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What are 'Special Educational Needs'?

Thankfully, there is a lot more recognition and understanding of learners with special educational needs (SEN) now, than there was ten or twenty years ago. Unfortunately, the funding required to make educational spaces welcoming to SEN learners and to train educators to bring the best out of their SEN learners is not always available. Especially for teachers, coaches or tutors working privately, getting the knowledge and training they need to best serve their SEN learners isn't always easy.

Special Educational Needs include dyslexia, different types of autism, ADHD, and dyspraxia among others. Rather than wait to change our teaching and our classrooms until we have a learner who requires it, we can make our educational and business spaces, methods and processes accessible and welcoming for people with SEN before they have to ask us!

Take some time to read about the guidance available for teachers working with SEN learners. Ask your employer if you have one, to offer you training to improve the way you work with your SEN learners. Additionally:

  • Be aware of the different types of SEN. There are many different types of SEN, each with its own unique challenges for both learner and educator. It is important for educators to be aware of the different types of SEN so that they can provide appropriate support.

  • Get to know your learners with SEN. The best way to support SEN learners is to get to know them as individuals. This means understanding their strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. It also means building a rapport with them so that they feel comfortable asking for help when they need it.

  • Adapt your teaching methods. Learners with SEN may need different teaching methods to their peers. This could mean using visual aids, providing more time for tasks, or breaking down complex concepts into smaller steps. It is important to be flexible and willing to adapt your teaching methods to meet the individual needs of your classroom.

  • Use a variety of resources. There are many resources available to help teachers support learners with SEN. These resources can include textbooks, websites, software programs, and educational toys. It is important to use a variety of resources so that you can find the ones that work best for your context.

In addition to the practical tips listed above, there are also a number of soft skills which are valuable when working with SEN learners:

  • Be patient. It may take your learners longer to learn new concepts or skills. Be patient and understanding, and don't give up on them.

  • Be positive. Learners with SEN need to feel supported and encouraged. Be positive and upbeat, and focus on their strengths.

  • Be creative. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learners with SEN. Be creative and find ways to make learning fun and engaging for them.

  • Be flexible. Things don't always go according to plan when you're teaching SEN learners. Be flexible and willing to adapt your teaching methods as needed.

Teaching learners with SEN can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding. By following the guidance above, you can help your students reach their full potential. What would you add to the lists above? What are your experiences of having SEN, learning with SEN, or working with learners who have SEN? Feel free to share your views, experiences and expertise with us in the comments below!

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