The life of the special needs students could be changed by understanding from other people.
“We used to have one special needs kid with ADHD who can live a normal life just like other kids. The normal teaching method could not keep this kid concentrating in class or even staying still. After applying a new teaching method, this kid is able to focus more without having to take prescribed medicine.”
Many people might have imagined the educational barriers special needs children have to face, including adapting to new classmates. But for Teacher Ae or Kamolrat Nontasorn, a 3rd year kindergarten teacher, being a special needs kid doesn’t always mean being a slow learner because she applies a new student-centered teaching method called ‘Jittasueksa’ to her class.
A student-centered classroom
The turning point of Teacher’s Ae teaching method began from joining the Little Scientist House program by the Equitable Education Fund (EEF) which was founded to improve the quality of teaching in small local schools to be equal to big schools in the city by mainly focusing on students taking action.
Teacher Ae has explained that the Jittasueksa teaching method emphasizes on building up children’s concentration and focusing on what they’re doing. For students who love music, Teacher Ae will use sound and gesture as the main teaching materials. If there are any activities that involve vocalization such as praying, they will be willing and proud to lead a prayer to their friends.
There is no difference between front-row student and back-row student
“This teaching method will make low-performing students focus on the lesson again. Everyone has the same rule and that is raising your hand before answering. We do not force them to answer every question but they at least have to express their opinions and learn how to be a good listener. Listening does not only help students with their analytical skills but also gives them a chance to express an opinion that is different from others. We encourage students with low self-confidence by giving them compliments or a round of applause as an acknowledgment. Sitting in the front or in the back is not an important matter for this teaching method because everyone can participate in class, regardless of where they’re sitting.”
Although Teacher Ae has faced some obstacles while adjusting the new teaching method in the beginning due to the habituation of employing the same teaching method for 27 years and the lack of understanding in the method itself, she managed to turn her class into a true learning place once she truly understood the method.
For instance, the diffusion experiment in which we drop black color in the water and it creates a swirl of blue color throughout the container. Previously, students would write down the experiment result according to Teacher Ae’s explanation. This new teaching method stimulates students to analyze until they got the answer that water is the solvent. This way, students would enjoy observing, questioning, and finding an answer with help from the teacher.
The world of learning for young scientists
Teacher Nattapong Dinnui, a 2nd-year kindergarten teacher at Ban Tha Chamoung School, Satun province, has also joined this program. His classroom is full of children who have a passion for science, whether it be normal kids or special needs kids with Autism. Since the new teaching method focuses on the learning of every student, the teacher would have to advise and observe children when they’re analyzing the experiment result which is different from the old teaching method that students only have to be a good listeners and do the experiment after seeing an example from the teacher.
“Children want to participate and express their opinions because they are able to think after seeing the experiment in front of them. We do not need to force anyone to participate in class. We also allow them to speak in their dialects because forcing them to speak in a central dialect would limit their freedom of expression. For that reason, they are willing to corporate with us. When they are able to analyze things on their own and apply the knowledge they gained from the classroom in everyday life, we would be happy and proud to see the learning development of children.” Teacher Nattapong told with pride.
With understanding from the surrounding people
Professor Daranee Uthairattanakij, a pioneer who admit children with Autism to study in Kasetsart University Laboratory School, told us about the success in pushing students with Autism who used to struggle with socializing to become graduates from the Faculty of Social Science, Kasetsart University. Professor Daranee started with creating an understanding for lecturers and students. She has also received help from a special education teacher. Although modern educational technology is available, love, understanding, and kindness from surrounding people are more important.
Understanding the ability of children with autism would help them to socialize because each one has different abilities. Some are good at painting, some have beautiful handwriting, and some are good at helping their friends. Professor Daranee also told us about a conflict when a student with autism pushed another student. Although the mother of the student who was pushed was resentful and viewed this as a physical assault, the student totally understands that the student with autism means no harm. That conflict was ended with understanding from a friend. This proves that children with Autism can socialize just like other children.
No matter what they are, a normal kid or a special needs kid, no one is excluded in a classroom where students understand each other and everyone is given precedence. Instead, a special needs kid will be pushed to be the center of the class, they would be able to learn with their own ability rather than memorizing word by word as seen in the old teaching method.