Teaching Toddlers With Developmental Disabilities

Children with developmental disabilities should have explicit skills-training in deficit areas as a central component in their curriculum. It is very important to teach these children in a very skilled manner so that they can grasp whatever has been taught to them. For these children there should be more than a normal classroom environment.

Children with developmental disabilities can be much more independent when they have strong visual cues to guide them through the physical space of the classroom. You can, for example teachers can use boundaries such as books and rugs to define different space. Marked boundaries make it easier for children to know when they are in a space that is dedicated to play, one that is set aside for study, etc.

Teachers can store common classroom materials (e.g., school supplies, games) on accessible shelves or in see-through storage containers. When needed, labels can be provided for these materials (using pictures paired with words). Students can be trained in the procedures so that they can use the materials in an ascending order (e.g., first raise hand, then request teacher permission, then go to supplies shelf to get a pencil.)

Both typical students and those with developmental disabilities crave structure and predictability in their school day. Special needs children, though, can sometimes react more strongly than their non-disabled peers when faced with an unexpected change in their daily schedule. When creating daily schedules be sure to match the schedule format to the child's skill level.

For a child who cannot read and does not recognize pictures as depictions of actual objects and events, the 'schedule' would consist of objects that represent schedule entries. A wrapped snack bar, for instance, can represent snack time, while a book can represent circle time-when the teacher reads a story to the class.

A classroom schedule lays out the events of the day that affect all children in the room. Teachers can also create individualized schedules for children who receive additional (or alternative) services and supports. But remember-schedules have value only when they are used! Students should preview their schedule at the start of the school day. After each activity is completed, students check off that item on their schedule or otherwise indicate that the event is finished (e.g., by removing the event's picture from the schedule board). When an event in the student's schedule is unexpectedly cancelled, teachers may find that the student will adjust more quickly to the change if the instructor and the child sit down together review the schedule and revise it to reflect the altered plan for the day.

Provide directions in language the student can understand. Use visual cues (hands-on demonstrations and modeling, objects, pictures) as needed to help the child to better grasp the directions. Prompt and guide the child through the performance-sequence.

Special children need special attention and therefore it is important for the teachers to recognize each child's need and make sure they are fulfilled. Education is the right for every child and no one has the right to take away this right from them.