Multiple Disabilities, My Story

Being a teacher of students with multiple disabilities means . . .

Hello fellow special educator!

The world of severe-profound, multi-needs teachers seems very small. You know who you are – you not only deal with behaviors, but also seizures, full-assistance bathrooming, g-tubes, TLSOs, standers and more. And you have a difficult, and INCREDIBLY rewarding job.

Proud Multi-Needs Teacher

My story to finding and landing my job in this niche of teaching is a story of many well lined-up stars (and some awesome teacher mentors!). BUT, one thing I have found is that there aren’t tons like us.

I am wanting to take this blog more seriously, and I figured what better way to start off the year than to explain why I do what I do (and what that even is exactly!)

Being a teacher of students with multiple disabilities means:

1. You will find yourself taking data on…well, everything!

We know as teachers we take a ton of academic data. And we are prepped and ready to take data on behavior. However, you will likely also find yourself taking data on seizures, toileting patterns (y’all – do it! you won’t regret it, and many parents find it beneficial to see this too!), and other needs as directed by your Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, and Speech Paths.

If you’re struggling to find a format that works for you, check out these seizure recording sheets and toileting data sheets for free!

2. You will become a pro at making appropriate materials

One thing you will quickly realize is that in order to make things appropriate and relatable for your students, you are going to have to switch it up a bit. If your student does not use a fork/knife to eat their lunch, then don’t use a fork/knife for their object schedule! Your students deserve materials that truly represent them (not to mention, they’ll learn better than way too!)

Many objects for these can be found at Walgreens or local pharmacies (for example, the syringes used for medicine), but pro tip: make friends with your parents and nurses, explain what you are looking for, and they will probably go above and beyond for you and their students, too!

3. You will become more and more familiar with visual impairments.

Being a teacher in this population often means being a little wanna-be OT/PT/TVI/SLP haha!

I didn’t learn much about visual impairments in my teacher training, but my awesome TVI (Teacher for the Visually Impaired) has been an amazing resource. I have been learning more and more about Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), and this has been really beneficial to my teaching. These strategies have not only impacted how I approach students with CVI but also how I approach other students with similar needs!

I was also lucky enough to attend a training by the one and only Christine Roman-Lantzy (a.k.a. CVI guru!)

Most posts coming soon, but check out some materials for students with CVI by clicking here.

4. You will become conscious and attentive to modes of communication you might never have even known existed!

Guys. This is my favorite part. THIS IS IT. I would scream this from the rooftops if I could. THIS IS WHAT WE DO. I still remember talking about this at an interview and feeling overcome with goosebumps. .. and if you follow me on Instagram, you probably already get the hint 🙂 {Check some out some of my embedded posts below}

We are tasked with helping students FIND THEIR VOICE. We are entrusted to help shape their communication. Seriously – what is more important than this!??!?! You will learn that sometimes communication comes from the most nuanced of modes: the flicker of a finger, a blink, a click of the tongue. You will become so aware of every movement, and you will learn to shape it with the student and the team.

5. You will learn to be gentle on yourself, your students, and your lesson plans.

This is the hardest part for me, and to be honest, I am still struggling with it. I am so Type A and I write these detailed lesson plans, aligned to standards, IEP goals, curriculum, and get frustrated with myself when I don’t get to them.

There are days where most (or all) of my students are sick or unable to access learning due to various medical needs. I had a great conversation with my Physical Therapist the other day and was reminded, “You need to take care of the Maslow before you can focus the on the Bloom ” AND THAT IS OKAY. In fact, that is more than okay, that is THE DEFINITION OF YOUR JOB. If a child’s basic needs aren’t met (Maslow), we must meet those first. Then, we can jump back into the educational learning objectives, standards, etc (Blooms). Give yourself grace. Give your lesson plans flexibility. Give your students love.

BONUS: You will find yourself becoming an advocate (and maybe a mini-accessibilty police)

I just started watching Speechless on ABC and I cried laughing when I met Maya DiMeo (shown below). Especially when we go on trips in the community, I definitely find myself channeling my inner Maya 🙂