EducationWorld is pleased to present this professional development article contributed by Ramapo for Children, an organization that helps youth align their behaviors with their aspirations through adventure-based experiences, residential summer camp and other programs and services.
Children of all abilities seek the same things: to learn, have friends, feel valued, and experience success. When the demands of a child’s environment are misaligned with his or her social and emotional skills, frustrating and disruptive behaviors occur. To help children succeed—whether they are on the spectrum, have a learning disability, or simply don’t yet have the tools to control their outbursts—the adults in their lives need to help children align their behaviors with their aspirations.
While building relationships and structuring a productive learning environment are the foundation of all successful learning experiences, the importance of classroom management is even greater in inclusion classrooms. Classrooms in which students of all abilities work side-by-side can be supportive settings for both students with challenges and their typically developing peers. Inclusion is not just a change in location, however, and educators need to be adequately prepared and must shift their practices to meet all students’ social and emotional needs in order for any inclusion setting to be successful.
As educators work to reach students of all abilities, here are a few tools to keep in mind that Ramapo for Children uses and teaches to facilitate an inclusive environment:
Build a “home base” or “retreat.” Sometimes the social and emotional demands of the classroom environment are too much for a student. To help remove students from an escalating situation and give them the space and time to cool down, create a place where a student can go to escape the stress of his or her current environment and regain control. This space may begin as a refuge, but be sure to manage it strategically by establishing mutually acceptable rules so the student does not overuse it.
Develop routines and procedures for transition times. Transitions can be challenging for all students, especially those with lagging social and emotional skills, and transitions are often the time when the most disruptive behavior occurs. Be proactive: Engage students in an activity as they enter the class. Plan carefully how to transition students from one activity to another. Be consistent, and make sure that students know what to expect from transitions and when they will occur. Allow time for wrap-up and reflection at the conclusion of each class or lesson.
Use noverbal cues and signals to effectively communicate directions. Many students with behavioral problems also have learning difficulties, especially with processing receptive language. Since so much of behavioral direction in a classroom is verbal, there are often students who thus become frustrated or “turned off” in inclusion classrooms. Nonverbal cues help students understand the sequence of activities, clarify expectations, and forecast what is happening next. Use signs, gestures, picture cues, and visuals to communicate directions to a wide range of learners.
Through its highly regarded adult training programs and direct service youth programs, Ramapo for Children has seen that inclusion is achievable. Though working with a range of students of widely varying abilities may seem daunting, the right behavior management skills can help educators intervene with high-needs students while still ensuring an effective learning environment.
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