HANDLING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS IN THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT
According to Rous, Myers and Stricklin (2007), transition has a significant effect on the growth and development of children with special needs. Transition is described as the movement from one environment to another. Transition takes place through out our human life, it can be a change of location from one town to another or one school to another and it can also be a stage in life like from childhood through the teenage years and subsequent youth phase and finally to adulthood. Children with special needs have to be helped and monitored through out these transitions through prior planning and constant monitoring to handle challenges and record progress. In my years of fieldwork I have noticed that the way a healthy child would handle change is not the same as a child with a psychological disorder. Take for example the case of children with autism who may find it hard to trust strangers and hence require the support of a caregiver to ensure smooth transition.
Focus is placed mainly on the challenges and barriers to effective transition during the childhood years that is very important in the years that follow. The article by Rous, Myers and Stricklin (2007) identifies strategies, models and approaches that facilitate a smooth transition for kids with special needs. Giving the critical value of transition at this stage, I believe it is a significant step that these three authors have taken to try and ease the process. Transition during the childhood years is vital as it may affect the behavior of child in future positively or negatively. The simple argument here is that if a healthy child is affected by transition and this may change their personality and behavior, how much more is the effect then on children with disorders that find it hard to even adapt to what we call ‘normal’ situations. For three decades early transition has been a major topic of interest and study in the area of early childhood special education. Extensive study has been done between 1970 and 2000 by various government agencies like the United States Department of Education through the Office of Special Education Programs which facilitated outreach projects that were keen to study and develop effective transition models for children with special needs right from hospital through to school (Conroy, Asmus, Boyd, Ladwig & Sellers, 2007).
The emphasis on these studies shows how scholars are committed to ensuring that this transition is done in the most effective way possible. Each of the studies is an attempt to improve current transition strategies being used for children with disorders and also an attempt to find new knowledge about this transition. These studies are a necessity as the complexity of the human brain requires extensive research to be understood and hence even more extensive research is required for understanding children with disorders due to the added complexity brought about by their condition. A key lesson that I learnt during my fieldwork is that the field of special education is constantly growing with changing responses to the already available strategies of doing things. This growth can only be achieved through such studies as the ones discussed above.
According to Conroy, Asmus, Boyd, Ladwig and Sellers (2007), there is an increasing prevalence of autism among children which is occurring in 1 out of every 150 children; this statistics were courtesy of the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (2007). This has led to the research and study with an aim to explain why there is a growing number of children diagnosed with this condition. Even though children with various disabilities and special needs are educated in less restrictive environments, children with autism have been known to engage in disruptive behavior that interferes not only with their learning but also with that of fellow children. There have been a number of strategies to handle these problematic behaviors. One strategy is the use of antecedent interventions where a number of antecedent classroom factors are taken into consideration.
Antecedent interventions are affected by the antecedent stimuli from the surrounding. When it comes to instructional setting this refers to the setting of the classroom which has to be child friendly from furniture to the charts and paintings on the wall. The environment should create both a sense of alertness and ease as well through the use of different color variations to create a warm and secure feeling. Instructional settings involve the mode of teaching used in the learning institutions. During my fieldwork I learned that antecedent intervention requires a teacher to use simple and easy to understand language a fact that this article has also emphasized. The teacher should also be friendly but assertive as well so as to be taken seriously. Instructional activities include the learning activities together with co-curricular activities which should be interesting and fun. There should be availability of different learning materials and replacements on stand-by incase the children damage some of the materials they were using. Children with autism should also have adults nearby whether at home or at school so that they can help them in carrying out different tasks that may appear simple to everybody else but very difficult to children with autism.
According to West, Brown, Grego and Johnson (2007), children with special needs just like other children have to develop their own peer-related social competence. The way that these children can develop these skills is through interaction with other kids through activities such as playing, going to the same school, and so on. It goes without saying that children with special needs have a difficult time developing their social-skills especially because many people discourage interaction of their kids with kids who are disabled in one way or another because of fear of the unknown. Kids with special needs are known not to be socially active as they shy away because they cannot do what most of the other kids are doing hence the feeling of inadequacy and subsequently low self esteem. A number of measures have been developed to help such kids to develop their social skills through interaction with other kids.
Evidence based peer interaction is one strategy that uses instructions, discussions, models, reinforcers, feedback, prompts, rehearsals, mechanisms or a combination of either of these themes to enhance the social skills in young children. There have been other strategies that have proved quite useful in this field that integrate environmental arrangement, peer-mediated and teacher-mediated social interaction intervention methods. Despite the development of such strategies to improve the social interaction of children with special needs, teachers and other practitioners have been known not to fully adopt these strategies. These practitioners fail to employ these social interaction measures systematically and extensively. This can be proved by a study carried out by Odom et al. (1993) that found out that 74% of children in preschool needed to improve their social interaction skills.
In order to improve the learning, social and overall development of children with disabilities certain measures have to be put in place to ensure a good environment which can mould these children in a way that will make them responsible and possibly independent people in the future. The government has been playing its part by recognizing that children with special needs need special attention and thus they have funded various studies through the Office of Special Education Programs that’s falls under the United States Department of Education all in an effort to provide good education and personal development of these children. The three articles agree on one thing, the fact that professional and well evaluated methods are needed to help children with social disorders fit into the society. However, on an ethical approach I believe the three studies recommended more of discriminatory handling of children with social disorders. All the articles talk of how children with social disorders should be attached to a professional caregiver or teacher and none focuses on how these children can be socially integrated by associating them with other children and encouraging this integration.
Conroy, A. M., Asmus, J. M. & Boyd, B. A. (2007). Antecedent Classroom Factors and
Disruptive Behaviors of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Early
Intervention 30 (1), 19-35.
West, N. T., Brown, W. H., Grego, J. M. & Johnson, R. (2007). Professionals’ Judgments of Peer
Interaction Interventions: A Survey of Members of the Division for Early Childhood.
Journal of Early Intervention 30 (1), 36-54.
Rous, B., Myers, C., Stricklin, B., Ladwig, C. & Sellers, J. (2007). Strategies for Supporting
Transitions of Young
Children with Special Needs and Their Families. Journal of Early
Intervention 30 (1), 1-