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  • Writer's pictureKerry Tidman

Embracing adaptability: Lessons from a special needs classroom.


In the ever-evolving journey of teaching, counselling and coaching children with special educational needs, every day brings its own set of revelations. Recently, an experience in a SEN (Special Education Needs) class reminded me of the profound importance of adaptability and the unique ways in which children, particularly those on the autism spectrum or with ADHD, perceive and interact with the world.

The Brain Break Incident

After a morning of diligent work, I decided to give my students a much-needed brain break. Understanding that their brains often work doubly hard to process information, leading to easy distractions and potential overwhelm, I wanted to provide them with a moment of respite. I told them they could engage in any relaxing activity of their choice - be it colouring, drawing, or moving around.

One student, diagnosed with autism, chose to use his mobile phone. When I reminded him of the school's policy against mobile phones, his response struck a chord in me. He said, "But miss, you said we could do anything." In that moment, I realized the importance of my words and how they are interpreted differently by each child.

A mobile phone on white background
Mobile phone

A Moment of Reflection

I apologized to him, recognizing his perspective and how he took my words literally - a common characteristic in autistic thinking. This exchange was a gentle reminder of the need to tailor my communication to the unique ways these wonderful children perceive and process information.

Personal Connection

As a mother of a son with autism and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), I've had countless conversations about how he experiences the world. He's shared with me his need for time to process information and his discomfort with spontaneous changes due to his reliance on routine. Understanding this, we've adapted to planning things well in advance, which has significantly improved our interactions.

Learning and Growing Together

As a coach, counsellor, and parent, I don't always get it right. But the beauty lies in learning from these young, resilient individuals. Listening to them and adapting to meet their needs ensures that they feel heard, included, and supported.

Closing Thoughts

The incident with my student has lingered in my mind, prompting me to share this experience. It's a testament to the incredible resilience and uniqueness of these young people, and a reminder that we, as adults, can learn so much from them. In adapting our approaches and understanding their perspectives, we not only aid their growth but also enrich our own understanding of the diverse spectrum of human experience.

Let us continue to learn from these amazing individuals, celebrating their strengths and supporting them in their challenges. Together, we can build a world that's more understanding, more inclusive, and more adaptable to the needs of all its wonderful inhabitants.

I offer coaching and mentoring for teachers, support staff and parents. Please get in touch to book a free online coffee and chat.

Kerry x

A woman with blonde hair looking to the right
Kerry Tidman, Coach, Mentor and Counsellor

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