How to Engage and Educate Special Needs Students

Engaged students typically get higher grades and get more out of their education. An engaged student is a student who is more likely to learn and retain information. However, when it comes to teaching special needs students, engagement is even more important. Without engagement, they may have a hard time staying on task and getting work done. But how do you engage a student who may have trouble paying attention or focusing on the task at hand? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Visual Aids

One of the best ways to engage special needs students is to use visual aids. This could be anything from charts and graphs to pictures and videos. For students who are visual learners, seeing information presented in a way that is easy for them to understand can make all the difference. Additionally, using visual aids can help break up the monotony of a traditional lecture-style lesson and keep students engaged.

Instead of creating a slide show that has black text packed with information on each slide, it’s important to create engaging visual aids. For example, you can use images to illustrate a point or to emphasize an important part of the information. This could be an image of famous artwork if you’re talking about history from a certain time period. It could also be something like a diagram of a tree when talking about the characteristics of different trees. Not all visuals need to be on a digital screen. In fact, bringing in actual objects for the students to look at can also engage the kid’s minds when it comes to depth and connecting reality to the subject. 

Kinesthetic Activities 

Another great way to engage special needs students is to incorporate kinesthetic activities into your lesson plans. Kinesthetic activities are ones that get students up and moving around, such as playing games, doing puzzles, or participating in other hands-on activities. For students who have trouble sitting still or paying attention for long periods of time, these activities can be a lifesaver. Not only will they help keep students engaged, but they will also help them burn off some excess energy.

Sometimes students can get more out of a subject if they have to create something to represent what they learned. For example, if you’re talking about geography, you can have the students create a 3D model of the location using playdough and paint. You could help the kids create bridge diagrams when talking about engineering, shapes, or even history. By helping the kids create something with their hands or by playing a game, the students are more likely to stay engaged for your lesson.


Technology can be a great tool for engaging special needs students. There are now countless apps and websites that are designed specifically for special needs learners. Incorporating technology into your lesson plans can help you reach students who might otherwise have trouble with more traditional methods of instruction.

This could be an interactive educational video that has the kids pay attention to different aspects of the video and then answer questions. There are also apps that have kids review a scene and are provided a story before they are asked to find different objects similar to an eye-spy kind of activity. Not only does this type of technology great for the classroom, but it can also help kids learn how to use these resources so they can engage with them outside of the classroom as well.

Online Resources

When it comes to engaging special needs students, online resources can be a great option. There are now many companies that have created online resources designed specifically for special needs learners. Not all of the online resources are ideal for direct consumption of students. For example, many resources are for the teachers so they can learn how to better educate students with special needs.

Incorporating technology into your lesson plans can help you reach students who might otherwise have trouble with more traditional methods of instruction. An online special education program can provide you with additional tools and step-by-step recommendations to help provide a higher level of engagement.

In addition, many of these resources have recommended activities and visual aids that go along with the lessons. That way you don’t have to come up with everything on your own. You can draw from other people’s experience. Not to mention skip the trial and error side of teaching by learning from other teachers what seems to work and what doesn’t.

Engaging special needs students can be a challenge, but it is well worth the effort. When students are engaged in their learning, they are more likely to retain information and make progress. In addition, engaged students are typically happier with your lessons and easier to work with than students who are bored. That being said, not every student will respond the same way. Some students will respond better to visual aids while other students will respond to better to kinesthetic activities. This means that you are likely to always have one student less engaged than another student and that is ok. The goal is to engage as many students as possible and as often as possible so that you can keep the attention of as many students as possible. Try incorporating some of the strategies above into your lesson plans and see how your students respond. You may need help from aids or parents if your student continues to give you problems but that is ok.