Know-How of Shadow Teaching

Know-How of Shadow Teaching

“Shadow Teacher” is a term that is widely used in the special needs community. However, most people do not really understand what is the role of a Shadow teacher and how he/she can help a child with special needs – which this article should help answer.

A shadow teacher is a personal teacher to a child with special needs in a school step up, aiming to make the child independent. It is recommended to have a Shadow Teacher in an inclusive set-up, wherein the child with special needs is a part of a regular classroom. When the class teacher is addressing the complete class, the shadow teacher ensures the same message is conveyed to the special child and that the message is understood.

Paying individual attention to one child assures an overall development of the child. Making the child independent in a school set-up also needs to be well planned. The Shadow Teacher, not only works with the child with special needs, but also with other children in the class and the Teachers CE, with an understanding that the child has to be integrated with them providing the basic comfort and aid for him to adjust.

Who needs a Shadow Teacher?

Certain disorders tend to benefit the maximum from a Shadow Teacher, but again, that does not mean that all children with that disorder will need a shadow teacher. Any child facing difficulties in a school set-up due to the child’s behavioural, academic, physical or social concerns, may need a Shadow Teacher. Having a clarity about the diagnosis or concerns would always help the Shadow Teacher to understand the child better and accordingly plan the intervention.

When we say that a Shadow Teacher addresses behaviour needs, do we mean Behaviour modification?

The answer to which is Yes! The techniques used in shadow teaching are to bring in long-term change in behaviour. Behaviour therapy with ABA approach has shown great results in systematic behaviour management at school. A good Shadow teacher will spend time in observation and understanding a pattern of behaviour before planning strategies to modify them.  It’s important to know that there is no one therapeutic technique for Shadow Teaching; it’s always the holistic approach that helps in achieving the best outcome.

The focus of the Shadow teacher is independent behavior management in a school set-up.

Which are the other areas in which shadow teacher help?

The next domain wherein the Shadow Teacher helps is Academics. The remedial approach is where a Shadow Teacher aids the child in understanding or finishing the classwork. The shadow teacher goes a step ahead by understanding the child’s modality of learning and by using different methods to help the child with special needs understand the concept.

Encouraging and motivating the child by using different reinforcers along with an aim to develop academic interest, are the priorities for a shadow teacher. Understanding the limitations of classroom set-up, one on one special education is not a possibility with the shadow teacher. However, she helps in bridging the gap. Assistance is provided during assessments as well, in terms of helping the child focus, stay motivated, organised and enhance recall.  

What about social skills training?

This may not be the need of every child. A Shadow Teacher should identify the child’s concept, capacity, need and willingness for social interaction. Being a part of group activities, participating in co-curricular activities and/or building a bond with friends and teachers is a challenge for few children with Special needs, more so with children on the Autism spectrum. Once these are identified, then comes in the strategic planning to bring in the appropriate change in social interaction. Social communication skills play an important role because the child eventually has to adjust and interact with other classmates without assistance from an adult.

Until which grade does a child need a shadow teacher?

Depending upon the functional level of the child, does a shadow teacher charts out the plan of independence. Working with special needs children requires teachers to walk a fine line between giving too much and too little attention. Each domain needs to reviewed by shadow teacher, parent as well as school authorities, including the homeroom teacher before the weaning off process starts and decide the pace of it for the child. The process of Shadow Teacher weaning out is also systematic and gradual. It is ideal to train the teachers and other support staff regarding the do’s and don’ts while managing the child in the absence of Shadow. Planning and establishing a buddy system is also a very important part of weaning off procedure.

To summarise I would like to say, that Shadow Teaching on face value seems to be a very easy task, but however, requires specific skills and dedication. It also plays a very important role in shaping the early school experience of a child with special needs. At Little Pods Shadow Teachers are not only qualified but also trained to make that difference in a child’s life.   

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