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The Socially Skilled Kids Blog

DISTANCE LEARNING | HOW TO DO “SCHOOL FROM HOME”

 

Due to the coronavirus, many schools have gone remote.  While teachers have put a tremendous amount of effort into making the transition from school, to school from home, as easy as possible…the fact is, it’s hard!

 According to Education Week, school closures due to coronavirus have impacted over 124,000 U.S. schools and at least 55.1 million students. States have closed schools into late April or May, or even closed down for the remainder of the school year!

Parents, educators, and students have had to make the move to online or Distance Learning. This mode of teaching and learning is unfamiliar to most of us.  We are all doing our very best to figure it all out, and quickly.

As an elementary school teacher, I am seeing a lot of students {and parents} doing okay with school from home, but many too, are really struggling.  Especially our kiddos with special needs.

Challenges like technology {access and knowledge}, working...

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HOW TO TARGET SOCIAL SKILLS THROUGH EASY VIDEO CONFERENCING GAMES AND ACTIVITIES

 

Remotely Teaching social skills can be an interesting challenge.  I have spent many years avoiding the use of technology in my social skills sessions.  I felt my kiddos got plenty of screen time, and what they really needed was face to face interaction.

While I still believe this, we are currently in a situation where we simply must use technology to teach.  

 

So how do you teach a social skills group on a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Google Meet?

By playing games, of course!  

But saying it is one thing…actually doing it is another thing all together!

Our students are dealing with so much right now.  And on top of it all, they have to learn new technology and new appropriate behaviors to go with it.

I don’t know about you…but I have spent the first few weeks of remote teaching, remotely teaching my students how to behave appropriately on Zoom.  

Engaging in a group on a video conferencing...

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HOW TO DO REMOTE TEACHING WITH SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS

 

Teaching Remotely?  Sure, I can do this…

Then as it came near… I started to panic.  It’s not as easy as it sounds…remote teaching.  And it comes with a whole new set of stressors.  But special educators are some of the most resourceful people I know!  

We WILL figure this out!

Before You Start

If you haven't started remote teaching yet {or even if you have}, my top recommendation for preparing yourself is to practice some self-care.

Why?

Because like our students, we need to practice a new skill so that it is more easily accessed during times of stress….because there will be stress, there will be mistakes, and at times, it will be messy.

Beating yourself up about it, wont help.

If self-care is not something you are particularly good at doing…here are some ideas.

 

Things you can do for yourself:

  • Make a list of self affirmations that are meaningful to you and have them handy.  Practice...
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HOW TO TEACH STUDENTS TO MAKE COMMENTS DURING CONVERSATIONS

 

Many students with special needs struggle to engage in conversations.  Why?  Well, there could be many reasons related to each child’s specific set of challenges and abilities.  But the biggest reason, in my mind, is the number of skills needed, to successfully engage in a conversation.

There are literally dozens of skills needed.  On top of that, these skills change based on the type of conversation, the number of people involved, etc.

Oy! 

 

Is it any wonder that engaging in conversations is challenging for our kiddos!

Something I spend a lot of time on with my students is, Responding To Others in a conversation.  After all, responding, is what makes a conversation a conversation.  Without the back and forth exchange, you have a lecture or a dialogue, not a conversation.

But how many times have you watched a group of your students talking…but no one is listening to the other, no one is responding to the other, and...

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HOW TO TEACH STUDENTS TO ASK QUESTIONS

 

Have you ever watched a group of your special education students having a “conversation?”  It can be very awkward, to say the least. 

To be fair, I see similar behaviors when watching regular education students too. The students are talking…but are they having a true conversation?

A conversation is defined as a back and forth verbal exchange between two or more individuals.  Of course there is sooooooo much more to it. 

When I watch my students{who haven’t used my strategies for having great conversations} engaging in a conversation… what I typically see is one child talking, then another child talking, then another…usually overlapping each other, rarely on the same topic, and sometimes with little to no regard for each other.

One of the skills my students and I work on the most, is responding to others.  This way, a more true conversation can occur. 

 

 

Four Ways To Respond To Others, In A...

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TEACHING SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS CONVERSATIONAL TURN TAKING

 

Engaging in successful conversations can be very challenging for our kiddos with special needs.  

Probably the biggest reason that conversations are challenging for our students, is because, like so many things, there are actually many skills involved.  Conversation may be one word, but the skills involved in executing it, are numerous and complex.  

Conversations involve complex social skills such as, Perspective Taking and Self-Regulation, which are often difficult for students with special needs. 

 

 

Here are my Top 10 picks for the most important skills needed to be taught to special education students, to help them engage in better conversations with their peers:

1. Physical Proximity

How many times have you seen your students talking to someone as they are walking away or as the other person is walking away, talking to someone who is too far away from them to gain their attention or be heard, talking to someone from...

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TEACHING CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS TO SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS

 

Many children who are typically developing find engaging in conversations to be quite easy.  They have picked up on the necessary skills naturally and with informal practice over time and in their day-to-day interactions with others.

But for our kiddos with special needs, we may need a more explicit approach.  Conversational skills often need to be broken down into small, manageable steps.  Each of those steps may need to be explicitly taught, practiced, re-taught, practiced in multiple environments, and so on.

Before we talk about how to teach conversational skills, let’s talk about why to teach conversational skills.

Our students need to be able to engage appropriately in conversations, to have successful social interactions.  However, this is not a quick and easy skill to teach, as there are many variables to consider.

Within the context of social interactions, we have many different types of conversations; from formal to informal, chit chat to...

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HOW EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS AFFECT OUR STUDENT’S SOCIAL SKILLS

 
Functioning {EF} skills are the skills we need to complete everyday tasks.  They are like the air traffic controller of our brains, coordinating everything we do, say and think. 
 
We need EF skills to pursue our goals and to live independent lives.
 
 

 

WHAT ARE THE EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING SKILLS?

 
The most commonly noted EF skills are:
 
  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Task Initiation
  • Time Management
  • Working Memory
  • Metacognition
  • Self Control
  • Attention
  • Flexibility
  • Perseverance

 

Love visuals? Try this handy Executive Functioning Skills poster. 

 

 

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THE BEST WAYS TO DECREASE CHALLENGING BEHAVIORS

 
Challenging Behaviors are always a hot topic and could probably be discussed 
All. Year. Long.
 
But when you think about it, we really do talk about challenging behaviors all year long, because we talk about social skills.  And I believe, that most challenging behaviors are a direct result of a lack of social skills. 
 
 
 
Of course, there are some mental health disorders that can cause very significant behavior challenges, for example, Oppositional Defiance Disorder {ODD} and Conduct Disorder {CD), but for the purposes of this discussion, we will be talking about challenging behaviors that are most likely due to a lack of, or poorly developed, social skills.
 
This social skills deficit may be due to factors such as; Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, Developmental Delay, Speech and Language Delay, Learning Disabilities or Environmental Factors.
 
With the support of the student’s Team, we can have a positive...
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UNDERSTANDING THE DEVELOPMENT {AND SPLINTER SKILLS} OF PERSPECTIVE TAKING

Engaging successfully in Perspective Taking requires a lot of  “splinter skills.”

While there is a developmental scope and sequence for Perspective Taking, for our kiddos, development is usually uneven, and skills are often scattered; leaving us trying to figure out what to teach, much like a puzzle.

 

 

I recommend spending some time figuring out, as best you can, where the student is at {in their perspective taking development} and which skills are lacking.  Then, start your teaching with the developmentally earliest skill on that list, and move along up the scale as you see success.

 

WHAT IS THE TYPICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PERSPECTIVE TAKING?

Here is a very basic overview:

Preschoolers:  These kiddos are just starting to figure out that people can have different feelings than they do.  This is at a very basic level…they mostly still think that other people share their feelings. 

 Kindergarten – Second...

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