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Helping Teachers Understand Challenging Behaviour through the Lens of Special Needs

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Helping Teachers Understand Challenging Behaviour through the Lens of SpecialMIC. Needs

Dr Patricia Daly, former Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive & Special Education (EPISE) at Mary Immaculate College (MIC), launched her new book, which aims to support mainstream teachers in understanding the strengths and needs of children with learning difficulties. ‘Small Changes Can Make Big Differences – Behaviour Management through the Lens of Special Education Needs’ examines the behaviour of children with additional needs and urges mainstream teachers to view this behaviour through the lens of a child’s diagnosis.

In the book, Dr Daly provides strategies for new and experienced mainstream teachers that focus on setting up classroom environments that support and encourage appropriate behaviour; consider the particular needs and strengths of children with learning difficulties; and recognise the mandate for class teachers to care for and educate all children. It further shows how these small changes can make truly big differences for children with additional needs as well as for their peers. Using case studies of children with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and down syndrome / general learning disability, from presentation to resolution, the book shows thirty examples of small changes to support behaviour management in constructive and sensitive ways.

Speaking at the launch of her book, which took place at MIC Limerick, Dr Patricia Daly said, “This book would never exist without the access teachers gave me to their classrooms and their practice. For over thirty years, I was privileged to visit hundreds of classrooms both here in Ireland and in the US where I sat and watched and listened to teachers teaching children with additional needs. Their varied and creative interventions that worked and sometimes failed to work showed me the primacy of mainstream teachers in facilitating meaningful inclusion one child at a time.”

For Patricia, the key to working well with children with additional needs in mainstream education is threefold. “First, the teacher must understand the interconnection between behaviour and commonly observed clusters of characteristics associated with particular special education diagnoses. Second, the teacher must start with the strengths and positive contributions of each child within the particular learning environment of the classroom and school. Finally, to provide the additional support needed for successful learning and inclusion in the mainstream classroom, the teacher should select and implement a range of specific strategies geared to the strengths and needs of the individual child.”

Dr Patricia Daly’s book is published by the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) at MIC and congratulating Patricia on her new book, Dr Eucharia McCarthy, Director of the CDU, said, “We are delighted to add this outstanding publication to the suite of CDU resources published to address inclusive education. A much-needed resource, this book is abundant with practical strategies and exemplars which teachers can use to support children with additional needs who exhibit challenging behaviours.”

Speaking at the launch of the book, Dr Johanna Fitzgerald, Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive and Special Education at MIC, said, “A lifetime of expertise, insight and experience has been poured into this book. Patsy’s creativity, imagination and extraordinary capacity to unpick the complexity of human behaviour permeates through the text and provides accessible, solution focused and practical guidance for teachers working with vulnerable children.”

A native of Mayfield in Cork City, Dr Patricia Daly’s professional interests have always focused on special education, behaviour management and effective classroom instruction. A past pupil of Scoil Mhuire Banríon and graduate of UCC, Patricia began her career as a post-primary teacher in Cork before moving to the US where she completed her MA in Special Education at Ohio State University. Having obtained a PhD in Applied Behaviour Analysis and Special Education from Ohio State University, she then returned to Ireland where she was appointed Director of Special Educational Needs at Mary Immaculate College in 2006. Dr Daly was later appointed Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive and Special Education at MIC until her retirement in 2019.

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