When teaching special education students or students with learning challenges, addressing and understanding their social and emotional challenges is crucial. In order to engage in the classroom, these students must first be able to engage on an interpersonal level. Dynamic, interactive classrooms have shown to be the most effective learning environments, but unfortunately, special education students can find themselves deprived of certain experiences due to their lack of various social skills.
Taking a holistic teaching approach that accounts for the social and emotional skills of students is always important, but that can be even more true for students with learning needs. These students typically need specific accommodations, and teachers must be aware of this to properly support them.
To take that a step further, teachers’ support should also help students acquire these skills. Basic social practices such as maintaining eye contact or hand gestures can pave the way for crucial long-term life skills, such as cooperation or following directions. Teachers are an essential component of cultivating these skills in their students.
Gaining Necessary Classroom Instruction Skills
In the online Master of Education in Special Education program from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), students learn the specialized knowledge and skills to improve the lives of children and adults with disabilities while also achieving their own professional advancement goals.
Graduates will not only deepen their understanding of contemporary strategies and trends for instructing students with behavioral disorders, developmental disabilities and learning disorders. They will also be able to adapt these strategies to suit the unique needs of any classroom. The program also provides a deep dive into the background of intellectual disabilities and the foundations of special education strategies.
The Importance of Social Skills
Special education students often need help developing social skills, and they face challenges that present themselves in a variety of forms. LD Online — an online resource on learning disabilities — outlines a variety of different ways that these students may struggle to adapt to the social expectations of a classroom. These challenges might include:
- Difficulty controlling physical or verbal impulses
- Answering questions without being called upon
- Inadvertently saying something rude to a classmate
- Difficulty recognizing personal space or appropriate levels of physical touch
- Struggling to adapt skills to different situations
- Difficulty reading nonverbal cues
When students lack proficiency in these or other skills, negative consequences can result, such as compounding these deficiencies or isolation from their peers. All students have different social needs that educators can address on students’ own unique terms. Social skills are pivotal to their continued growth as people and learners.
The online education resource Special Ed Resource describes several ways special needs students benefit from developing social skills. On the most basic level, developing social skills offers a way to practice communication skills in a way that requires cooperation with others. Ideally, this leads to finding friends, which helps build confidence, grow self-esteem and create comfort in social settings. Better communication often leads to better relationships, which can lead to improved career opportunities later in life.
The online parenting resource Metro Kids suggests starting points for developing these skills. Socializing through school, play and hobbies are good opportunities to apply basic social lessons in meaningful contexts. Music, sports or library visits are good settings for this practice. There are also software programs and mobile apps to get children thinking about their vocabulary and the ways they express themselves in order to improve communication and self-expression.
How an Advanced Degree Can Help
The skills that help young learners become successful, productive members of a classroom environment are the same skills that will help them succeed as adults. Practicing these manners and social skills in as many different settings as possible will benefit children the most over the long term. Graduates of FGCU’s advanced education program in special education will equip future education professionals with the necessary skills in special education development.