Every child is unique, and every one of them deserves complete support from every aspect of their lives. Whether it’s home or school, kids with special needs require immense encouragement, love, kindness, and positivity to help them cope with various issues such as academic stress. Parents and teachers should know that kids who require special education have different forms of fear and anxiety related to assessment and learning than “normal” kids. Students with learning disabilities or special needs often encounter school-related stress as one of the most common causes of academic failure. Fortunately, educational institutions can help such students cope with academic stress with some of the following strategies.
Table of Contents
1. Normalize assessment:
Academic assessment can generally trigger anxiety and negative thoughts among students, especially those with special needs. Therefore, it is crucial to develop strategies that can normalize the way such students react to testing. For instance, one of the best ways to reduce academic stress is to ensure an environment of regular assessment. When kids learn in a classroom culture where self-monitoring and testing are everyday things, this tends to reduce the stigma surrounding academic failure. It has become further challenging for teachers to help special education kids navigate academic stress during distance learning. Teachers should also understand the growing needs of special education kids and enhance their experiences and knowledge. Pursuing opportunities such as an online Special Education Teacher Masters can help them better understand the challenges of distance learning. It creates a classroom environment that addresses every kid’s individual needs.
2. Keep the classroom organized:
It is crucial to pay attention to classroom organization and structure, especially when dealing with students with special needs. It is beneficial for special education kids to be less destructive, distractive, and messy. Keeping up with a routine and detailed schedule can help both teachers and students deal with everyday tasks. The teachers can keep track of the progress of every student. In contrast, the students can be less anxious about their classroom decorum. It helps to make such students understand that they are in control as much as their teacher. For instance, teachers can create self-regulation strategies such as allocating time for breathing exercises and light workouts, setting an hour for creative or artistic activities, etc. The idea is to make them understand that they are in a non-competitive environment where their comfort of learning comes before anything else.
3. Promote stress-reducing attitude and environment:
Both caregivers and teachers of special education students need to avoid creating a stressful environment. Whether a student has special needs or not, the worst thing that they can go through is the feeling of being neglected and their concerns not receiving attention. Teachers must promote a positive environment for students with disabilities. The emphasis should be on the importance of learning rather than achieving ideal results. Teachers need to understand that every student has individual needs, and their perspective should not be streamlined. Try offering them small opportunities for success and maintaining a positive outlook. Some students may progress slower than others. Make it a regular thing to celebrate their small victories and teach them to appreciate each other. Introduce them to programs and activities, such as those offered by The Boys and Girls Club, to become productive, caring, and responsible citizens. Playing with and doing activities outside is an excellent way to encourage kids with special needs to explore all their senses.
4. Focus on building a relationship with students:
Understandably, teachers cannot have blossoming relationships with their students, especially when on a tight academic schedule. However, social-emotional learning should not be neglected as it helps students in academic learning. Distance learning has significantly made it impossible for teachers to work on their relationships with students as efficiently as before. However, it also points out that special needs students are under more pressure from social isolation and difficulty learning through zoom sessions. Therefore, focusing too quickly on academic remediation can further increase academic stress on children with learning disabilities. Teachers should create moments of genuine connection online with their students through curated lists of supportive activities and positive interactions. They should also indulge in research that can help them understand how SEL activities benefit special education kids.
5. Create a solid support network:
Academic stress among special education students will not be reduced by lowering academic expectations or obligations. What such students need is a way to channel their energies and passion into tackling academic challenges. Teachers can do that by creating a robust supporting network for such kids that address their specialized needs. For instance, teachers can give instant support and feedback to children regarding their skills and assessment to boost their morale. Another strategy that can work wonders for such students is to hand them specialized instructions for their daily assignments. They can make the tasks more manageable by breaking them down into chunks, offering visual aid, frequent feedback, and so on.
Students with learning disabilities face immense challenges in their academic lives. They require extra attention, effort, and support from caregivers and teachers to cope with academic stress. Fortunately, there are various strategies that teachers can use even in distance learning to make special education kids feel positive about learning. The point is to provide the best educational experience to such students without idealistic expectations of achieving perfect results. Educational institutes should also support teachers in today’s changing learning landscape to accommodate the individual needs of special education children.