Start by talking to the child’s immediate family. Parents are children’s first and most important educators; they will have a wealth of information about their child to share with you. You will need to listen to what the parents have to say with an open mind. It’s important to keep your opinions to yourself at this stage, as you have not gained the parent’s trust or respect and you have not even met the child yet. Questions you can ask include:
What are his/her favorite activities or toys?
How does she react to other children and adults?
What would you like your child to learn?
What does he/she need help with?
Some settings may have a care plan for younger children, which you could fill out together. Do background research. If the special educational need is already identified when the child comes into your care, you will need to research this particular condition. One word of warning – do not let the information you read dictate how you view this child. Think of it as a heads up of what may happen, rather than a manual! You can also ask for reports from other professionals involved or from previous teachers. Again, be prepared to make up your own mind about this child. Children can change from one day to the next, therefore old reports can offer out-of-date views on the child, or may reflect another person’s specific biases.
Spend time with the child. Given your background research and reading up, you will have gained a good insight into what the child likes/dislikes. Start off by observing the child by waiting in the background. This will help you get to know his/her facial expressions and body language. It may take hours, days, weeks or even months for the child to feel comfortable around you and for you to fully get to know him/her.
Building a Relationship
Form a good relationship. Before you can begin teaching children with special educational needs, you will need to develop a relationship with them (as with any child). You want to become a positive part of this child’s life therefore the best way to start building a relationship is by using things that the child finds enjoyable.
For example, if the child has a fascination with round objects, find some and show them to him/her. You will know the child well enough to establish when/if they are ready to start accepting you into positive parts of their day.
Keep things positive. It is important to keep things positive as you are beginning to build your relationship. You will need the child to trust in you when you’re teaching him/her something new or tricky. You will know when you’re ready for the next stage when the child in your care has developed a bond with you and will take notice of you.