Renay was out with her godsons last week. There are a lot of them. Please don’t ask us which ones. But a few of the young men have disabilities. There comes a point in every meeting when one of the voices cannot contain themselves any longer. Thusly leads themselves into a speech about why [insert interest] is the best.
With students who experience the urge to lecture about the topic they care about the most passionately about, it is hard to often think about ways to redirect social comments. And peers usually don’t have a good set of redirections either—often the kindest get up and walk away without a word and the student continues espousing the wonders of their personal interest.
- Use direct prompt comments to avoid the lecture. “Tell me one thing you did not know when you first started liking [your interest].”
- Try and get other students involved. “I see you’re interested in this. Did you know that [student B] here has a different interest? What sort of things did you find interesting about [Student B’s Topic]? Be careful though with this one, the misdirection sometimes yields a very amusing burst of “I have more commentary I need to share with the world.” Because it can be amusing, avoid laughing.
- Redirect to refocus. “What are we doing right now as a whole group?” This is most useful in classroom activities. But offer a ray of hope if you’re redirecting, tell the student when they can talk to you or a classmate about their favorite focus.
- Offer up the question, “Hey did you ask your friend if they liked [topic]? Have you ever asked them what they like?” This is most useful during free time, recess, or lunchtime. Trying to encourage turn-taking in conversations. Some students just need that reminder. When offering up this, be kind ad quieter to the student usually because there are other students so close.
- If all else fails: “I am going to set a timer for five minutes. You can tell me anything you want about the [topic] and I may ask questions from time to time, but we are going to honor that five minutes as your time to get as much sharing about [their topic] in that time.” This really is a popular method for some students.
There are a lot of things that often become a direction of perseveration for some students. And it is a way for those students to develop friendships but many students also need to honor reflexively and that can be difficult when one learns the world does not find their interests at the same intensity as others. But we also have some pointers for students who are likely to get caught in the stream of consciousness of students.
For the student who is always a bit more dramatic. “Everything is horrible.” “I didn’t sleep.” (Okay, this one is usually pretty serious, but when it comes with a whine and a groan, it makes an average adult smile inside.) Peers do not usually respond positively to this. You see it, even the nicest of classmates are sitting as far away as possible giving the student a lot of physical space. For some students, this can be quite challenging. Giving them a way to deal with this is useful. “Hey, can you tell me how to do [this specific thing].” It gives the student agency. It gives them a specific cause. Usually, the dramatic student buys in and helps out even for about ten to fifteen minutes.
For the student who never helps. “I’m not doing that.” “You can’t make me.” This one is pretty easy. Usually in secondary, older students rate group projects or group activities. Or, the classroom teacher can hold students accountable. “I did not see you contribute, so you get to do the same project over here by yourself.”
For the student who always helps out. You know the student who is really kind. Puts up with the strangest things that a student with a disability might do. This is actually nice but you have to temper using the student. Be aware that they have the right to say, ‘no’ to working with any student. But it is nice that the student asks. Far too often inexperienced staff can rely on helping students and then staff misses significant behavior cues.
Peers are a great way to help students learn about limits and new things that are socially acceptable in the eyes of their peers. It is a pretty important skill to recognize that one has to give back to share with their peers to develop true friendships and how to truly value others.
One more thing…
Inclusion From Square One returns in March! Can’t wait to share with you all then.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? 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 during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.