In recent years, the needs of children in mainstream schools have changed, with roughly 15% of students having Special Educational Needs (SEN). Children with SEN face several challenges within the classroom and can sometimes struggle to reach their full potential. With staff shortages and a demanding curriculum, it’s more difficult than ever for teachers to support their whole class.


Inclusive education is an important principle that emphasises equal opportunities for all students regardless of their background or special needs. Teachers play a crucial role in creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment where every student can thrive.


Here are some ideas and teaching strategies teachers can easily integrate in the classroom to support students with SEN. 

Understanding Your Pupils’ Unique Needs


Every student is unique, and understanding their individual strengths, challenges, learning styles, and preferences allows teachers to tailor instruction to meet their specific needs.


By knowing their students well, teachers can select appropriate instructional strategies, materials, and interventions to facilitate learning and maximise student success. To learn about a child’s unique needs, teachers should collaborate with special education professionals, review Individualised Education Programs (IEPs), and communicate with parents or caregivers.


When teachers take the time to understand their students’ backgrounds, interests, strengths, and challenges, they can also establish rapport, trust, and mutual respect. Strong teacher-student relationships foster a sense of belonging and security, which is particularly important for students with SEN who may require additional emotional support and encouragement.

Differentiation and Personalised Instruction


Differentiated instruction is a key strategy for meeting the diverse needs of students with SEN. Students with SEN have varying abilities, learning styles, and strengths. Some may require additional support to grasp concepts, while others may excel in certain areas. Teachers can adapt their teaching methods and materials to meet the individual needs of each student. This may involve providing alternative formats for presenting information, such as visual aids, manipulatives, or assistive technologies. This ensures that all students, regardless of their abilities or challenges, have access to meaningful learning opportunities.


When students feel that their learning experiences are tailored to their needs and interests, they are more likely to be motivated, actively participate in lessons, and take ownership of their learning. This is especially important for students with SEN, who may have struggled with traditional teaching approaches and benefit from personalised instruction that resonates with their interests and abilities.


Learn more about differentiation in the classroom

Scaffolded Support and Gradual Release of Responsibility


Students with SEN often struggle with tasks that are too complex or overwhelming. Scaffolded support involves breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Teachers can provide clear instructions, modelling, and guidance to help students understand each step of the process. By breaking tasks into smaller components, students with SEN can build confidence and mastery gradually, without feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the task.


The gradual release of responsibility involves shifting the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student over time. Initially, teachers provide extensive support and guidance, but gradually, they release control and encourage students to take ownership of their learning. For students with SEN, this gradual release of responsibility allows them to develop independence, self-confidence, and problem-solving skills at their own pace. By gradually reducing support and increasing expectations, teachers empower students with SEN to become more self-reliant learners.

Working Effectively with Teaching Assistants


Teaching Assistants provide invaluable support in implementing individualised education plans (IEPs) and accommodating the diverse needs of students with SEN in the classroom. By collaborating closely with teaching assistants, teachers can ensure that instructional strategies are effectively implemented, interventions are tailored to meet individual needs, and students receive the necessary support to succeed academically and socially.


Teaching Assistants can offer valuable insights and observations about students’ progress, behaviours, and learning preferences, which can inform instructional planning and decision-making. By communicating openly and sharing information with teaching assistants, teachers can gain a deeper understanding of students’ strengths, challenges, and areas for growth, allowing for more targeted and responsive support.

Use of Multi-Sensory Approaches


Students with SEN, including those with ADHDDyslexia or Autism, often have diverse learning styles and preferences. Some students may learn best through visual stimuli, while others may respond better to auditory or tactile experiences. Multi-sensory approaches incorporate a variety of sensory modalities, such as sight, sound, touch, and movement, to engage students in learning. By appealing to multiple senses, teachers can accommodate different learning styles and provide opportunities for all students to access and process information effectively.


The following are different kinds of sensory learning that can be incorporated into teaching: 

  • Visual – learning through watching and seeing
  • Auditory – learning through listening and hearing sounds
  • Kinaesthetic – learning through physical activity or body movement
  • Tactile – learning through using the sense to touch
  • Olfactory – learning through smell and taste


For example, tactile materials and visual aids can be used to provide additional support for students who struggle with abstract concepts or language-based tasks. 


Click here to learn more about the use of multi-sensory approaches in SEN education.

Promote Emotional Well-being


Students with SEN may face various challenges, including learning difficulties, social interactions, and emotional regulation. As a teacher, promoting emotional well-being involves creating a safe and supportive classroom environment where students feel valued and accepted.


Teachers can implement proactive strategies, such as establishing clear expectations, providing consistent routines and structures, and reinforcing positive behaviour through praise and rewards. When students feel emotionally secure, they are more likely to engage in learning, take risks, and explore new ideas without fear of judgment or rejection.


Students with SEN may experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety, or frustration due to academic challenges, social pressures, or personal struggles. As a teacher, promoting emotional well-being also involves teaching students coping strategies and self-regulation techniques to manage their emotions effectively. This may include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, positive self-talk, or problem-solving skills. By equipping students with these tools, teachers empower them to navigate difficult situations and build resilience in the face of adversity.

Communicating with Colleagues and Parents


Knowledge sharing and keeping open lines of communication can help teachers support children with SEN and respond to any unexpected changes. Teachers must communicate with support staff, SENCos and other professionals in order to support students with SEN. Regular team meetings and shared decision-making processes can ensure that everyone is involved in meeting the individual needs of each student.


Prior to working with a child, you should seek information from previous teachers and teaching assistants, both to learn what has been effective and to ensure continuity of approach. For some children, including those with autism or anxiety, this continuity is very important, particularly at times of transition. Your Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) should provide you with information regarding the child’s needs and agreed outcomes.


Effective communication and collaboration with parents and caregivers is also essential for ensuring continuity of support and promoting family engagement in the child’s education. By keeping parents informed and empowered to advocate for their child’s needs, educators can foster strong partnerships that support the child’s academic and developmental progress both in and out of school.

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ to support students with SEN, there are several techniques teachers can implement. Supporting students with special educational needs requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses understanding individual needs, differentiation, scaffolded support, multi-sensory instruction, promotion of positive behaviour, promoting emotional well-being, and collaboration.


By implementing these strategies in the classroom, teachers can create inclusive learning environments where all students feel valued, supported, and empowered to reach their full potential. 


Are you looking for a role as an SEN teacher or teaching assistant? Get in touch with your local branch today or click the button below to view our latest roles.


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