This year, schools may be offering social-emotional skills training to students with disabilities in separate virtual groups. However, if staff are spread thin, or students need additional opportunities to generalize skills, it may be useful to find ways to integrate social-emotional learning into other virtual encounters during the day. This will help to ensure students who have social-emotional goals in their IEPs can work on their skills.
Rebecca Moyes, a special education consultant and author based in Pennsylvania offers the following tips to help students hone social-emotional skills during the pandemic.
Have guidance counselors or other appropriately trained personnel pop into students’ virtual morning meetings or other lessons when possible to promote their social-emotional skills, Moyes said. They can discuss, for example, the importance of using deep breathing and other self-regulation strategies when students become angry or frustrated.
For example, a teacher can use a colander and talk about filtering what students say in front of others. The teacher can show how rocks stay in the colander if they’re poured in, but sand pours out. Explain that rocks are the mean comments that they should keep to themselves.
To teach students self-regulation strategies, teachers and support staff can share links to calming websites and apps with activities, such as breathing along with an expanding and contracting bubble on the screen, Moyes says.
Students can be shown pictures of volcanos and discuss how anger is like a volcano and when they explode, it’s like when lava comes out; they will hurt the feelings of people around them just as the lava would hurt their bodies, Moyes said. They have to recognize when they begin “rumbling” and use strategies they are learning to calm themselves.
Make recordings and visual supports available to parents so they can reinforce and help their child generalize skills at home, Moyes advises. Also send home a list of corresponding tips for parents on how to go over the lesson.
Keep track, on digital charts, of tokens students earn toward positive reinforcement; or have an instructional aide keep track on a whiteboard of what students earn and show them privately in a videoconference after class, Moyes says. Work with the student and parents to come up with reinforcers that are appropriate during remote learning, such as a homework pass or special movie day for those who earn enough tokens.