Teaching is a fun job – but it’s also a tough job.
This job gets harder if you teach children with Autism and other special needs. This is true no matter where you are in the world.
With all the skills and content that our students need to learn, it can be tough to give the right kind of attention to special needs children in the classroom.
However, I am a lifelong learner and have always looked for ways to be the best teacher I can be. I found out about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) while researching ways to get significant results in education for children with special needs!
For students on the autism spectrum or for students with special needs, teachers must adapt their teaching styles accordingly. It is easy for children with special needs to get distracted away from the content being taught in the classroom. Regaining these kids’ attention and holding it can be a challenge!
I teach in an inclusive school where all classrooms can have students with different kinds of special needs: Many students are on the autism spectrum, many have ADD or ADHD diagnoses, some have been diagnosed with Down syndrome among other needs.
ABA therapy’s effectiveness in helping children on the spectrum and with other special needs convinced me to really dig in and research the method. I spent a lot of time looking all over the internet to find information on how to learn to use ABA therapy from where I live – the Dominican Republic – where resources can be tough to find.
That’s when I found Special Learning, Inc.‘s ten week online course on ABA therapy. Since they offer this in an online format using recorded webcasts, it was easy for me to fit the course into my schedule.
While taking the course, I started using some of the ABA principles in my classrooms. The results were amazing!
Immediately after using some basic ABA techniques, my students started actively participating, listening, and paying attention. Disruptive behavior in the classroom diminished, I called it “the magic of ABA.” I teach many different types of students and sometimes that can be tough, but the environment in my classrooms started changing right away.
It became increasingly easier for me to teach students the lessons I had planned without many disruptions and for students to learn – and even have fun. My students loved being in my classes! Other teachers started asking me how I managed to turn my classrooms into these wonderful new learning environments.
We found that ABA principles and techniques that were useful in my classrooms were equally successful with many other groups of students as well!
Children are brimming with different kinds of stories, thoughts, and ideas; and in order to help children channel all these ideas in a constructive way, it’s important for teachers to have the right approach. ABA has helped me develop that approach and finesse it to help my students be successful.
Most people think of ABA as a therapeutic tool and to be used for treatment on a per-child basis only. But the truth is, it’s being used in classrooms, like mine, all over the world and teachers are seeing wonderful results.
Some of the benefits of using the principles of ABA therapy re:
- Building motivation in the students
- Making students actively participate in class
- Giving students options to be involved in their learning process
- Decreasing disruptive behaviors in class
- Providing a good amount of opportunities to give the right answers.
- Builds a participation system where everyone can respond in their own way
- Give the students the opportunity to earn reinforcements
- Build a system where students can accept their consequences when they lose privileges
- Improve learning by using differing ABA therapy strategies
Education should always be inclusive – we can’t, and shouldn’t teach children with special needs separately.
Education is for everybody. Every student should be able to be in a classroom learning with their peers. There are students that need to be working all the time, doing “something,” there are students that just need to be listening to you, there are students that need to be moved around the classroom in order to focus, students that need to talk to learn, students that prefer to read rather than raising their hands, others that need to be doing different things at the same time to keep up with the teacher, some students need an instructor right by their side, other students just need to be near the teacher.
With classrooms full of all different kinds of students and even more varied external factors, it can be a challenging task to teach when you don’t have the right strategies to deal with all these different learning styles. If you are looking to revolutionize your classroom and significantly boost your students’ performance, and have a restricted schedule, I encourage you to go to the Special Learning website and learn more about their webcast trainings, teaching materials, virtual consultation with a BCBA and more!
The moment you start applying those strategies and principles of ABA therapy, I assure you, you will experience what I call “The Magic of ABA.”
This post was written by Ana da Cunha, a Special Ed teacher in the Dominican Republic.