Why it’s vital to train teachers about special needs



Guess how much training new teachers get in learning about special needs?

You may think that this extremely important area of teaching would get quality instruction. So perhaps out of a 3 year course, at least a block of say 3 months. No. What about 3 weeks. No guess again. 3 days. No try 1 day. Yes that’s right. ONE DAY. I kid you not. I have questioned many new, young teachers and they all report the same.

It’s like giving a doctor one day’s training on administering injections. Or a pilot one day’s training on landing a plane. What about one day’s training for a dentist on tooth extraction.

Would this happen? Of course not. Because ย these elements of a job are vital to that professions. Within each class there will be perhaps 10% of children with some kind of additional or special need. It may be dyslexia, autism, attention deficit behaviour disorder, Down’s syndrome, developmental delay or speech and language difficulty.

So why do teachers get so little formal training in these areas. Why is it given just a cursory glance?

And with these conditions comes a critical element of effective behaviour management.

I cannot understand. I can only guess at the answer.

Perhaps successive Governments think knowledge of these conditions will just come with experience.

Perhaps successive Governments feel that behaviour management will too come with experience.

Maybe the successive Governments feel emphasis should be training new teachers to focus on the 90% of the class to reach desired targets.

In my book ‘5 Reasons Why Most School Fail Your Child With Special Needs’ I devote a whole chapter about targets and the negative affect they have on our special children. Targets really do matter too much.

In a first world society, why on earth do we not train teachers so that ALL children in their care are able to reach their full potential?

I have worked with some incredible young teachers who just get it. They plan, implement and deliver a varied curriculum and naturally understand the differing needs of children in their care. However, there are many who just don’t get it. I hear horror stories from parents who have to battle with the special needs coordinator just to get the smallest of concessions.

Many children resort to unacceptable, challenging behaviour to communicate to the adults that something is wrong.

It is up to the adults to figure out what this is and to make positive changes to their own behaviour, attitude or the environment. It could be as simple as using a specialist piece of equipment, finding a quiet space to work, using positive, encouraging language.

But teachers are so busy worrying about targets, levels and delivering a packed curriculum that there is no time for a quick chat to see how a child is feeling. Many teachers fail to notice or understand that by checking in with a child every day can make a massive difference to a child’s emotional well-being. They have not been trained to recognise special needs or what to do about it.

Last week I delivered some training to a nursery setting. It went well and I received some fantastic feedback. But it astounds me that the basic principles of listening to the children and to work out why there is challenging behaviour are overlooked.

It shouldn’t be a situation that in nurseries and schools across the country we are crossing our fingers and hoping that staff have received additional training in special needs and behaviour management.

And the result of this lack of training:

  • Children with low self-worth and poor emotional health as they feel useless and naughty
  • Frazzled staff who feel like they’re putting out fires without getting to the source of the difficulty
  • Disgruntled parents who have to endure daily accounts of bad behaviour and poor standards of work

It really doesn’t have to be this way.

Teachers need better training. Better understanding. More tricks up their sleeves. Simple techniques that can have a massive impact on the whole of a class. Disruptive children disrupt the learning of everyone. Teach the teachers how to handle the situation and then everyone can reach their full potential.

As you know I have a particular interest in ADHD as my son was diagnosed aged 8. Last year I set up a petition to encourage better training for teachers in ADHD. I’d love you to sign and share if you haven’t done so already.ย 

We don’t have to just hope that our child’s new teacher will get it. Go armed to your school in September with information, ideas and practical suggestions. Do not take no for an answer. Simple techniques work and can be the difference between a happy child or a child who is suffering.

Together, we can bring about change!






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