Awesome! I'll be interested to hear more about your special needs group. What are you doing with them, and is it any different in approach from the other groups, or just at a different pace?
I'm looking forward to hearing about it from Ethan tonight. I probably would have started with animal-O, but we'll see what he did.
We worked with a special needs class of 6-8 junior high age kids on World Orienteering Day at Putnam Avenue Upper School. They went out with their aide, and in some cases another student. It was a regular school ground course. Sometimes one of us also went along with them. We didn't adapt the activity at all, just took the instructions at a different pace, which was easier because there were fewer kids than the other classes. Of course every child in these classes is very different, with very different abilities.
We have also worked with special needs kids who are part of regular classes. Generally there is an aide with them, but not always. In the Peabody after school, I had a kid who was on the Aspergers spectrum, and he was really into maps, so it was fun to work with him. There were challenges having him be part of the group activity, and sometimes with attention, but he really really enjoyed the class and it was fun to talk with him about maps in general.
In the CSUS elective a couple years ago, "Charty" was the nickname for a kid who was also on the Aspergers spectrum I believe. I think his nickname may have been "Charty" because he liked charts and maps. Anyway, we didn't do much different for him.
From the written reflections (see link from my post from Friday), it sounds like the class went really well. I was struck by the comments from our staff about how enthusiastic and kind the students were. I think it would be great to get more of a write-up from our staff describing the lesson plan.
I have found that when teaching orienteering to school groups (also homeschool groups) there will almost always be some students present that are differently abled or on an IEP.
I have experience of catering to special needs from being an adaptive ski instructor. There we are always 1:1 with students with a cognitive challenge and the number varies for physical challenges. In addition to that we always have a school para along or peer helpers. But whatever the situation, we go with the student through lessons along with their school peers and friends, we just tailor each exercise as needed. Being abled to be cheered on by friends or peers is usually the best motivator, and the differently abled students like being on the same (bunny) hill as their friends.
I thus design the orienteering teaching in the same manner, designed for the general class, but with some minor easy adjustments. I ask whether there are any student with special needs, but I plan on it to a limited extent even if the answer is "no", as I have found that pretty much every group will have at least one student that will benefit of the adjustments. I make sure there are enough controls present for all students to be able to reach, whether in a wheelchair, with braces or other not as fast and agile as the others, and thus usually less motivated to participate. The last exercise is usually a Score-O, as it is time-flexible, as in use up whatever time is left, whether 15 minutes or 45, where I can further balance the challenge for the fast and engaged students by asking those who want to do more to go in order of the numbers rather than just get as many as they can.
Neat. We're still 1:1 with Pete, but finding that establishing good routines (orient the map, plan your route, know what you're looking for...then check the code after punching, and repeat) helps a lot.
It is so interesting to me that an activity that we've nicknamed "the thinking sport" can be so accessible to those with cognitive challenges. In many ways, I think it's the safety aspect that can be the biggest obstacle to fading support and moving to orienteering as an individual. Anyone who is impulsive can easily be drawn off task, and in some parks that can be a real concern. I like the group focus, and the ability to orienteer as a team or with an aide.
Come to think of it, I used to modify my score-Os for my military units when we had someone who couldn't run (support units tend to have former combat arms guys who've been injured)...there were always a few controls that had special rules about who could punch them and how (bike-accessible, even one that required swimming or canoeing). Lots of options if you think your way through the orienteers involved.