A key feature to this, and almost any other strategy, is to teach and review it when the individual is calm and there is no problem at the moment. These conditions help to ensure that the brain is at its best, most rational thinking, and that the strategy is not associated with a negative or difficult situation.
Just recently I was given this scenario from the Doctorate program from which I am attempting to earn a specialization in Special Education. Let’s imagine, if you can, that You are the Director of Special Education and a family has just moved into the school district. In this scenario, the parent has asked for his child to be tested for possible special education services due to reading difficulties. The elementary school principal has told a parent that his child does not need to be referred for testing since the school is utilizing the Responsiveness to Intervention Model (RTI). The parent, as reported by the special education teacher, is very upset. The student has had difficulties with reading for a number of years. This is the third time a parent has requested services and both the principal and reading interventionist have refused to allow the special educator to start the referral process.
As a parent of children on the autism spectrum and as a professional working with children and parents of children with special needs, it is an interesting and pertinent scenario to explore. Not only for the sake of understanding you and your child’s rights under the law, but to better understand the foundation of the education system and where it seems to fall short.
The following will be discussed: the legal issues that are involved when assessments are requested and denied; the support that should be provided to the special education teacher; and what training should be provided to the principal.
Research indicates that incorporating specific motivations such as offering choices increases the rate of performance on academic tasks and decreases disruptive behaviors. Choice can take on many forms as related to academic tasks.
As one example, students can be given several topics to choose from to complete an assignment. Students may also be given a list of several activities, of which they are to complete two. By giving them a choice, students are more likely to begin the assignment and even more likely to complete it.
If a student can express their inner feelings, then adults could help them prevent further escalation. This can be done by engaging the student in conversation about the problem, or beginning a calming activity. Often however, the student has difficulty expressing those feelings until it is too late. A feelings chart may be an effective visual support to help students express how they are feeling with or without using any words.
In order for the feelings chart to be an effective strategy, students must understand the meaning of different feelings represented at each level. What does it mean to feel great versus having a problem? Connecting meaning for each feeling may require direct instruction. Lessons to build this understanding can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of props or pictures of self or others.
In a previous blog, we discussed the power of choice in increasing student academic success. In one of the examples, we discussed that students can be given several topics to choose from to complete an assignment. Another layer to add to the element of choice is the integration of a highly preferred interest within those choices.
Now that we have established the core strategy of a class schedule or agenda as an essential starting point, let’s extend our focus to a companion strategy. A schedule within a schedule has many names. For our purposes, we will call this sub strategy “mini-maps”.
A mini-map takes a piece of the schedule and breaks it down even further. The schedule guides you from one major activity to another, while the mini-map clarifies the smaller steps within that activity. This can be especially helpful to decrease frustration associated with academic tasks, but can be useful for any chunk of time that presents a challenge.
Perhaps most relevant to a student in the classroom: when you are stressed you are less likely to embrace difficult tasks. On your most stressful day, you will probably put the complex tax form in the “to do” box and leave it for a better day.
For our students, neurological stress can be the major underlying factor contributing to difficulties in communication, socialization, and academic performance.
It is our essential job, as parents and educators, to respect the neurological differences and decrease that stress in creative and varied ways.
From breathing techniques to visual strategies and beyond, we will strive to decrease neurological stress so that our students and children can present their best self each and every day.
For some students, a simple checklist is all they need to get them started and keep them moving through academic activities. The following is an example of such a checklist:
The checklist corresponds to the numbered folders. The student knows to complete the work in the four folders. After checking each number off, the student then has a few minutes to engage in a highly reinforcing activity.
Since the inception of this blog, we have explored a variety of specific strategies. I encourage all educators and parents to be creative, and mix and match to best meet the individual needs of your child and/or student. In a previous blog, we learned that mini-maps can help to prevent behavioral difficulties related to academic tasks.
Often, teachers note that a common antecedent or trigger to behavioral difficulties is the presentation of academic tasks. The behaviors can range from a verbal protest to a meltdown when students feel overwhelmed by school work. The first question to ask, of course, is what is there about the work that makes the student feel so overwhelmed? Does the page look too busy? Is too much handwriting involved? Are there too many problems? Is it too difficult or too easy?