Each and every staff member at your center plays a vital role in the well-being and success of every child at your center. This is why it is incredibly important to have a well prepared and properly trained staff especially if you have children with special needs in your program. Directors, administrators and other leadership or supervisory staff should make it a priority to have staff training and preparation needs met especially when it comes to children or families with special needs.
Staff members enter the field with diverse backgrounds and abilities themselves. Often this assists their work with children but it can also unknowingly hinder it. Biases, assumptions, previous experiences and unjust pity can often cause a great teacher to be very unhelpful. It is important to build upon strengths and abilities of your staff and continue to provide them with resources to do so.
Professional development is one of the easiest options to assist staff members in their preparation and continued education regarding working with children and families with special needs.
There are numerous options for professional development that may or may not include the following quality criteria:
Measurable objectives. Will the learner expand their knowledge in a real way that can be measured? Think of verbs such as create, explain, analyze, etc. and not objectives that include understand, knowledge, or know-how.
Resources and tools. Does the learner get connected with resources and tools? These may be articles, checklists, or handbooks.
Is it useful? Does the training provide applicable and reasonable methods that the learner can apply immediately in their program?
Are the concepts current? Educational concepts are always evolving. If the information within the training is more than ten years old it may not be current and very helpful.
In addition to finding quality professional development training it is important to have a system of support and resources for staff when formal education is not available. Even if a staff member can read a book, article, or watch a video from a reliable and credible source they will benefit. Having a list of resources to point them toward will help tremendously! Perhaps there is a doctor or teacher who has written several books that have helped other staff members. This is a wonderful resource to share!
Another place to look for preparing staff members through training and resources is in the wealth of knowledge that you and your staff already have! Perhaps a veteran teacher has had years of experience working with children on the Autism Spectrum. There may be an opportunity to share that knowledge with other staff members. Did a teacher complete college courses on differentiating instruction? Suggest that she mentor new staff. Build upon your staff’s strengths and see what everyone can learn from it!
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