Teaching special needs children

chrissyp

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Hi there, so i'm throwing around the idea, of teaching kids with special needs, both physical and mental, to give them an outlet, exercise, confidence, discipline ext.

I was wondering, who all has experience with this and any suggestions?

One thing I do know, probably foremost, is PATIENCE! I have nephew with autism so I get it. I understand almost every student will need special attention, and for me to work with them as much as possible.

I know to be very positive, and understanding. I also plan on talking with each parent, to understand their diagnosis, and they're strengths and weaknesses personally, so I can treat each student properly.
 

skribs

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My demonstration team did a demonstration/class at a special needs camp, so I have at least a little bit of experience here. Here are my suggestions.

1) Along with patience, almost exclusively be positive and encouraging. Make the kids feel good about themselves.
2) Understand that with any neurological or physical disorder, there's going to be techniques the students can't really polish, and set your expectations based on each individual student.
3) Safety first! Students should be able to (mostly) follow directions. Students with emotional problems should be watched to make sure they don't drag others down with a meltdown, and students with attention issues should be watched to make sure they aren't accidentally hitting everyone.
4) Going back to patience, discipline is going to be a lot harder (although this may just be because I had like 50 kids who had no martial arts experience). Lots may talk out of turn, or forget some of the rules.
5) Have the parents sign waivers.

This sounds like an awesome thing to do, but a lot of work and very difficult. Good luck.
 

jobo

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Hi there, so i'm throwing around the idea, of teaching kids with special needs, both physical and mental, to give them an outlet, exercise, confidence, discipline ext.

I was wondering, who all has experience with this and any suggestions?

One thing I do know, probably foremost, is PATIENCE! I have nephew with autism so I get it. I understand almost every student will need special attention, and for me to work with them as much as possible.

I know to be very positive, and understanding. I also plan on talking with each parent, to understand their diagnosis, and they're strengths and weaknesses personally, so I can treat each student properly.
respect,,, but special needs is one of those laterday made up categories that seem to include a massive number of " disabilities, from a bit of Attention problems and trouble reading/ spelling to significant impairments of body and mind.
you perhaps need to focus down on who, with what level of disability you are aiming at
 
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chrissyp

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My demonstration team did a demonstration/class at a special needs camp, so I have at least a little bit of experience here. Here are my suggestions.

1) Along with patience, almost exclusively be positive and encouraging. Make the kids feel good about themselves.
2) Understand that with any neurological or physical disorder, there's going to be techniques the students can't really polish, and set your expectations based on each individual student.
3) Safety first! Students should be able to (mostly) follow directions. Students with emotional problems should be watched to make sure they don't drag others down with a meltdown, and students with attention issues should be watched to make sure they aren't accidentally hitting everyone.
4) Going back to patience, discipline is going to be a lot harder (although this may just be because I had like 50 kids who had no martial arts experience). Lots may talk out of turn, or forget some of the rules.
5) Have the parents sign waivers.

This sounds like an awesome thing to do, but a lot of work and very difficult. Good luck.
Ty! I know i'm going to have my hands full, so i'm going to bring other experienced martial artist to help out! TY for all the input! Discipline is DEF going to be hard for some. With the physical limitations, from both neurological or what have you, I plan on working with the invidually to work around that.
 
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chrissyp

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respect,,, but special needs is one of those laterday made up categories that seem to include a massive number of " disabilities, from a bit of Attention problems and trouble reading/ spelling to significant impairments of body and mind.
you perhaps need to focus down on who, with what level of disability you are aiming at
Very valid point. The level i'm aiming for is those with autism, downs, sensory difficulties, and physical handicaps are the main thing. But your right about ti being a catch all these days
 

oftheherd1

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My demonstration team did a demonstration/class at a special needs camp, so I have at least a little bit of experience here. Here are my suggestions.

1) Along with patience, almost exclusively be positive and encouraging. Make the kids feel good about themselves.
2) Understand that with any neurological or physical disorder, there's going to be techniques the students can't really polish, and set your expectations based on each individual student.
3) Safety first! Students should be able to (mostly) follow directions. Students with emotional problems should be watched to make sure they don't drag others down with a meltdown, and students with attention issues should be watched to make sure they aren't accidentally hitting everyone.
4) Going back to patience, discipline is going to be a lot harder (although this may just be because I had like 50 kids who had no martial arts experience). Lots may talk out of turn, or forget some of the rules.
5) Have the parents sign waivers.

This sounds like an awesome thing to do, but a lot of work and very difficult. Good luck.

#5 is very important. Get a lawyer to help! It could pay for itself one day. Some parents have issues of their own (guilt or accommodations they haven't really accommodated to), and may think you are going to solve all their problems with their special needs child. Disappointment can cause really bad reactions.

Patience is not going to be one over all. You will have to be patient with each child in their own way until you get to know them and find out how they interact with each other, if at all. And patient with parents. Some will be supportive, compassionate with you and all children, some will still not understand.

Good luck. Oh, and give yourself an easy out if you find it isn't working out for you.
 

ravenofthewood

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Good for you! Martial arts classes specifically for special needs kids are definitely needed.

I would recommend taking a course/doing some research on the kinds of disabilities you intend to work with so that you have an informed understanding of how they will struggle, as well as best practices for working with them.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I do not have experience teaching MA to special needs children, but do have experience working with them in mental health aspects (therapy). I'm seconding everything that @skribs said, along with two additional points.

The first is regarding the individual students. They will all need extra attention, so if you have too many students that would be difficult. Two possible ways of handling this, if you feel size is an issue; get more instructors (who are patient and able to work with them), and 'assign' certain instructors different students so they can get to know them/their learning style better. The second is having an 'a' and 'b' schedule, and telling people to attend on only A or B days. I would recommend this over just having more classes, because then there's consistency for the kids on who they will see each class, which will help.

The second is focusing on the parents. It's a good idea to talk to their parents about their children, but don't take what they say at face value...a lot of parents think their children are a lot more or less capable than they actually are. Like @oftheherd1 said, parents may also expect more out of you than is reasonable, or have mental health issues of their own. My solution was always to tell parents that this is treatment, not parenting, and be firm in the boundaries of how much they can interfere (as an example: if their kid was having issues with another kid in a group setting, they could tell me about it and I could handle it how I view appropriate. If they didn't like that, they were free to take their kid elsewhere, but they could not go into the group, talk with the other kid, or talk with the other kids parents about something going on in the facility where I worked).

I'm not sure how that second point will translate towards teaching them martial arts from providing therapy, but boundaries with the parents will definitely be something to keep in mind.
 

skribs

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@kempodisciple

Definitely a good point regarding schedules. Schedules and/or rituals are really helpful for many special needs.
 

JR 137

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I have a masters in physical education, and a requirement was adapted physical education classes. I have students with various needs in my physical education classes. Just about everything I learned in classes was BS. Heres what Ive found...

Every kid is going to be different, even if they have the same diagnosis.

Due to the differences, its going to take some trial and error.

Keep your expectations realistic, but dont make excuses for the kids! Challenge them and let them surprise you with what they can do rather than having low expectations. Many of them will hear about what they cant do far too often, rather than what theyre actually capable of.

Dont feed in to the disability and sympathy stuff. The more you treat them like theyre everyone else, the more theyll be receptive to what youre doing.

Dont be afraid to address negative behavior, but set a limit to the consequences. Know when theyre genuinely not capable of following the rules, and dont dwell on things theyre not capable of. That doesnt mean ignore it completely. Knowing their limitations only comes from knowing them.

Thats all Ive got right now. Its easy in some ways, and very difficult in other ways. Its all about knowing what everyones capable of. Only time with them can tell you that.

Edit: as has been said, having a definite routine goes a long way. If its not working week after week, dont be afraid to change it, but not all at once. Working with this population is a constant re-assessment and adapting thing. But be careful not to scrap things too quickly. Give things a good chance to work out.
 

CB Jones

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Just some ideas...

I would stick with using the term Students with Special Needs" it just sounds better and more positive.....parents will be more responsive to that.

Dont worry about what level of disability the students have. I wouldnt turn anyone away because they dont fit into a select number of conditions. Make it known that the class is focused on helping the students with disabilities but open for anyone that wants to be involved . This will allow family and friends to train with the student and helps with inclusion with other non disabled people. If you can get non disabled students training and helping with disabled students....you will have a very successful program and happy parents.

I would suggest have a family rate and promote family members training with the disabled student. This will help to have people there that can help with the student and his or her needs.

Do you have a University nearby? Check with Kinesiology department and or psychology department for volunteers and or help.
 

jobo

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Just some ideas...

I would stick with using the term Students with Special Needs" it just sounds better and more positive.....parents will be more responsive to that.

Dont worry about what level of disability the students have. I wouldnt turn anyone away because they dont fit into a select number of conditions. Make it known that the class is focused on helping the students with disabilities but open for anyone that wants to be involved . This will allow family and friends to train with the student and helps with inclusion with other non disabled people. If you can get non disabled students training and helping with disabled students....you will have a very successful program and happy parents.

I would suggest have a family rate and promote family members training with the disabled student. This will help to have people there that can help with the student and his or her needs.

Do you have a University nearby? Check with Kinesiology department and or psychology department for volunteers and or help.
you marked my post disagree, but didn't say why, so il pick the bones out of this one as being your thought on the subject!

the op wants to give benefit to those less able, from a physical point of view that's fitness, balance and co ordination and that's a fine objective, though playing soccer or dodge ball would get the same results.

if he just says special needs he could end up with a class of people who are just slow readers, but physically able. That's not really what he has in mind for value added to quality of life.

OR people with physical impediments so bad, that an hour of ma will make no difference to them, again no value added.

there are however a class of people who will benefit greatly, if they arnt already playing dodge ball, where perhaps his limited resources will make the most difference to quality of life
 

skribs

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Dont worry about what level of disability the students have. I wouldnt turn anyone away because they dont fit into a select number of conditions.

That depends on the ability of the instructor. For example, when I started Martial Arts at 7 years old, I had to get special permission for my class because it was ages 8+. This was a 2nd degree in charge of that class. However, the Master had kids as young as 4 or 5 in his class, because he was better able to handle younger kids. The school I'm at now is 4+, but that's because our Master does a great job of getting the kids to follow the rules of the dojang, something I am not as cable of. If I were in charge, I would have to set a higher minimum age, because of limitations on myself.

Make it known that the class is focused on helping the students with disabilities but open for anyone that wants to be involved . This will allow family and friends to train with the student and helps with inclusion with other non disabled people. If you can get non disabled students training and helping with disabled students....you will have a very successful program and happy parents.

I would suggest have a family rate and promote family members training with the disabled student. This will help to have people there that can help with the student and his or her needs.

This is a great idea! Although if his classes are too popular there might not be room for those outside the target audience.

Do you have a University nearby? Check with Kinesiology department and or psychology department for volunteers and or help.

I have mixed feelings about this. I have a Bachelor's in psychology, and I'm not sure how much that qualifies me for something like this. It would be a great thing for a psych major to volunteer for.

On the other hand, if they don't have martial arts experience, then they may be coming in as a white belt, so it would be like a white belt volunteering. I guess it depends on what their role is and how they're utilized.

Either way, interesting idea that at least deserves discussion.
 

CB Jones

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To me a program like this would be more about inclusion. It allows the special needs child to be included in these type of activities.

This is one of the hard things about raising a special needs child....is finding ways to include them in activities....and providing a program of inclusion is your best marketing strategy. Excluding some special needs kids are probably going to upset many of your parents.


Also, couple years ago someone approached the university near us with a rock steady boxing program. The university loved it and provided them complete access to the intramural center to host the class and they allow students to volunteer and get college credit for volunteering.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Just some ideas...

I would stick with using the term Students with Special Needs" it just sounds better and more positive.....parents will be more responsive to that.

Dont worry about what level of disability the students have. I wouldnt turn anyone away because they dont fit into a select number of conditions. Make it known that the class is focused on helping the students with disabilities but open for anyone that wants to be involved . This will allow family and friends to train with the student and helps with inclusion with other non disabled people. If you can get non disabled students training and helping with disabled students....you will have a very successful program and happy parents.

I would suggest have a family rate and promote family members training with the disabled student. This will help to have people there that can help with the student and his or her needs.

Do you have a University nearby? Check with Kinesiology department and or psychology department for volunteers and or help.
Two parts of this I want to reply to.

I like the idea about going to a psychology department for volunteers. Not to teach necessarily (unless they happen to already know your MA), but to observe the classes, intervene if there are any crises (aka tantrums), and give you advice on how to tailor your approach to them. Not sure if a bachelors psych student would have the knowledge for that, but a senior might, it would be free for you (hopefully), and it would be an awesome experience for them.

Regarding having other people involved..that depends a lot on what the goals are. If the goal is to give them the ability to learn martial arts despite their disability, I can see that being a huge issue. There's a good chance the students may compare themselves to others, making them disheartened if they don't learn as quickly, and the issue I brought up with parents will become even worse. People who don't know how to do martial arts will be telling the instructor what to do, because they're used to having to tell others how to take care of their kid.

If the goal isn't to teach MA, but purely to help them socialize I think it could be more helpful, since then they would have more people around to help them socialize. But again, based on my own experiences, if the OP wants to actually teach them MA, having the parents directly involved will hurt rather than help with a percentage of the parents of special ed children that I've seen. And that percentage can ruin the group as a whole.
 

CB Jones

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like the idea about going to a psychology department for volunteers. Not to teach necessarily (unless they happen to already know your MA), but to observe the classes, intervene if there are any crises (aka tantrums), and give you advice on how to tailor your approach to them. Not sure if a bachelors psych student would have the knowledge for that, but a senior might, it would be free for you (hopefully), and it would be an awesome experience for them.

Yeah the student isnt there to provide counseling or to intervene. Solely to provide assistance....move wavemaster punching bags around, clean and disinfect gear, provide Physical assistance to any students such as someone to hold onto to help with balance, etc...

In return they observe and write a paper at the end of the semester about their observations and opinions and get credit.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Yeah the student isnt there to provide counseling or to intervene. Solely to provide assistance....move wavemaster punching bags around, clean and disinfect gear, provide Physical assistance to any students such as someone to hold onto to help with balance, etc...

In return they observe and write a paper at the end of the semester about their observations and opinions and get credit.
I agree with this in a general sense. But, if the student doesn't have the ability to intervene in a crises, and the instructor doesn't have that experience either, then there is an issue. Thinking it over, I would want either master's level students who do have the knowledge, or for the OP/instructor to have had special-needs/specific training before I would ever recommend someone going there with their kid.
 

CB Jones

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I agree with this in a general sense. But, if the student doesn't have the ability to intervene in a crises, and the instructor doesn't have that experience either, then there is an issue. Thinking it over, I would want either master's level students who do have the knowledge, or for the OP/instructor to have had special-needs/specific training before I would ever recommend someone going there with their kid.

I can understand that.

But For me a program like this would be mainly just a extracurricular activity for the special needs student. Any crisis is going to be turned over to the parent or guardian.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I can understand that.

But For me a program like this would be mainly just a extracurricular activity for the special needs student. Any crisis is going to be turned over to the parent or guardian.
I think this is one of those situations where we understand/get the other persons view but disagree. I tend to think having a specialized professional is most important, which makes sense considering my background. You tend to think the parents can fill that role, and its a chance for them to bond/inclusion, which makes sense considering your background.

I don't actually think either of us are wrong, but the two ideas can't co-exist in the same place that easily, so someone creating a program like this would have to decide which one they want to follow.
 

Mark Lynn

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respect,,, but special needs is one of those laterday made up categories that seem to include a massive number of " disabilities, from a bit of Attention problems and trouble reading/ spelling to significant impairments of body and mind.
you perhaps need to focus down on who, with what level of disability you are aiming at

I originally ranked this as disagree, but then removed the rating after rereading it a few times. I think what I objected to was the phase but special needs is one of those laterday made up categories that seem to include a massive number of " disabilities, as if you were saying it doesn't really exist ("made up") I realized I took your statement wrong (I believe).

The term "special needs" has really been kind of become a general catch phrase that lumps everything together from reading and learning challenges, behavioral challenges, and physical challenges, so I agree the OP might want to focus on who the class is intended for and go from there.
 
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