Children with special needs (SEN) face many challenges in the classroom. Teachers try to help them learn and develop their potential in and outside the classrooms. Another aspect of SEN students’ school life remains still neglected. Namely, SEN students being socially isolated from the non-SEN students. Thus, outside school and during the breaks, SEN students very often enjoy the company of their parents, caregivers and teachers, but not of their classmates. Sometimes social isolation is obvious whereas in some cases it is quite subtle.
A very helpful attitude for the teachers and mainstream students is that SEN children are part of human diversity. So teach the class to accept and tolerate diversity. Remind them that everybody is different in some way or another.
A very useful technique in this respect is working in small groups. Whenever possible, divide the class into small groups, each group consisting of both SEN and non-SEN students. This includes everybody in the educational process and trains non-SEN students in working together with their different classmates.
Stimulate search for similarities among the students. These could be favorite subjects, school activities, sports, hobbies, etc. This approach will decrease the barriers in accepting the SEN children.
Encourage your students to communicate with each other during the breaks and outside school. Encourage them to take part in extracurricular activities together. Show them they can have fun together, regardless of their differences.
Practice what you preach. As a teacher, you are a role model for your students. If you try to teach your class inclusive behavior and attitudes you have to be open to SEN students. And not only this. In order to create a friendly atmosphere in class, you have to pay enough attention to non-SEN students as well in order to prevent a sense of favoritism.
Make the parents of all the children in your class your allies. Familiarise them with your aims and motivate them to support their children in interacting with each other. Talk to them about the importance to educate their children to accept diversity in the world.
School psychologists should also be included in working with the whole class to train tolerance to diversity. They can also organise meetings with the parents to enhance their support and joint work.