Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Special Needs Assistant Description

A special needs assistant works specifically with one or more students who have special needs. The number of students each assistant will work with varies, depending upon the level of need each student requires.

Many special needs assistants work with only one student, because this one student cannot truly function on his or her own, for whatever reason. An assistant who works one-on-one with a student with special needs will spend the entire day with this student-the assistant's responsibilities may include monitoring the student, helping the student perform everyday skills, teaching the student new life skills, and/or assisting the student in the learning process by clarifying or re-explaining what the teacher says.

Sometimes the primary issue with a student with special needs is the way the disability affects his or her behavior. In these instances, the aide might seek to help the child learn appropriate behavior through a program of positive reinforcement and relevant consequences. The assistant would also make sure the child's behavior does not negatively impact the learning of other students in the class and in the school. This may mean removing the child from the classroom to work more privately with the student.

Other times, the primary issue is that a child simply cannot perform basic life skills alone. In these cases, the assistant essentially guides the child through the entire day, providing assistance when necessary. Sometimes the problem is that a child has a physical disability, in which case the assistant would help the child perform tasks he or she cannot perform with the disability. Or, perhaps the child suffers from autism and cannot communicate or correctly socialize with other people in the school. In this case, the assistant would essentially monitor and help this student throughout the day.

A special needs assistant might also work with several students who do not require as much assistance. This assistant would work with several students with learning disabilities who can otherwise function normally. During tests, the assistant may take the students out of the classroom, either to read the test to them or to simply provide them with a quieter and more private work environment. Also, during instruction, the aide may work with these students in a smaller group to re-teach or re-enforce concepts that may be challenging to them.

Special needs assistants are crucial to a school because they help prevent teachers from being spread too thin. Furthermore, they provide the necessary attention to students with more intensive needs that will help them succeed, as well as keep them from falling through the cracks. An assistant who works with students with special needs can expect great fulfillment and confidence in knowing that the student or students he or she works with will be forever impacted by the individual help they receive!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ADHD and School - How to Succeed

It's really not that difficult to imagine that someone with ADHD or ADD might have trouble with school. Between having to focus for a long time to having to sit still for what feels like even longer, ADHD and school just don't seem to mix.

However, there are quite a few things ADHD students can do to improve their school results. One of the things is to change the way they study. Most ADHD students do better while studying in a quiet place, free from distractions. If they study at the same time each day, they are more likely to be able to focus during that time, as they will have trained their brain that this time is time to focus.

Another study tip for students with ADHD is to find a specific study technique or system and follow it religiously. One of the best systems for this is the Pomodoro Technique, which involves using a timer set for 25 minutes to regulate study time, followed by a brief 5 minute break to refresh.

ADHD students also benefit from learning and applying a memory system, such as the loci method or other visualization techniques. This makes remembering things a more active and involved process, leading to higher recall during tests and at other times.

All this is well and great for studying, but what about tests? ADHD and studying is one thing - students usually have some degree of control over their surroundings while studying. But tests are a different story altogether. There is pressure to perform and unavoidable distractions and noises from the surrounding students. What are some things that ADHD students can do to maximize their productivity during tests?

For starters, ADHD students can usually request some sort of accommodation, and teachers usually grant it. For some, taking the test by themselves, or at least separated from the rest of the class, can lessen distractions and greatly increase focus.

During tests, students are encouraged to "distract themselves." Of course, this doesn't mean to actually distract themselves, but instead means to change physical positions, take a deep breath, look around the room or up at the ceiling. If students can successfully "create distractions" like this, they are less likely to succumb to real distractions.

Finally, students should always be on their guard against carelessness. Double-checking answers should be a matter of course, and writing neatly not only keeps the grader happy, it keeps the student's brain organized.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Understanding and Managing Students With ADHD

Aggressive... Impulsive... Disorganized... Impulsive... Absent-minded... Daydreamer... Delinquent... Bully... Mental case... Brain damage... Kulang sa Pansin... Low IQ...

These words are just among those that are usually attached to children with ADHD, especially if not yet diagnosed. Unknown to many, these words are mere "judgements" with unreliable bases. It is indeed true that our society still needs to be informed of this condition that affects millions of the Philippine population and other countries including the United States. With further education, judgements and mishandling of ADHD students in the educational setting and any other social functions can be lessened, and hopefully soon be eradicated.

To begin with, what is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. According to studies, ADHD is more prevalent among males than in females. In an article by Yam dela Cruz (2010), the statistics from the ADHD Society of the Philippines says that

80% of the adolescents have the symptoms of ADHD

60% of adults have the symptoms of ADHD

40% - 50% of children with ADHD have learning disabilities

30% - 50% of children with ADHD engage in disorderly conduct and exhibits signs of anti-social behavior

35% of children with ADHD do not finish high school

25% of children with ADHD oftentimes fight with other kids

20% - 25% of children experience hyperactivity

3% - 5% of the world population has ADHD

ADHD is not a product of an unhealthy environment, parenting gone wrong, poverty, stress, poor diet, laziness, and many other myths that most people concocted based on the child's behavior.

Although there is no definite cause for it yet, experts say this condition involves the brain mechanism, specifically how it receives and delivers signals from the brain to the other parts of the body and vice versa, which greatly affects one's behavior. Many factors were discussed by professionals on how this happened in the human body such as trauma, fetal disposition in the mother's womb, mother's diet during pregnancy, illnesses, and genes.

How can you tell if a student has ADHD?

Formal tests are conducted before a student may be said to have ADHD. These tests are done by neuropsychologists. However, family members and teachers can watch out for these symptoms and note the frequency of occurrences for certain situations:

a. inattentive

b. forgetful

c. disorganized

d. easily distracted

e. squirmy and fidgety

f. talks too much

g. unable to stay in one place

h. acts and speaks without thinking

i. blurts answers

j. impatient in waiting for turns

k. interrupts conversations or class discussions

How can teachers and family members make use of the characteristics of their ADHD child for success?

In any kind of set-up, an ADHD kid benefits from structure and sincere understanding. Remember, this condition is not something they put themselves into. In addition, even if students have ADHD, it doesn't mean they have low comprehension levels. Many personalities became successful despite having ADHD. As a matter of fact, most of these people with ADHD have their condition to their advantage. On the other hand, there is still a great number of students with ADHD that are heading for academic failure, which affects their emotional disposition. That is why it is important to provide the needed structure for learning and behavior management in school and at home.

Here are some tips on how to manage children with ADHD:

a.Set it straight. Be clear and specific.

Teachers/Parents together with the ADHD student must work together in identifying acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Having identified these behaviors, it is also important to set goals with the child, which he or she must work on. In doing so, make sure instructions/wordings used are specific, short, and clear to avoid misunderstandings.

b. Keep it quick yet effective.

Activities must be given in a checklist or schedule. It is a way to give the child a set of tasks to look forward to. This is done to avoid inattention and distractability while on-task. Furthermore, to be able to sustain their attention span, activities must be quick but still suitable for your objectives/goals. It also helps to make the students aware of the amount of time they are expected to finish the task. Assist in keeping track of time by showing a countdown on the board and announcing it to the class.

c. Utilize the multisensorial teaching and learning approach.

Making activities very engaging and dynamic can greatly support child's involvement further ensuring comprehension and mastery of skills. Take advantage of their energy by constructing activities that allow them to use most of their senses together. This way, the ADHD students will be occupied learning through the set-up activities.

d. Post rules and reminders inside the classroom.

Reminders to monitor their behavior must be given when needed. For students with ADHD, reminders are always needed. This is to keep them on top of the situation, and to avoid impulsive actions resulting to misunderstandings. Posters or visual cues of the set of rules must also be verbalized to the students to keep them further reminded about it even if they're on their own.

e. Lessen distractions.

ADHD students are easily distracted even by the most minute detail that attracted their senses, thus it is important to organize their learning centers more effectively. It is a matter of placing the things inside the classroom in the appropriate places. Colorful visual aids can get their attention, but hopefully not to the point of focusing solely on the object itself disregarding its purpose. Multimedia presentations can promote comprehension among students just keep it direct to the point.

f. Acknowledge behaviors.

To acknowledge desirable and undesirable behavior, it is important to keep the students aware of the consequences of their actions through "processing" or "one-on-one talk". Give praises where it's due, and avoid reprimanding a child in front of the group because they easily get discouraged by that.

g. Model.

Modeling the appropriate behavior sets the child's mind and environment in doing the same behavior. The more they get to observe such behavior, the greater the possibility of acquiring it themselves.

h. Processing.

Always see to it that for every misbehavior done by the child, a processing must be done. Corporal punishment is not an option because it can only lead to trauma for the child. Hearing out the child's side, and explaining why his/her actions are unacceptable is more effective if the goal is to instill in them the awareness and application of desirable behaviors. Discuss with the child what happened, his/her reason/s for reacting in such a way, what he could have done in the situation, and what he/she can do to make it better. Processing behaviors must be immediate to avoid the chance of forgetting about the specific details leading to further misunderstandings.

There are tons and tons of videos, articles, books, and journals on how to understand and manage ADHD children in school and at home. All of these can provide helpful information for everyone, especially teachers and parents. With this article, it is in great hope that ADHD students can find more people and institutions that can provide them with the most effective structure and well-deserved understanding to aid in their goal to be successful in life just like everyone else that have DREAMS.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is Your Child Struggling to Read? Symptoms of Dyslexia in Children

Is your child struggling to read? If your child isn't keeping up with his classmates in terms of reading or writing then he may have some kind of learning difficulty.

Could he be dyslexic? There's a chance that he is if he's displaying any of the following symptoms of dyslexia in children.

Dyslexic children are often bright and intelligent with a high IQ but are often labelled "lazy" or "stupid" by their peers and teachers may think that they aren't trying or that they have behavioural problems so they don't receive the help that they need. As a result the child himself thinks he's stupid and develops low self-esteem. He tries to hide his weaknesses by misbehaving or daydreaming in class and becomes frustrated easily when faced with reading, writing or mathematical tasks. In general, such a child will be:

• unable to read, write or spell at a level considered to be normal for his age
• not able to complete written tests although he may do well orally
• good at non-academic subjects such as music, art, drama, business, woodworking, design or engineering
• able to learn more effectively by demonstration and visual aids
• able to count but will have problems with counting objects or money
• unable to do sums without using his fingers or other such aids; he will come up with the right answer to simple sums in this way but won't be able to put the workings down on paper and won't be able to progress to higher maths or algebra

Specifically, the child will read haltingly, leaving out words or substituting different words, reversing letters or numbers or even words and will understand little of what he's read. Letters, words, numbers and explanations may cause confusion and spelling will be inconsistent. There are also some physical manifestations such as:

• headache, dizziness or stomach ache while reading or a feeling that a fictional something is moving and causing distraction
• vision problems although an eye test reveals nothing
• very keen sight and observational skills or poor peripheral vision
• hearing things not audible to others
• speech problems including mispronunciations, transposition of syllables, words and phrases and stuttering when stressed
• being ambidextrous
• repeated ear infections
• a sensitivity to food additives or chemicals

Other symptoms of dyslexia in children concern motor skills and may include:

• writing difficulties often because of an unusual way of holding a pencil; writing may be inconsistent or illegible
• clumsiness and a lack of co-ordination, not good at ball sports or team games, difficulties carrying out simple tasks that require a degree of motor skills
• a confusion between left and right or over and under

In addition, a dyslexic child may have problems telling the time, managing time or learning or remember sequences, facts or information that he hasn't personally experienced but will probably have a good long-term memory for people, places and experiences.

Behaviour and development can be an accurate indicator that a child has dyslexia and shouldn't be confused with normal childish behaviour. Behaviour can be compulsive or obsessive and could be at either end of the spectrum such as:

• tidiness or untidiness
• too noisy or too quiet in class
Development can be either very early or very late when it comes to crawling, walking and talking and the child may be a very light or deep sleeper or may continue to wet the bed long after it is normal to do so.

The child may have a very high or low pain threshold and may be sensitive emotionally.

Any of these symptoms of dyslexia in children will appear to a greater degree if the child is confused, stressed, under pressure of any kind or in poor health.

If your child is displaying any of these behaviours or traits, do get him tested for dyslexia right away so that the appropriate education can be started before the symptoms become worse or eventually unmanageable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Handling Self-Injurious Behavior in Children With Autism

I have read recently and understand that some parents are desperately seeking advice for handling their child's self-injurious behavior. Self-injurious behavior, also known as SIBs, are classified as any aggression towards oneself. The most common forms of self-injurious aggression is hitting or biting but some older children may also be involved with cutting. Other forms of SIBs may also include head butting, body slamming, picking or scratching, and using other objects to hit. Before talking about strategies that help to replace these SIBs and decrease the severity of the injury, let's discuss how critical SIBs are.

If your child is demonstrating SIB, then it is time to get a behavior consultant involved if there is not one already. The reason for this is because it is crucial to get to the root of the problem and find out exactly why your child is acting out in an aggressive way. He may be desperate with communicating his needs and incredibly frustrated. She may be seeking out deep sensory input. He may be trying to gain access to some tangible that he can't have. Unless a functional behavior assessment is done, you will not be able to truly address the SIB because you won't know exactly what is causing it. I will focus another few posts on functions of behavior but it is important to note that when you know the function of the behavior, you can act proactively to help prevent and/or at least decrease the behavior that is inappropriate. So seeking out the help of a professional behavior consultant may be your first step. Now, this may take some time to get set up. In fact, just getting an agency, evaluation, behavior consultant, and/or services in place, (if you do not have already) can take a tremendous amount of time. So, here are some tips that you can try now to handle the everyday occurrences until you have more help in place.

I know it must be SO incredibly frustrating and disheartening to see your child hurting himself. You're willing to try anything because you know your child may end up causing himself severe injury, if not hospitalization. You also may be very puzzled as to why your child is acting this way. Some children will casually bite their hand and stop biting because it hurts. This is a natural consequence. They will stop biting because they feel pain. However, many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders do not feel pain like typical children do. Many of them have an extremely high tolerance for pain and may not even cry when they get hurt. Many of them also seek out deep sensory input. They crave, not only deep pressure, but some kind of impact to their bodies in order to help feel more regulated. These are children with sensory processing disorders known as the "sensory seekers." Biting can be due to an oral fixation, the need for sensory input to the mouth. As odd as it may sound, children who are orally fixed and may be biting, may continue to bite because it brings them a sense of joy and regulation, NOT pain. Don't forget that most SIBS are caused by some level of frustration in the child, not just sensory needs. A biter may be seeking input but may also be acting out of frustration for another need or want. That is why a behavior assessment needs to be done to truly understand the cause.

Let' also discuss the issue of restraint. When a child is acting out against himself or someone else, retraining him/her can be an option. HOWEVER, it is very important to note 3 things. 1. Restraining a child should only be done to help prevent further injury to the child or someone else, especially in extreme measures. 2. There is a protocol, a heirarchy, and training involved with restraining a child appropriately so that you and the child do not continue to get hurt in the process. If you are not trained properly, nor understand the protocol, then I would not recommend restraint in any way. 3. If restraining the child makes matters worse, i.e. causes your child to completely lose control, fight back, and increase rage, frustration, SIBS, and/or aggression, then restraint should not be used. I will discuss the methodology of restraint in other posts but please keep these tips in mind if considering it as a reactive measure to SIBs.


Biting can be very harmful as bite marks and bruises can occur without too much force. If you have a child that bites, you should invest in some kind of a chew object. There are companies that sell chew tubes that help children who need to chew or bite due to lower oral motor function or who may need sensory input to the mouth because of a sensory disorder. Chew tubes also work great for children who bite because you may be able to replace the biting of one's arm to biting this rubbery object and still give your child the oral input that they may be craving. If the biting is done out of frustration, it is still done in a safer way. One company, The Sensory University, offers a pack of chew toys called CHEWY RETRACTABLE BITE BUDDIES that can be attached and retractable to a belt loop so they are on hand immediately whenever they are needed. There are also CHEWY TUBES as well as a TRI CHEW toy that looks like a triangle.


Hitting can be a little trickier, depending on where the child is hitting himself. Some times, hitting can be prevented by holding down the child's arms. You want to do this only with enough force to prevent the child from lifting his arms to hit. You can also place your hand between your child's hand and the place your child is hitting. For example, if your child is hitting his forehead, you may be able to place your hand on the child's forehead to block the hit. This has worked with some children. I had a student who stopped hitting once he felt another hand there, blocking his face. He may hit one to two more times but then stopped. Another idea is to have the child wear a helmet if he engages in repetitive and severe hits or blows to his head. The best type of helmet to use is a soft foam helmet that is easy to put on and does not harm the head further if pounded on. It simply creates a soft space between the hand and the head to protect the head. One such helmet would be Playmaker Headgear. Be sure to get a helmet that fits your child's head properly. The helmet should only be put on while head hitting is occurring and then it can be removed.

Remember that these are measures that can be taken to help reduce the severity and/or harm that can happen as a result of SIBs. They are only tips that can be tried as a reactive strategy. They are not to be considered solutions. The best way to handle SIBS is to assess what is causing the SIB and address the specific function of the behavior. In this way, you can learn to be proactive and help prevent SIBs from happening at all.