early age, a child with autism will experience more positive interactions with peers and ultimately will be included in more activities and special events.
It stands to reason that if a child is taught better communication skills, they will find it easier to ask for help with academics and struggles in school. This is important because just like there are pivotal skills for behavior, there are pivotal subjects for academic learning. Reading and the ability to manipulate numbers are two of the most important foundational skills for children in the preschool and elementary school years. Reading could be considered a notch higher in importance only because reading provides additional help with mathematics later on if there is any struggle with more advanced math.
Without going into a lesson on brain development, let’s just say that there are stages and windows of opportunity for the most successful learning in various areas. With reading and math, it is important to have a good head start by the time a child enters kindergarten. That doesn’t mean memorizing multiplication tables and reading chapter books. But, a child between the ages of 3 and 5 should be counting and reciting the alphabet. Closer to kindergarten there should be some association of sounds with letters and some simple adding (one apple and another apple are two apples).
Children with autism sometimes have significant delays in learning due to an inability to focus or neurodevelopmental problems that may hinder learning. These difficulties take time and patience to work through and having solid pivotal skills is key in helping a child through these difficulties. This is specifically why ABA is so important for this population. A behavior analyst can assess a child with autism and identify what each individual child needs to overcome deficits and achieve success.
When a child understands and accomplishes a task at school, they feel good. They feel included with the students who understand and their behavior will reflect this.
How Do I Know If My Child Qualifies for Specialized Education?
Childhood Development has distinct stages and milestones (see the previous blog). This is useful information because it can be hard to determine if something that your child is doing is normal for their age, personality, or if there is a genuine concern for their growth and development.
As early as possible, see your pediatrician with any concerns that you may have. Some parents have noticed concerning behavior before the age of one and had an autism diagnosis before the age of two. This is advantageous because this allows for early intervention in all areas: behavior, speech skills, motor skills, communication, and learning.
If your child has already started school, that’s okay. Start from where you are. Talk to your child’s teacher, school psychologist, school admin, or whoever you need to speak with to get your child tested for learning deficits. Simultaneously, see your pediatrician, who can evaluate your child for neurological concerns such as ADD, ADHD, Autism, or PDDs.
Once you have your child evaluated and diagnosed, your school can help with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and make any accommodations that might be necessary to help your child. For example, your child may require a smaller population with more attention for a couple of grade levels or more.
Outside of school, a diagnosis of any neurodevelopmental disorder that affects learning can help you to secure ABA therapy services, speech therapy services, occupational therapy services, or whatever else your child requires for early intervention services.
These types of learning deficits are not something that should be self-diagnosed or applied as a label to a child who hasn’t been evaluated properly. Not only will that affect your child negatively, but without proper evaluation, it is nearly impossible to secure the appropriate resources for helping your child.
The Benefits and Where to Find Specialized Educational Services
Early intervention prepares a child for a greater chance of being successful in all areas of life. Teaching skills at a young age in a natural and playful way makes learning behavior, communication, and even academic skills fun for children. This is what ABA is all about.
ABA uses a child’s natural environment to shape and build the skills that a child with autism needs in order to participate and interact with peers of the same age.
If intervention happens early enough, it can significantly reduce the need for specialized education and support in the future. All hope is not lost with older children, but this becomes more difficult with a later start. With all neurodevelopmental disorders that affect learning, earlier is always better.
Circle Care Services in New Jersey is an awesome example of the innovation in education that is currently developing. Circle Care Services is an ABA Therapy provider that offers social clubs for older children and a preschool program that provides early intervention services in a school setting.
Circle Care’s preschool program begins with an evaluation by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. The BCBA will identify the areas that your child with autism is currently struggling with and create a specialized program that will help your child with their social, academic, and behavioral skills. Your child receives all of this while in a classroom setting with other peers of the same age. This eliminates the need to have ABA services after school when your child is already tired from a long day.
The preschool program also allows for close and careful guidance in a natural setting as the behaviors are taking place. Your child’s therapist can guide, correct, redirect, and reinforce all of the appropriate behaviors and skills as they happen.
If this sounds like a good fit for your child and your family, we would love to help. Circle Care is ready whenever you are. Give us a call and set up a consultation today.
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