It is no different for children with special needs. For many of these students, involving many different kinds of learning—visual, tactile, audible, kinesthetic, and experiential—can improve the learning process.
A multi-sensory, multi-faceted approach to learning can be very effective for all students, but particularly those with special needs who process information differently neurologically as well as physically in some cases. The more multi-sensory a lesson can be, the better the integration of information and concepts.
Not only that, but students with learning disabilities or physical disabilities might have difficulty in one particular area, while they might excel in another. By varying the approaches to learning, there is greater opportunity for every student to learn and grow.
DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES FOR EVERY STUDENT
Each child’s brain is different, with different neurologic patterns, pathways, and function. This makes the way each person learns different as well.
It is important to understand the kind of learning that is easiest and quickest for your child.
Is your child a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic learner?
Do they learn best with hands-on, experiential learning experiences?
When you understand how your child learns best, you can ensure that this kind of learning is being regularly used in their classroom and also use these methods when they are studying or learning at home.
There are seven main categories of learners.
The following lists can help you determine what kind of learner your child is.
Keep in mind that people learn in many ways and aren’t confined to one type of learning.
This is why a varied approach in the classroom can be so impactful for students.
The Seven Learning Styles
Kinesthetic learners acquire knowledge best when using their body, moving, doing hands-on, experiential activities. They like to build things, role play, and create things as they learn.
It’s also important to note that though every child learns best in a different way, being exposed to many different types of learning helps the child exercise and work on learning in areas that may not be their preferred method. This experience broadens their ability to learn and helps them progress in acquiring new learning styles.
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA: AN ACCEL CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE
At ACCEL we have an incredible team of dedicated teachers who employ many different learning methods every day to help our students with special needs have opportunities to learn in the way that is best for them.
One recent classroom experience demonstrates the power that multi-faceted, multi-sensory, creative approaches to learning can have on students.
The extraordinary efforts and care of our teachers allow each of our students to have the best learning experience they can possible have.
As we describe this particular learning experience, it’s remarkable to note and observe the many different kinds of learning styles that were employed. Because of this, every child, no matter their particular learning style preference, was able to benefit from the experience and learn in a way that worked for them.
In this week-long classroom experience, the students were exploring a textured book from the school library entitled 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Each page of the book featured a different animal with textures added to them for the children to be able to touch and feel.
The teacher started the learning experience by creating a PowerPoint presentation.
In preparation for the unit, the teacher contacted the parents of the students in her class. She was able to get pictures of several students who had been to the ocean, visited a beach, or been on a boat.
The teacher then used these personal pictures in the presentation, to link the new knowledge they were now learning with the students’ own past experiences. Many studies have found that previous personal experience can help in the acquisition and assimilation of new information.
One of the activities early in the week included playing the song “Yellow Submarine” for the students while they danced and played instruments.
Every day, the class read the book. During the reading, each student was given several response cards with various sea creatures on them, so that they could take turns participating and responding kinesthetically as the auditory experience was happening.
For example, one page of the book would say “Another animal you can find is the sea turtle!” The students would look through the cards they had been given and the student with the sea turtle card would hold it up. After the sea turtle had been identified and matched with the picture in the book, the teacher asked questions about that animal and invited responses from the group.
After the class participated in reading the book each day, they created different creatures with craft supplies like paint, glue, and paper, that focused on that day’s specific vocabulary.
This engaged the physical and visual learners and as the days progressed, they gradually built an underwater diorama scene together with all of their creatures featured in the scene.
The students finished the activity by writing the key vocabulary words from the story and re-visiting the specific vocabulary word by connecting it with the creature they made that day. This was a valuable component of the exercise for the verbal learners.
Obviously, it is clear that the teacher employed many different methods of learning for her students during this learning experience. Every kind of learning was employed—visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary—but the learning didn’t stop there.
In addition to these classroom experience, the teacher also strategically placed the vocabulary words with pictures throughout the school halls for her students to find when they were outside the classroom as well.
The more exposure the students had to the vocabulary words and the pictures, the more knowledge integration occurred.
The teacher also arranged for a unique experiential learning opportunity for her students.
During the class’s aquatics time, the teacher brought submarines into the pool with a GoPro camera attached so the students could connect all of the learning in a water environment and see themselves in and under the water just like the sea creatures.
You can see two clips of this experience in the video below:
THE BEST LEARNING HAPPENS
WHEN NO ONE KNOWS THEY ARE LEARNING
One of the most important parts of learning that often gets overlooked is the importance of having fun. If the students are engaged and having fun while they are learning, there isn’t as much resistance to knowledge acquisition. It simply happens naturally.
This is especially true for students with special needs who are often more sensitive to the emotional cues of the people around them.
Educational therapist Erin Smilkstein said, “The emotional component of learning for a student with special needs is so important to address.
You’ll find you accomplish more when you set out acknowledging that education needs to be a good experience for the child.”
That means it’s not only important what we teach in a classroom but how we do it.
The emotional experience a child has in the classroom is just as important as the educational one and is critical to their engagement in the learning process. Boredom or stress immediately sap the energy out of a classroom and can be a detriment to student learning.
Likewise, only employing one or two learning methods makes it hard for students with special needs and unique learning styles to be successful in the classroom. It’s important for teachers to embrace creativity and fun in their lessons so that their students enjoy the experience of learning. When it’s done in this way, even though important educational milestones are being accomplished, learning feels more like play.
FINDING THE BEST LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR CHILD
The week-long learning experience that occurred in this classroom with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, is only one example among many that occur at ACCEL every day.
You will not find a more dedicated, creative, and loving team of teachers who put the needs of their students first. Our faculty and staff are always thinking of new ways to teach and help our students by incorporating every kind of learning-style into the classroom experience.
In our role of educating and helping students with special needs, including those students who have autism spectrum disorder or developmental disabilities, we place emphasis not only on the important learning objectives but on the emotional experience our students have in classroom.
We know that these objectives go hand-in-hand and our students have the best opportunity to learn and grow when we provide both vital components in their educational experience.
At ACCEL, we believe that every child wants to learn and has specific and unique capacities for different kinds of learning. We understand that it is our job to provide the right experiences so that can happen. And we have seen first-hand the incredible effectiveness of using multi-sensory, multi-faceted, hands-on, experiential, and creative teaching methods with our students with special needs.
As you consider the educational experience of your student, evaluate how effectively multiple learning styles are incorporated into their classroom. Are their needs being met? Is the way they learn best being used in different ways on a regular basis? Is their classroom experience positive and fun as well as effective?
Remember that when you choose an educational environment for your child with special needs, a multi-sensory, varied learning-style approach should be the norm and not the exception. How things are taught is just as important as what is taught.
At ACCEL we are proud to have the very best teachers that are committed to providing creative, multi-sensory learning methods for their students. They are teachers who care about how their particular students learn and are committed to creating the optimal learning environment for all of them.
If you have a student that could benefit from this type of teaching, we invite you to visit our website or one of our campuses to learn more about our philosophy, our schools, and our commitment to your student.
We will be happy to show you what we are doing to incorporate multiple learning styles to improve the lives and educational outcomes of all of our students with special needs. Contact us today to learn more.