Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I am upset because...

Every once in while we as teachers (and in this case speech therapists, as the below story was a team effort) get a chance to look back over our successes and think about how we can apply the lessons we learned from then to our next class of students.

A couple of years ago I had a student who faced some behavioral challenges. We addressed them in many ways, but the most successful was teaching the student to use a ChatPC communication device to say, "I am upset because..." that message linked to pages of messages about why the student was upset including, "my schedule is off", "you won't let me do what I want", "I don't understand what is going on", "someone who is supposed to be here isn't here", etc. Each of those messages in turn lead to a page that said, "You can help me by...", then choices of thinks like "give me some space and we will all be safe", "I want to listen to music", "I need a break", etc.

Today my class attended an outdoor tree lighting ceremony. It was cold outside (17 degrees) chaotic and emotionally difficult for several students. The aftermath was fun for no one. In the process of debriefing afterwards I realized that the lessons learned from my student who learned to successfully communicate what was wrong and what was needed could and should be taught to all of my students who have trouble letting us know what is wrong.

Imagine the increase in positive behavior in our students if instead of doing some of the other things we do (excessive rewards, punishments, time outs, restraints) we taught all of our students to communicate what is wrong and what they need. After all, all behavior is communication.

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