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Teaching methods for pupils with special needs

We use our senses to learn. Persons who lack one or more senses or whose senses are reduced in some way or the other (e.g. sight, hearing, motor skills or language) receive instruction and support adapted to their needs, in order to compensate this loss.

Below is a short summary of teaching methods for pupils with different kinds of special needs.

See also: Technical aids

Teaching methods

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Physical/intellectual disabilities

Instruction of pupils with physical or intellectual disabilities takes place either in the mainstream classroom (in some cases special education is provided within the mainstream classroom for smaller groups of children), in a special class in the mainstream school or in a special school.

Dyslexia

Special education of dyslectics is initiated at school start through reading and writing lessons - sometimes already in kindergarten through specific language training. Pupils with severe reading difficulties are often left behind after school start, i.e. in the 3rd or 4th grade. Severe reading difficulties often hinder the comprehension of a text. Math texts are difficult to read as well, and on top of that, English lessons are introduced at this level.

Specific reading and writing lessons are still given at this stage. Compensatory aids are introduced - in some cases they are used already - to support writing and reading exercises. These aids are mainly audio books and different kinds of electronic aids.

Pupils in the 7th - 10th grade who suffer from dyslexia normally make good use of these compensatory aids in all subjects, if they have received sufficient and efficient instruction during their school time.

General learning difficulties

Teaching of pupils with general learning difficulties must be organised so that the pupils participate actively in lessons, and the teacher must know each individual pupil very well, so that instruction is performed on the basis of the pupil's own experiences, knowledge and stage of development.

Some pupils need very concrete teaching methods, e.g. they need to touch, taste and feel things to learn about them.

At a later stage, the use of pictures, film, photos, drawings audiotapes and computers will stimulate the pupils' knowledge and experience through the use of his or her imagination.

Words and symbols are often introduced too early in special needs education. In many cases the pupil is better off using his or her senses - feeling, touching and investigating things, before getting familiar with words and symbols.

Mobility impairments

Teaching pupils with mobility impairments requires good knowledge of each pupil's specific disability and qualifications. The pupil often needs extra time to perform written and manual tasks and to do sports activities.

Pupils with severe or combined mobility impairments often need support in the form of extra lessons or personal assistance and aids, e.g. specific tools for practically oriented subjects and IT-support. School buildings must be accessible for pupils with mobility impairments.

Visual and hearing impairments

Visual impairments

Blind and visually impaired pupils attend ordinary schools insofar as this is possible. The school must offer appropriate support provisions and aids. Therefore it is important to know the individual pupil and the degree and consequences of his or her impairment. Examples of support provisions are:

  • Blind pupils are taught Braille (embossed printing) and have access to materials specifically designed to meet the needs of blind people.
  • Pupils with severe visual impairments use CCTV (Closed circuit television - a magnification system designed to enlarge and enhance images and print material using video camera technology) and other specific aids.
  • Blind and visually impaired pupils must be seated in the classroom so that they get the most of lights, blackboard facilities etc. Their needs must be considered all the way round, e.g. in planning of lessons, materials etc.

Blind and visually impaired pupils receive specifically designed materials for examinations, e.g. in electronic form, in Braille or tape-recorded materials.

 

Hearing impairments

Special education for pupils with hearing impairments can be organised in different ways, depending on the degree of the impairment. The pupil may be taught in the local mainstream school class or in a special class, either within the mainstream school or in a special school.

Hearing-impaired pupils most often need visually oriented communication and education materials, supported by sign language or sign supported communication.

By using hearing aids (e.g. cochlear implant) children with minor or middle hearing difficulties - and sometimes also children with more severe hearing difficulties - might be able to follow normal instruction in the local Folkeskole. The pupil must be adequately seated in the classroom. A swivel chair is helpful so that the pupil can turn front against a speaking person. Classmates can also help by standing up with front against the hearing disabled when they speak.

Stuttering

In general, pupils with stuttering attend a normal basic school. In parallel they receive lessons from a speech therapist employed by the school or the municipality, or they attend the county institute for speech training. There are various ways in which the class teacher can help the pupil, e.g.:

  • Arrange with the pupil when and how to present his or her work in the classroom
  • Find an appropriate level of requirements to be put forward to the pupil - go easy in some situations and push forward when the pupil feels comfortable with speaking
  • Avoid putting pressure on the pupil when s/he responds to a question
  • Make small breaks when the pupil has finished speaking, so that s/he gets enough time to add any comments if so needed
  • Keep eye contact with the pupil
  • Show the pupil that you understand his or her speaking, when you do, or, if you only understand part of it, make sure that the pupil knows when and what you have understood.
  • Do not interrupt or finish the pupil's speaking on his/her behalf.

Pupils who stutter are entitled to seek exemption from some of the rules requiring them to fulfil the leaving examination of the Folkeskole.

Further information about stuttering is available from The Stuttering Information Center of Denmark 

Autism

The main aim of integrating pupils with autism in the education system is to keep their every-day life as normal as possible. In Denmark there is a wide range of special kindergartens, classes, schools, supported living units, etc. for people with autism. In general, children and young people with Asperger's syndrome and pupils with autism, who do not suffer from intellectual disabilities, are integrated in the mainstream school system and attend a normal class.

Structured support measures and appropriate educational and pedagogical teaching methods will enhance the child's development and help prevent him or her from being isolated. In this sense, Denmark has been inspired by theory and practice developed by the organisation Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children (TEACCH) from North Carolina, USA. Here, work is organised in a structured pedagogical framework with focus on keeping every-day life as clear, predictable and simple as possible for the autistic person. Visualisation and repetition are some of the key elements in the organisation's work.

Social stories and comic strip conversations are used increasingly as tools to teach children with autism social skills.

For further information on autism, please go to the website of  the National Autistic Society (NAS) 

Multiple disabilities

Pupils with multiple disabilities normally attend a county special school, where they receive support from speech therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Further information about the teaching of pupils with multiple disabilities is available from VIKOM - The Danish Resource Centre on Communication and Multiple Disabilities concerning Children and Young People without Spoken Language