How to teach a child with a developmental disability
Henry was excited about having spaghetti for dinner. He brought his bowl of noodles and sauce to the table just as his father removed the garlic bread from the oven and brought the pan of hot, pungent baked deliciousness to the table, placing a piece on each plate next to the bowls of sauce-laden pasta.
"Biscuits!" exclaimed Henry, his eyes wide with excitement.
"Texas toast," said his home school teacher, their dinner guest that night. Henry's dad went back to the kitchen to help his mom bring in the salad and drinks.
"How is Texas toast different from regular toast?" the teacher asked.
"Size?" asked Henry tentatively.
"What about the size is different?'
"I don't know," Henry said, hunching his shoulders up and biting off a chunk of the bread.
"Think about the size of regular piece of bread and what size it is, then look at your bread. How is it different?"
"I don't know," Henry shoveling a mouthful of noodles and meat sauce in his mouth and shrugging his shoulders again.
"If you put a regular piece of toast next to your Texas toast and compared them, how would you say the Texas was different than the regular toast?"
"It's bigger?" asked Henry with slightly less tentativeness.
"Exactly!" his teacher said smiling. "Youre exactly right, Henry! Know why they call it Texas toast?" Henry shook his head.
"Because everything's bigger in Texas!" Henry's parents said as they brought in the rest of dinner.
All four laughed and started talking about things that are bigger in Texas: the land, the horns on Longhorns, cowboy hats, cowboy boots, ranches, and rattlesnakes.
The above conversation between Henry and his teacher is an exercise in teaching critical thinking skills. Asking open-ended questions that require the answerer to think encourages the development of critical thinking.
Often there is not a single answer to a question. However, even when there's only one answer, using the inquiry method makes the child think through the problem to figure out the answer.
Answers that are carefully thought out are more likely to be remembered. This is how learning takes place.
NOTE: The above conversation took place tonight between my 12-year old neighbor and me. He is in a special education class at a neighborhood school. He loves science and math, makes As in music, art, and gym and has trouble with reading, language arts and social studies. He's the coolest kid I know. 4/10/2012