Special Education is Good Education



“Special education is good education.” Have you heard that before? Some might even feel that this has become a cliché.  It doesn’t matter, really, because it is true. Do you find yourself eager to believe it but struggling to make it a reality? Here are some strategies:

All students benefit from a multi-sensory approach to learning. 
This is exactly what it sounds like; an approach to education that engages all of the senses. Some of us learn best by listening, some through reading. Some of us need to write something down to commit it to memory, others won’t remember well unless they repeat it back out loud. Utilizing multiple modalities increases the likelihood that the learning can be meaningful, relevant and lasting.

Station activities, or centers, benefit all learners.
Centers provide students with the opportunity to learn at their own pace as they explore a concept or practice a skill. All students benefit because centers enable the delivery of instruction to be differentiated according to individual students’ needs. The key to the successful use of centers in the inclusive classroom is thoughtful planning. Centers can be used effectively in a Hebrew classroom.

Every student thrives in a warm, caring atmosphere with established rules and a clear structure.
Make rules. Stick to them. It’s pretty much a no-brainer.  You would be amazed at how challenging this can be for some teachers.  But this is essential for a successful inclusive classroom.

Individualized expectations are fair.
Individualizing expectations are as fair for gifted students as they are for those with special needs; and everyone in-between.  It is a misnomer that having different expectations for different students in the same classroom isn’t fair.  Students should not be compared to one another or to an arbitrary level of expectation.  All students should be working toward progress from their current level of functioning. This is the whole premise upon which an individualized education plan is built.  Individualizing is not “dumbing down” the curriculum, it does not hold students back and it is not unfair.

These strategies are realistic and appropriate. And they are possible in an inclusive Hebrew or Jewish studies classrooms.  I know because I have done it successfully.

Originally published at Jewish Special Needs Education

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Lisa Friedman

About Lisa Friedman

Lisa Friedman is the education co-director at Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, New Jersey. This position includes overseeing an extensive Special Needs program within the Religious School designed to help students successfully learn Hebrew, learn about their Jewish heritage and feel connected to their Jewish community. Lisa also consults with congregations to develop inclusive practices for staff, clergy, and families through dialogue, interactive workshops and awareness training. She blogs at Jewish Special Needs Education: Removing the Stumbling Block.

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