Parents Guide for Shadow Teacher
When sending your children off to school, we expect them to develop and acquire academic and social skills and independence. Teachers help them to attain these skills and to have a better understanding of their world. They also teach them to understand social interaction, caring, sharing, and playing skills. Nevertheless, children have different paces of learning, with some requiring extra support to catch up with others: This is where a “shadow teacher” service is required. In this article, we provide information that will help you understand the concept of a ‘shadow teacher.’
WHO IS A SHADOW TEACHER?
A shadow teacher, also known as a learning support assistant, is Para-educator or co-teacher who offers academic help to a single child with special needs in an inclusive classroom. Shadow teaching occurs during the early years of learning since it is the best time for an intervention. A shadow teacher is employed by the family when they feel that their child requires extra support due to their unique needs. The support may include academic, social, communication, or behavioral needs. A shadow teacher is only employed when your special needs child attends a regular class. This arrangement, therefore, allows your child to participate in a mainstream classroom while still receiving specialized attention and support.
WHO DECIDES THAT YOUR CHILD NEEDS A SHADOW TEACHER?
A multi-disciplinary team is involved in deciding whether your child requires a shadow teacher or not. The team may include special needs teachers, parents, school psychologists, regular teachers, and counselors. In addition, if the child is under IEP, the school staff or parents can request an IEP review to discuss additional needs and accommodations.
WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF A SHADOW TEACHER?
One of the most significant roles of a shadow teacher is to help your child interact with others successfully and achieve their academic goals. They accomplish this by sitting with the child regularly and offering them social, physical, and educational support. Their main goal is not to make the child dependent; instead, it ensures that your child eventually becomes part of mainstream learning and can function with little or no support in a standard classroom setup. This form of learning support is essential since teachers in a mainstream classroom focus on many students simultaneously.
Another role of a shadow teacher is to assist your child in remaining focused, fully participating in class, and effectively functioning in an environment with many distractions. Mainstream teachers may find it challenging to teach the whole class and simultaneously support students with special needs. It becomes more complicated when your child has autism or ADHD since these conditions are characterized by social interactions, communication, and focusing challenges. The child requires individualized attention and guidance from a shadow teacher to function and succeed in a regular class.
A shadow Teacher further helps fill any existing learning gaps, which translates to better academic performances and confidence in your child. They work closely with other teachers to determine where your child is academically and how they can catch up with their peers. They further build your child’s confidence and promote positive interaction by teaching them social and communication skills. Building your child’s social and communication skills makes it easy for them to communicate, ask for help from regular teachers, and socialize with peers. A shadow teacher also advocates for special needs students by ensuring that employees and school officials include them in all class activities.
Not only does a shadow teacher offer your child academic and social support, but they also offer them Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Skills. They help them to overcome fear and shame whenever they cannot catch up with other students. A shadow teacher also assists your child in preparing and organizing for class and always being a committed and responsible student. They further communicate with the regular teachers when a child needs more clarity on a subject. A shadow teacher also has a role in assisting your child in developing a positive approach and self-control when beginning a new task. They enhance your child’s ability to ask questions and seek clarification on different subjects by teaching them good communication skills. Importantly, shadow teachers and assist your child in outdoor activities and interaction with the outside world.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A SHADOW TEACHER?
Inclusive Classroom Learning: An inclusive learning setup is suitable for your child because they get to interact and socialize with other children, unlike in a special needs class. Your child also accesses both general education through mainstream teachers and special education through the shadow teacher. As such, they benefit from general education and continue to get special needs support. Research shows that special needs students in inclusive classes enjoy long-term and short-term learning benefits, including better math and reading skills. They also become more tolerant and comfortable with their differences.
Early Intervention: Shadow teaching is most beneficial to children between the age of three years and eight years. This is because, at this age, intervention is easy, and it is also easy to note any developmental and behavioral disorders. Early interventions through shadow teaching can improve your child’s developmental trajectories and strengthen their language, social, emotional, and cognitive development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early intervention is most effective when it is provided earlier rather than later in life. Early intervention improves the chances of special needs children achieving their best potential.
One-on-One Attention: Offering one-on-one attention is essential when teaching children with special needs. Individual attention and care play a significant role in the education of children with special needs. While there are many benefits associated with special needs kids learning in inclusive classrooms, they can miss out on most of them if they lack individual attention. A shadow teacher analyzes your child’s disability before setting the best learning methods. Failure to enact individualistic learning when dealing with children with disabilities can hinder them from engaging in school activities, and it can be hard to understand their needs. One-on-one learning helps to identify their needs, hence find the best solution.
Behavioural Needs: Shadow teachers are critical when dealing with children that have behavioral problems. They are, for instance, essential for children with ADHD and autism, regardless of their class size. This is because they help children with behavioral issues blend with their peers easily and develop better communication skills. With a shadow teacher, your special needs child will no longer need to be put in a resource room or isolation since they learn to interact with their peers in a regular classroom.
HOW CAN A SHADOW TEACHER ASSIST YOUR CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS TO COPE WITH MAINSTREAM SCHOOLING BETTER?
Most parents struggle with thinking about which school is best for their children’s unique needs. Parents with autism are most concerned with this issue due to their children’s social interaction and communication challenges. They don’t realize that there is no perfect school for a child with special needs. But, on a positive note, you can create an ideal school for your special child by getting to a school that allows in a shadow teacher. The shadow teacher will help your child to access the curriculum efficiently and overcome daily life challenges.
A shadow teacher improves your child’s coping strategy by patiently helping them learn and relearn class content. They also make coping quickly by accompanying your child to other therapists for further review or help. A shadow teacher may also visit at home during holidays or when you want them to engage in homeschooling, where they teach them more learning skills and strategies. They also help children make fast progress in class and public life by offering them the necessary information before making a significant class or life decision.
NOTE: A shadow teacher should not over-explain or over-support your child; instead, they should empower them to be in charge of their learning. Too much support can cause your child to be dependent on them.
Qualities of a good shadow teacher
- A good shadow teacher is compassionate and passionate
- He is teachable and collaborates appropriately with the other teachers
- Have a background in child development knowledge
- He is committed
- He Understands your child’s educational and developmental needs
- He is child-friendly and helps your child to make friends.
- Facilitates a good relationship between teachers and your child.
- Reduces negative behaviors of your child while improving their independence.
Integrating children with special needs in a mainstream classroom is a vital move that should be made a priority. Integration is said to be successful when special needs children can engage in all or almost all school activities. A shadow teacher provides more help to your child by making it possible for them to attend and benefit from a regular classroom.