9 Skills For Special Needs Students To Build In The Classroom

special needs classroom student skills

My name is Margaret Stacy and I am a K-2 self-contained ABA/iGoal teacher in a low income, high poverty school district. The school that I am currently based out of also experiences a high trauma rate. I have 10 students in my self-contained classroom, all of whom have been diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). ASD is a developmental disorder that can pose significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Being a spectrum disorder, the range of severity of symptoms can vary widely.

Working in a Title 1 school with this population, I am constantly researching ways to reach ALL of my students, on every point of the spectrum.

In my classroom, I target many different skills with my kiddos! These skills consisted of:

1. Communication: Our students were required to communicate their wants and needs. They were also required to communicate with their peers and familiar adults. Our Speech and Language Pathologist uses games during her therapy sessions that allow question and answer. She targets “WH questions” with the kiddos. Whose turn is it? What do you see? Where is the blue balloon? What color is the car?

2. Requesting: This is another huge speech goal in our classroom. A person needs to be able to request their wants and needs in order to obtain whatever that want or need is. This is something that students with ASD struggle to do. We use games to practice this skill. Our students are required to request the game from a peer if they wanted to take a turn playing the game. For example, “can I have a turn…”, “can I try?”, ”can I have a card”…, etc. They had to tell us if they wanted a turn, instead of just getting a turn. “I want a turn please”, “I would like to take a turn”, etc.

3. Social skills: One of the main symptoms of ASD is difficulty with social interactions. Strategies such as role-play and modeling have been proven to help people with ASD learn the skills needed to make friends and have a positive social life. A major social skill that young children need is play skills. Play skills consist of taking turns in a game or sharing a toy. One of our favorites is this Imagination Patterns activity.

imagination patterns

4. Letter Identification: Plan some activities that help with learning and identifying the 26 letters of the alphabet. For example, this Alphabet Center Pocket Chart includes picture cards and letter cards for kids to practice letter and sound identification word building and spelling. We also love these Alphabet Acorns for a fun matching activity. The acorns can be stacked for alphabetical order and kids can match the colors to the letters.

More alphabet activty options:

5. Fine Motor Skills: This is the coordination of small muscles, in movement. Basically, it is one’s ability to make movements using the small muscles in the fingers, hands and forearms. This is a skill that poses as a challenge to all of my students. Fine motor skills activities can help kids get better at grasping and moving objects. These Fish Chopsticks are a fun activity to help my kiddos work on these skills, while having fun! You can set up a fun sensory tray with pom poms, foam shapes, novelty items and other materials, and challenge kids to use the chopsticks to pick up the items and place them in another container. This helps to build those small muscles, and will help them to eventually hold a pencil, write, cut, tie their shoes, and so much more!

6. Color Identification: This focuses on one’s ability to identify and name basic colors. My students are at all different levels with their color ID skills, so we were able to differentiate the instruction with the help of this Magnetic Color Matching Board. This is a great hands-on way for kids to explore colors! You guide the colored balls into the matching colored pencils with the attached magnetic wand. It has 10 different colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, white, brown, and black). The most basic skill is matching. We worked solely on matching colors with my lower functioning group of kiddos. The next step is identifying different colors. We worked on matching and identifying colors with a group of higher functioning kiddos. Finally, we worked on naming the colors. This group of kiddos was required to match, identify and name all 10 colors on the board.

color matching

7. Rote Counting: This is the simplest number concept that children develop, and it simply consists of counting numbers sequentially. Once my students moved all of the colored balls to the corresponding pencils, I had them count how many each color had, then, how many there were total. We built on this skill, by working on number identification and number concepts!

8. Sorting: Learning to sort by color is an essential early math skill. Mastering this skill is critical in learning more advanced concepts. What people may not realize, is that as adults, we sort all the time. We sort our laundry, so sort our mail, we sort the utensils when we put the dishes away. Our brains are trained to sort information into different categories so that its easily attainable later on. Young children learn how to sort when they start school. As educators, we always start with sorting colors. Then we move onto other types of sorting, like patterns, quantity, beginning letter sounds, categories (animals, fruits, veggies…), etc. The color matching board did all the work for us! Each color already has a designated spot to be sorted into. While they were working on their matching skills, they were simultaneously working on their sorting skills.

9. Fine motor skills: Like I said before, this is a very important skill that my students struggle with. Building those small muscles in their hands, fingers and forearms is an important task. The color matching board helped them to work on their fine motor skills. They had to hold and manipulate the magnetic wands and colored balls. They were practicing and building their fine motor skills, all while having fun!

While these products have allowed me to target individual skills, they have all been consistent in helping my students meet even greater goals. These goals consist of attending to a task for an elongated period of time, staying seated in their chair, working on their social skills and interacting with their peers. When it comes to Autism, these are some of the main goals that educators focus on improving with their students. The products from S&S Worldwide have allowed my students to further engage in their learning, and that is priceless. The possibilities are truly endless with these products!!

Every product from S&S Worldwide are engaging, fun and educational! I highly recommend this company and their products for any classroom!! Check S&S Worldwide out at www.ssww.com. <3 Happy shopping!

About the Author:

Margaret Stacy is a Special Education Teacher in a K-2 self-contained classroom. She teaches at a Title 1 school in an urban district. She holds a master’s degree in Special Education and a certification in Special Education: Comprehensive, Grades K through 12 from the University of Saint Joseph. The University’s School of Education presented a certificate of academic excellence to Margaret for a teacher leadership award in April 2018. She is also a member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. In her spare-time she enjoys spending time with her fiancé and two young sons.

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