I've had many special needs kids in regular classes, sometimes with an aide, and sometimes just dropped into the class. Most of them have been variously developmentally delayed, or ADD and ADHD, but also several autistic students, my dyspraxic student Miss E (who still reigns as my all-time favorite student), Downs students, developmentally delayed, and cerebral palsy. They've all been in the regular classes, however. This new venture is an all-special needs program.
Currently the class is something of a free-for-all. There is no structure; not necessarily a bad thing. The kids are having a lot of fun, but I think they're being sold a little short. There are only three who I think would really not be able to get anything out of a mainstream class. Being in this environment, however, is somewhat antithetical to structured learning.
The thing with special needs kids is, well, they're kids. They're individuals, and you need to reach every individual on his or her own terms. Some of the participants have really high barriers to really learning skating skills, starting with simply understanding that there's more to skating than gliding around.
But many many more of them are perfectly well capable of learning intermediate and advanced skills, with some extra understanding and outreach. And you reach them the way you reach any kid.
I'm a big proponent of "just skating." It's the best way to bridge the gap from new to structured learning. With these kids, though, just skating is too much of a metaphor for what their lives might be--going around in circles and never getting anywhere.
All of the participants in this class get a personal aid in the form of a youth volunteer. These girls (and one boy) are pretty gifted at this, and they're doing something challenging and even scary with a lot of compassion and joy. But they're focused on undirected playing. It's something to talk to the program designers about--what is the mission of this class? Is it essentially a safe public skate for these kids, or are they supposed to be learning skills, or is it a combination? It would be interesting to have a lesson plan for each child.
Singing songs, imitation, challenges. Just as these work with mainstream kids, they can work and sometimes work even better with these kids.
Mainstream with aide
Many of the children in this class could thrive in mainstream classes, especially with an aide, which most municipalities will now provide for the asking if your child has a special needs diagnosis. And I think for many of these kids, the structure would be helpful.
Mainstream on your own
For the specific individuals in these classes, mainstreaming without an aide would be problematic. But several of them could get there, if they were learning, not just to have fun on the ice, but to take instruction, and to get joy from learning more advanced skills.
Do you know any special needs skaters? What method helped them?