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Teaching Leadership Skills in Special Ed

written by: Meetu • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 1/5/2012

Leadership skills are essential for children in today's society. It is not only about leadership, but about teaching students discretion in deciding whether to engage in specific activities. Student with disabilities need to learn decision-making skills so they can make the right choices.

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    As a teacher you'll often come across parents who complain that their children are herd followers (i.e. the children want to do a thing because their friends are doing it and that the children are poor decision makers). Every parent wants his child to be the leader of the pack. Every parent feels uncomfortable when the child says that he is doing a particular thing because his friends are doing it (peer pressure). In the classroom, students with disabilities encounter lots of decision-making situations and they have to decide whether to follow the group or become the leader of the group.

    Leadership skills have to be developed in children at a very young age. For a child to learn leadership skills it is necessary that they get the right kind of atmosphere both at school as well as at home. Let us call this Leadership Training. The following tips should help teachers to instill leadership qualities in young children.

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    Tips for Teaching Leadership


    Parent-child, teacher-child and teacher-parent communication is very important. The child should feel confident enough to communicate and voice their thoughts both at home and at school. This voicing of thoughts cannot be mindless. Teachers and parents can help students think cognitively and analyze what they want to say and how it should be said.

    Oftentimes, parents and teachers listen to a child, but may dismiss their thoughts, considering them childish. Learning to disagree is an art that more often than not parents need to learn in teaching effective leadership skills.

    Listening is not all that a parent or teacher needs to do with the child. They can share with them their experiences, how and what they did in a particular situation, how they chose to react, where they went wrong, how something was rectified, and why it was wrong. It is like putting the child in simulated situations that can happen in all homes and classrooms.


    When communication takes place, teachers are able to see and understand the vision of the child. In case a vision for the future is missing in a child, it needs to be given to them. Sharing experiences of life, reading the success stories of others, asking for the child’s interpretation of the story, and sharing your own interpretation can help to build up a vision for a special needs students.

    Team Work

    Teaching leadership skills to a child does not mean that they underestimate the importance of their teammates, teamwork, group assimilation and compromise. Talking to the child of the larger, the bigger outcome is important. It helps the child concentrate and channel their energy. If students with disabilities try to do everything in the classroom, no work will be finished by the end of the day, so proper team collaboration is important for effective learning outcomes to result.


    School and home are the first two places where a child learns leadership skills and time management. A child needs to be taught how to break a larger job into smaller achievable targets. Small targets help to raise their self esteem and confidence. Planning at this level is the introduction of the child to time management, resource management and continuous upgrading of already existing skills.

    Persistence and Determination

    Children need to be taught how to take failure in stride and how failures can be made into stepping stones towards success. They are young people, who can get bogged down by the obstacles in their way. They need continuous supervision, motivation and encouragement. They need to be taught that success is not everything in life, but effort towards the goal is success.

    To summarize:

    • Leadership Skills are essential.
    • Leaders are not born but can evolve with thorough training. Teachers and parents can start early with young students to help them evolve as leaders.
    • No kind of disability or challenge can stop you from being a leader. Names of several famous personalities are mentioned at, who fought one or other form of disability to be successful.