How do I handle my emotions in school?

teaching children with autismWhether it is during transition times, a conflict with a teacher or peer or just general disappointments that come with each school day, students’ social and emotional education needs to be addressed to create a healthier school climate and greater academic achievement.

Many classrooms are affected by the following situation:

  • If a student cannot manage emotions properly, it is difficult for him or her to focus on learning.
  • If a student does not empathize with others, he or she may act out in unhealthy and potentially harmful ways.
  • If a student is unable to follow rules, he or she may detract from the healthy functioning of a classroom and/or school environment.
  • If a student is unable to solve problems cooperatively, he or she may create conflict in the classroom, playground, or anywhere students congregate.
  • If a student is unable to work well with others, this can create disharmony and undermine the collective learning environment.
  • If a student is unable to act responsibly or respectfully, he or she may not build the healthy relationships necessary for school — and life — success.

    Social skills, just like academic skills, often must be taught explicitly–especially to children who struggle with them. Here are some ideas.

    Problem Solving and Discussion

    You can use typical problem-solving steps to help children with become more socially competent. The following is one sequence, but the steps may be ordered differently depending on the circumstances.

    teaching children with autism1. Get to the root of the problem. Watch kids in a variety of social situations (classrooms, team practices, club meetings, free play, birthday parties, family events or interactions with adults and peers) using Social Skill Builder software series and other video supports.

    2. As you observe, be sure to notice their social strengths as well as weaknesses. Even if you notice something positive only once, remember to mention it to them.

3. Begin a conversation with them. A good way to start talking is to say, “Let’s see if we can figure out (why that happened, why he said that, why you got so angry).” As you talk to them, try hard not to respond judgmentally or angrily. Ask questions that show you value their perception of the problem. Listen to them and make sure you understand their side of things and acknowledge painful, angry or sad feelings.

4. Decide together on one alternative way to handle a similar situation in the future.

5. Invite them to practice the alternative behavior with you. If they’re receptive, try role- playing. While this can’t equal the emotional intensity of a real encounter, it does allow them to practice thoughtful responses to difficult real-life situations.

6. After they have a chance to discuss the alternative behavior in a real situation with peers, discuss what happened. Did the situation end better this time If not, what else could they try?

Teach With Signals

Once you’ve discussed what social situations are challenging for them, try designing a simple signal to use (in situations where you’re around) to let them know that a behavior should stop or change. For example, if you’re working on understanding when to stop talking about a subject because the listener is showing disinterest, quietly get their attention and touch your nose with your index finger or cross your arms. When they stop talking on their own, give them a thumbs-up.

Watching your student develop better social skills and relationships and the rewards that come with them can be one of the most gratifying experiences of a teacher. When kids have dysfunction in this area, it can make your job as a teacher and management of the classroom more challenging. But since social skills affect nearly every aspect of life, the time and effort you spend to help your student is a gift that will last a lifetime.