How Many Special Needs Educators Do You Know?
As parents, we all have high hopes, dreams and expectations for our children. And if you have ever been asked to send your child for special needs testing like I was, it could be an anxiety-inducing matter. Even with more information and resources online and with more government assistance, many parents would probably not know where to begin to look for dedicated, specialised educational and academic support; particularly if your child’s needs grow beyond mainstream schools.
As a continuing report from our first Learner’s Testimonial from a parent of a special needs child, we would like to assure parents who seek further information and/or personalised help, that Tueetor now offers some 28 Special Needs Educators cum Trainers, specialising in areas such as Dyslexia, ADHD, etc, in our home markets of Singapore and Malaysia. So all you need to do is to log onto tueetor.com if there’s ever a need.
In the Spotlight: Presenting Teacher Annie
From our Learner’s Testimonial blog interview we’ve done with Sukhjit Singh – who was looking for a special needs educator for his son Tarjit, who has autism – it was through Tueetor that he managed to find, be matched with, and connect with teacher Annie. Annie now helps guide Tarjit on a regular basis, and whom Sukhjit says has enabled his son to truly emerge from his shell and blossom as a student.
We are therefore stoked to feature Teacher Annie’s story: from what it takes to becoming a special needs educator, her ongoing training and learning journey, and of course, what Tueetor means for educators such as herself.
What made you choose this path, this career as a special needs educator?
To be honest, I was thinking of pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. I was not aware of special needs education and I didn’t know much about it. However, while waiting to apply for my Master’s degree, I visited a local non-profit organization and was thinking of trying out something new. I started to interact with children with learning disabilities, such as autism and Down’s syndrome and found these interactions very meaningful. I started to fall in love with this community. I didn’t think I was capable of being a good clinical psychologist and since I was already enjoying interacting with special needs children, I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in special needs education.
Have you collaborated with mainstream education teachers to help identify/diagnose those children who require special needs counselling/therapy?
From what I understand, you can only get the official diagnosis from clinical practitioners. As a special needs educator, I can only observe the child’s characteristics and assume that these children are having learning difficulties, but if I require a proper diagnosis, I would have to engage a professional to do so.
For mainstream teachers, in University of Malaya, we do have a number of classmates (specialising in Special Needs Education) who teaches in mainstream schools. We will then exchange ideas and compare the differences and similarities between these educational systems. I managed to gather insight for the different systems since I have never worked in a government-system environment.
Can you give an example of how you manage a very disruptive student?
There’s no one way to ‘teach’ a special needs child. Every child has his/her own way to express themselves. A lot of patience is needed to redirect their behaviours. Most of the time, learning approaches do not specifically target the child’s behaviours and it is usually trial and error for me. I have to keep trying different ways to see which one suits the child best. I would say that, if you are teaching five children in a class, it is the same as teaching five classes, since every student is unique. This is why it is important to do your homework before each lesson to really get to know them better before I start to execute the lesson plan(s).
What strategies/techniques do you use to teach your students?
I believe in being firm and consistent in teaching the students. We have to be firm in teaching the students as they can be playful and manipulative. Sometimes, it could be hard for them to differentiate whether you are their playmate or teacher. If you are soft and lenient, they would see you as a playmate. So, the students are able to sense your actions and are able to tell if you are firm. They can climb over your head (so to speak) and refuse to comply to your instructions if they sense that you can be manipulated.
I also utilise ‘ABCs’ to teach these students. ABC here stands for Antecedent-Behaviour-Consequences. I believe every behaviour has a given reason (on why it happened). When such behaviours occur, we need to know the various possible scenarios of these behaviours happening. After they have taken place, we will then discuss the possible consequences, as these consequences will then become the antecedent for the next behaviour.
I also use a multi-sensory learning approach in my teaching. Multi-sensory learning basically means lessons involve stimulating the child’s sensory system, namely, hearing, kinesthetic, smell and touch. That’s why most of my classes will always be arranged in this way. It also helps to keep their interest level up. Also, when a child’s senses are stimulated, they tend to be more alert with what they are learning.
To what extent are your students’ parents involved in your lessons?
It depends on the child’s character. But what happens most of the time is when I am alone with the child, they see me as a teacher and thus will stay focused and do their tasks. However, when their parents are around, the child could be more distracted and they interpret the situation to stop doing their given task. This is why I usually conduct my classes without the parents around. However, since the children can be very young and the parents do not feel safe with leaving their child alone with me, I would allow them to observe my classes instead. After the parents are comfortable, I would suggest having a single room with the child (without the parents), during which then I will take pictures and videos for the parents to show their child’s progress.
However, in the long run, the child would ultimately spend a longer time with their parents and so, parents’ involvement in their child’s education is very important. Thus, if the parents have any questions, I will try my best to answer them. Occasionally, these parents may also have insights regarding their child, and we will discuss about these insights together.
Being a special needs educator can be very emotionally draining, so how do you recharge or stay encouraged, especially when the children may be difficult to handle?
Often, we might not see much progress or changes in the child, even after several sessions. This can be disheartening, as these children are after all my learning objectives. However, I managed to stay encouraged due to the parents’ understanding of the difficulties of teaching a child with learning disabilities. They will encourage me even if their child does not make any progress. I really do appreciate their cooperation and open-mindedness to allowing me to try different techniques and activities as I would always tell them that I have to keep trying new activities and ideas to see which ones are suitable.
How did you first come to know about Tueetor? Tell us of your experience using Tueetor; would you recommend the platform and its app?
I first came to know of Tueetor when I received a call from Tueetor Malaysia informing me of their launch (in Malaysia). I was curious and signed up as a special needs tutor. I was really surprised to know that I was one of the earliest and active special needs tutor, which is how I got to know Sukhjit.
I did not receive any students in the beginning but after a while, I’ve been matched with 2 students. In my opinion, the best feature about Tueetor is that there are no agency commission fees even after I’ve gotten a student, which means that I am able to maximise what I earn from freelance teaching.
Yes, I do! I have recommended this app to my colleagues as well as some of my students’ parents, as some of them are looking for mainstream teachers.
Read Mr Singh’s Learner Testimonial on how Teacher Annie has helped his son Tarjit here https://tueetor.com/blog/tueetor-learners-testimonial-sukhjit-singhs/. For more information on how Tueetor may help you in your search for the right Special Needs Educator right here in Singapore or Malaysia, contact us at 6206 6660 or register with us at https://tueetor.com/.