I am a special education teacher. I love what I do.
I created this blog to share with parents and teachers everywhere the many wonderful lessons I’ve learned about how to best manage students with special needs.
Over the past 17 years, I have worked professionally in children’s ministry and as a teacher. Along the way, I discovered that most all special ed students have one thing which will motivate them. In each entry of this blog, I will share one of my student success discoveries. The names of the children have been changed to remain anonymous. My hope is that these stories will help you understand better ways to motivate students with special needs.
My first special ed classroom was in a small town in Mississippi. I had the 5th-8th grade, self-contained classroom. In the room, I had students with autism, down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and one with cerebral palsy. KC, was my student with CP.
In a self-contained classroom, students stay in the same room and receive instruction in all core curriculum areas. I had two amazing assistant teachers who helped me with restroom & feeding needs as well as one-on-one assistance with tasks like scribing for students with physical disabilities. KC was the sweetest kid. However, he was completely dependent on the assistant to write for him. One characteristic of cerebral palsy is the inability to control movement. Without warning, KC’s arm could have a massive reflex and pop whoever was in the way right in the nose. Due to the close proximity of KC, the teacher assistant would get punched at least once a week. While the assistant was surprised each time, she assured him she knew he didn’t mean to do it. I could tell though he felt badly about it. I knew he wished he could write independently, so he wouldn’t hurt anyone.
During my first year of teaching, KC was in the 5th grade. Because the school had me teaching the same students for four years, I got to know them very well, and they all trusted me. The students, assistant teachers, and I were like family. Over the four years, I watched in amazement how the students learned how to write, read and calculate math, making progress each year. KC gained in cognitive skills much faster than his hands would allow him to go. He grew impatient depending on others. One day he decided to put a pencil in his mouth to try writing. Although this wasn’t the safest of options, I encouraged him to try. After suggesting a clean pen, he managed to write a few words. Each week, he improved to where he was writing sentences. I was ecstatic! KC had learned how to do it his way, and I was so proud of him. Most importantly, he was proud of himself.
KC started designing race cars by drawing sketches with the pen in his mouth. He told me he wanted to design cars for a living when he grew up. With tears in my eyes, I told him, “I believe you will!”
KC was a kid in a wheelchair, completely dependent on those around him to do everything… or so we thought. He could have responded angrily and frustrated because of the challenges he faced. But instead, he persevered and found his way to do things on his own. He had found his one thing. I knew then, I’d found mine too.