What Kids With Special Needs Want To Tell Us And How We Can Help

“It’s just our brains are kinda different, so here’s what we’d like you to know about us…”

Some school children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) helped to put a video together to explain a little about themselves, suggesting some ways to understand them better and offering some ways to help them to learn and to be better included*.  These are children that we can all learn from; whether we are children’s/youth workers, parents, professionals, there is something here for us all.  A link to the video is at the end of this blog post.

Understand me:  “I have to move, or I really can’t pay attention.”
Help me:  “Let me get up and move while I’m learning.”

Understand me:  “ I actually listen better when I’m rocking in my chair.”
Help me:  “Let me rock, or slouch in my chair.”

Understand me:  “If you tell me to sit up straight, now I have to use all of my brain to do just that.”
Help me:  “Just ask me, what does your brain need right now?”

Tips:  Understand that the need to move may be an overwhelming sensory need driven by under or over developed vestibular or proprioceptive senses.  They can’t ‘sit still’ but might benefit from an ‘activity break’.  See this blog post for more details and ways to support children/young people and their senses:  https://theadditionalneedsblogfather.com/2019/07/25/making-sense-of-three-of-our-mystery-senses/

Tools:  Provide a wobble cushion, balance board, or exercise ball etc. for a young person who needs to move.

Understand me:  “Even though I’m not looking at you, I can still listen to what you are saying.”
Help me:  “Let me look wherever I want to when you talk to me.”

Tips:  For some young people eye contact is very difficult and uncomfortable, so don’t try to force a young person to look at you when you are talking to them.  Use images, symbols, visual timetables etc. to support what you are saying, they might find this helpful.

James_ Visual Timetable
Tools:  You can find examples of visual timetables and other visual tools here (in the ‘Resources’ folder): 

Giving instructions and appropriate work
Understand me:  “When you give me a bunch of directions, I start to think ‘I will never remember all of this!’”
Help me:  “Make directions very short.”

Understand me:  “Sometimes my Mum or Dad end up doing all of my homework.”
Help me:  “Give me homework I can do all by myself.”

Understand me:  “It makes me feel sad when you tell me to try harder even though I already tried as hard as I can…”
Help me:  “No matter what, don’t take away my breaks.”

Tips:  Make instructions ‘bite sized’ and support them with images, symbols etc.  Use social stories to get complex ideas across more easily.  Provide a one-to-one helper or buddy to give support.
Rewards work better than penalties; use positive rules (“I can…”) rather than negative ones (“I must not…”).

Bite sized learning
Tools:  You can find out more about social stories here (scroll to the bottom of the page):
and positive rules here (again, scroll to the bottom):

There is one more tip that these awesome kids want to share with us, and it is so important that we all understand it…

Instructions 2
“And one more thing, our brains might be different than yours, but they’re still amazing…”

If you would like to watch the two-minute video of these kids sharing their experiences and ways to help, you can view it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAqOW5bzCkg

Every day is a school day!



Video and b/w images © Brain Highways (see paragraph below).
Publishing this content is not an endorsement of all of the tools and therapies offered by Brain Highways.

* Kids with a formal diagnosis, such as autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, learning disabilities, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Central Auditory Processing Disorder — along those who just need to move while learning — often find it challenging to shine in a traditional classroom.  The kids who collaborated to write and star in this “Dear Teacher” video represent such students.  So, they wanted to share with educators how their brain works and offer simple ways teachers can help.

See also:

Making Sense Of Three Of Our Mystery Senses

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder

For a downloadable PDF of the content of all three blogs on our senses, please follow this link: A Guide To Making Sense Of Our Eight Senses – FINAL v3

3 thoughts on “What Kids With Special Needs Want To Tell Us And How We Can Help

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