Special Education – Helping Children with Special Needs to Succeed in School

-A quick Q&A with Dr. Ada, Ph.D. in clinical psychology-

Children with special needs face unique challenges in the classroom, and Special Education can be a powerful tool for helping them succeed.


How does special education work? 

Special Education is a specialized learning environment for children with specific needs. Special Education can be used to provide targeted instruction in specific areas, such as language development, academic skills, or social and emotional development.

Special Education programs may include one-on-one instruction, small groups, or intensive services in a special classroom.


What are some of the challenges children with special needs face in the classroom or day-to-day life?

There are many challenges children with special needs face, it could be difficulties with speech, language, and communication. It could also be mobility and coordination, or issues with academic skills like reading and math. Some students experience hardship making friends or need support with social skills in general. This could also extend to having a tough time regulating their emotions and behavior.



What are the main different types of learning differences a child may come to the classroom with?

Some of the most common learning difficulties are Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia or Speech and Language issues.


What are these learning differences? How do they affect learning for mathematics specifically? How can we best support learning?


Is a kind of learning difference that relates to difficulty with reading and writing.

It’s different from most forms of special needs because it’s not due to a cognitive or emotional problem (e.g., Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) – instead, it’s due to visual difficulties and problems with the brain’s processing of visual information (mixing some letters up).

Dyslexic students often have difficulty with basic math skills that involve remembering number patterns, because dyslexia affects their brain’s ability to remember certain visual information.

They also often have difficulty with higher-level math skills like algebra and statistics, because algebra involves a lot of reading and writing (and students with dyslexia often have additional difficulty with processing information, which makes it harder to complete math equations quickly).


It can be really helpful to provide students with differences such as dyslexia with extra support when it comes to understanding, memorizing, and writing math equations.

Some other forms of support that might be particularly helpful include:

  • Provide extra time to complete math exams or tests
  • breaking down math problems into smaller steps to help make them easier to complete
  • Use visual aids such as flashcards or visuals to help students remember and understand concepts involved in more advanced math (like formulas or statistics)

Another thing that we can do for dyslexic students is to provide them with extra assistance from experienced tutors or teachers who specifically have experience in working with dyslexic students.

This kind of one-on-one instruction and support can make a big difference for dyslexic students in both math and other academic subjects (such as language arts).




Is a kind of learning difficulty that makes certain aspects of coordination more difficult for the student.

This may affect both fine and gross motor skills, such as writing and moving around. Because of the difficulties in coordination associated with dyspraxia, students with this disability often need extra support in a variety of different academic settings.

One of the biggest things we can do to help a student with dyspraxia is to make sure that they are being given extra support at school.

Dyspraxia can affect almost all areas of a student’s academic life so they need to have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place that can address all of their specific needs.

This might include extra support in subjects like physical education (to address difficulties with coordination and physical skills), as well as extra help with academic skills like writing.


Is a special type of learning difference that specifically relates to math challenges.

It often makes it difficult for students to understand certain types of math, such as algebra and geometry (with math like these, certain rules must be remembered and applied when doing complex math equations).

Students with dyscalculia may also struggle with remembering important math facts that aren’t as visually oriented, such as multiplication tables or division procedures.




Stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – it’s specifically a type of Attention Deficit Disorder, which means that it relates to difficulties with things like paying attention, organizing tasks, and completing projects.

It’s often associated with things like restlessness, having trouble focusing, difficulty with starting things, and trouble completing a task once you’ve started.

Things like sensory overload are really common for students with ADHD, so they often really need to focus on learning to block out certain sights, sounds, and other sensory input.


It can be really important for students with ADHD to be able to find ways of keeping themselves calmer, such as listening to different types of music – and sometimes they might choose to wear sunglasses to help with things like light sensitivity.

A student with ADHD might struggle to keep attention during a math lesson, or they might lose track of where they are in the middle of a math equation.

They might also have some difficulty with staying organized enough to remember which steps to take to complete a math problem (especially if there are several steps involved), or they might miss some of the steps and do the math problem incorrectly.



Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a type of developmental disorder that is often associated with difficulties in social and emotional development.

In particular, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder often struggle to interpret emotions (both their own and others’), and they might have trouble forming close relationships.

They also often have specific types of behavior, such as repetitive behavior or routines.

In school, students with an autism spectrum disorder might have trouble adapting to the classroom environment.

In the past, it was defined as five or six different disorders on a specific spectrum.


Now, there are only two categories of autism spectrum disorders: autism spectrum disorder (formerly autism disorder) and autism spectrum disorder – high functioning (formerly Asperger’s Disorder).

Students with autism can often struggle with math skills that involve counting and number patterns, such as multiplication tables or basic addition.

They can also have problems with abstract thinking, which might make it difficult for them to understand more complex math which has no direct association with physical objects (like algebra).

One of the most important things we can do to help an autistic child in math is to understand how and why they are struggling with the math skills that they are learning.

It’s really important to work to understand the student’s individual needs and challenges because they can change between students.

A good way of doing this might be to create a visual aid that breaks down the different pieces of math that a student is struggling with. This could take the form of having a visual representation of a math problem, for example, or of having a picture that helps the student organize his or her thinking.


Is there any advice we can give to parents out there who are finding the journey challenging?

It’s important to remember that special needs are the children’s to deal with, and it’s the parent’s job to guide them in helping them to do that.

The important thing to remember is that children with special needs are just like any other child – they deserve your love, support, and encouragement as they grow and develop.

Thank you, Dr. Ada