This week, Renay was out and about recovering from a hard two weeks introducing the new semester. The winter weather in California in waves of bitter cold and rain have not exactly been helpful either. But what has happened because of the inclimate weather is a natural progression of students seeking indoor eating locations. This means more social interactions between students, and maybe more social interactions that wouldn’t normally happen.
By this point in the year, there are social situations that you have evaluated as being unsafe for students with disabilities. Most often these are bullies or anyone who gives mistreatment to other students. And it is all too easy to list those folks on any one given campus. But these are easy situations. Even when a student may be attracted to the emotional popularity that these sorts of classmates have, it is challenging to support a student but this can be managed.
One of the more difficult social skills teaching students involves how to navigate social situations when the situation is not a disciplinary situation. For example: what happens when a student with a disability has a romantic crush on a peer? Or what happens when a student with a disability has a disagreement with a peer? And more challenging sometimes what to do when there is a group project and the student with a disability did not do their part.
The part that is hard: sometimes you are going to have to sit back and wait this out. This does not always work out this way, but letting students, especially as they get older, to hear their classmate’s refusals or redirections is powerful and honest. Some things students, and especially students who are capable of doing so, need to work out for themselves.
It is hard to sit back on the side and watch a student struggle with social situations. But there is honest value to it. Sometimes, we are quick to patch up situations with students, but watching and being mindful of the fact that not every situation needs an intervention. This also gives a student a chance to come and say, “I need help.”
But being hands off with social situations does not mean you are unaware of the social exchanges between students. This does not mean that a specific student is only allowed in a group of peers without any supports. Sometimes, going up to a group of students and letting them know you will be five to ten feet away so if something changed they would be able to get help is useful for some students.
In group projects, avoid bailing the students out. Especially when the students chose their own groups. Some of the work can be omitted or provided to help support the group, but ultimately, the group dynamic needs to be left to its own. Prompts such as, “Make sure you know exactly what parts you need to do for this project.” Can also be used, “Hey I know [student name] may not be able to reach the artifact you are looking at, but can you describe the artifact to her so she has an idea of the things you are writing down?” is a direct way to remind peers how to interact.
As students age, the ability to earn independence, no matter their ability, is what they want. Respecting that peers have weight in their lives is important. Giving the chance to work through rejection and acceptance in a monitored, structured way, can help with the difficulty in social interactions.
If you missed last week, just a reminder, we are heading to SXSWEdu in March. Check out our presentation!
One more thing before we go: we would like to thank Rick Jenkins for the hour long help he provided us this week making certain our blog would survive a near meltdown.
Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.