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Importance of Organization When Teaching Special Needs Students

There is no question that it's easier to teach if you are an organized person. Dealing with the home lives, personalities, assignments, and health requirements as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each student is next to impossible if teachers do not have carefully planned systems in place.

The classroom of a special education teacher, however, requires an additional set of organization skills. The volume of information and requirements involved in student schedules, Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, individual goals and disabilities can only be managed by organized teaching professionals. In addition to what the teacher needs to keep organized is the need to help students learn organizational skills for academic and future success.

Organization for the Benefit of the Teacher

There are several reasons why having organization systems in place is particularly important for special education teachers. An IEP is designed for each student with an identified disability, outlining the student's educational needs and goals. Since no two IEPs are the same, special education teachers essentially create individual lesson plans for each student in their caseloads. If these educational plans, materials and records are not organized carefully, teachers spend more time looking for information and catching up than teaching.

Special education teachers must keep IEP paperwork current. IEP paperwork includes reports that must be updated and delivered to parents or guardians. Special education teachers must also schedule and attend meetings to discuss goals, progress and concerns about each student.  

Students in special education settings are also learning skills they require to become more self-sufficient, which in turn requires a classroom that is well-organized and labeled. As the special education teacher is working with individual students on IEP goals, other students must be able to locate materials and assignments so that learning progress is not interrupted.

Organization for the Benefit of the Learner

When students with special needs are asked to work independently, the organization of their workspace is critical for success. This could mean labeling places where they are working for each item they will need for the project or assignment, color-coding materials and subjects, and laminating checklists. If students work at their own desks, keeping everything neat and organized in their desks is also critical to becoming independent.

Another important element of organization can be termed "unstructured organization." This means that teachers must allow for some elements of the teaching and learning process that are not held to a rigid structure. This will give students the freedom to choose, for example, where they work and in what order they complete activities.

Children with special needs often learn to self-regulate, and, when they have the opportunity to select a less distracting, quieter area, they become not only more independent but also more aware of the structure and organization that helps them the most. In addition, when a classroom is set up in an organized manner, students learn to respect the physical boundaries, including the difference between general classroom areas and "teacher-only" areas. In educational consultant Marcia W. Rohrer's book 10 Critical Components for Success in the Special Education Classroom, she says, "This provides opportunities to teach students to respect other people's spaces and belongings -- an important skill in all life settings."

To earn your Master of Education in Special Education from Mississippi College, you are required to take a course titled Organizational Procedures for Special Education, which focuses on procedures required by the state of Mississippi in order to be qualified to teach students with special needs. This course will not only meet the requirements of the state but also set you up for success as you reach your goal of teaching students with special needs.

Learn more about the Mississippi College Master of Education in Special Education online.


Sources:

SpecialNeeds.com: Five Ways to Help Students With Special Needs

TeacherVision: Teaching Students With Special Needs

ASCD: Handbook for Qualities of Effective Teachers - Classroom Management and Organization

SAGE Publishing: 10 Critical Components for Success in the Special Education Classroom

AUsome Adolescents: Independence

ThoughtCo.: Getting Students With Disabilities Organized

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