What YOUR Post-Secondary Teachers Need to Know

Guest Blog Post by: Kathy Hansen, B.Sc., M.Ed.

College just aheadSeptember has come and gone and we are starting to feel the rhythm of school days again.  It takes a month or so every year for my family to get into the routines—routines that help us feel more organized, calmer and even safer.   Every year the transition back to school comes with its ups and downs, but some transitions are bigger than others.  The transition to college is one I am most familiar with.  Every year first year college students venture into a new chapter of their lives.  For students with learning disabilities (and their parents), the transition to college can be even more significant than it is for their peers without LD.  (See the previous post Smooth Moves)

I want to share some experiences and thoughts, based on my research, about community college faculty, students with learning disabilities, and best practices for success.  Students with learning disabilities make up a larger portion of post-secondary students than ever before – in both Canadian and US universities and community colleges.  In Ontario, a growing number of young adults with LD are attending university, but an even greater portion is attending community college.  Over 8000 students with learning disabilities attended Ontario’s 24 community colleges in 2009-2010 and the number continues to grow. Community colleges pride themselves on being accessible, hands-on learning institutions with teachers and professors that provide student-centred learning environments.  Student Services Office personnel provide support for students with learning and other disabilities when it comes to transitioning to college, accessing accommodations, and ongoing counseling support.  One major difference between high school and post-secondary education is that students must seek out support, disclose their disability, and advocate for themselves.  For many students, the process begins in high school with a supported transition; high school teachers, parents, the student and the post-secondary support team work together to facilitate the transition.

College StudentsMy research has focused on community college faculty attitudes toward and their preparedness for teaching students with learning disabilities.  Faculty attitudes and practices contribute to the success or failure of students with learning disabilities in postsecondary settings.  In my research, I developed a valid and reliable instrument called the Faculty Preparedness Questionnaire to measure preparedness for teaching students with LD.  Preparedness was defined as knowledge plus attitude.  The questionnaire addressed themes such as knowledge of disability legislation, knowledge about LD and use of resources, attitudes towards students with LD, and their potential for success at the college level. By asking community college teachers about their knowledge, attitude and practices, I wanted to understand more about their perceptions of their preparedness for teaching the growing number of students with LD in community college.  I found that community college faculty had generally positive attitudes towards, and self-rated knowledge about learning disabilities.   However, despite their positive attitudes, college instructors expressed many myths and misconceptions about LD.  The biggest gaps were in the understanding of the definition of learning disabilities and in best practices for supporting student needs.  Instructors lacked knowledge about what a learning disability is and what it is not (i.e. It is not due to poor teaching, low IQ or cultural differences).  Instructors were more knowledgeable about the legal requirement of providing the recommended accommodations, but not about what they could do in the classroom to help students with LD to be more successful.  Instructors also expressed concern about students with LD being able to perform work in the real job market.

College StudentsTherefore the task remains—to improve knowledge about LD— understanding the definition, the learning needs of students, and how individuals with LD can succeed in college level learning and in employment situations.  If you are a student with LD attending post-secondary school (or know someone that is), self-advocacy can be a major factor for success.  Don’t assume your instructors or professors know about your learning disability.  As there are different types, and accommodations and learning needs are different, you can play a big role in informing your teachers about LD.  Meet your instructors in person during their office hours and share information about your strengths and learning needs, and your motivation for success in your chosen academic and career paths.  Ask them if they would like more information and send them some information about LD, or share a link such as LDAO.  Don’t be afraid to use your accommodations. Remember that receiving accommodations is your right and do not give you and unfair advantage, but rather level the playing field.  Sometimes students with LD attempt post-secondary education without accommodations, but so often this does not work out and the student ends up not doing well in the courses.  Better to use your accommodations, discuss with your instructors and follow-up when you get your tests or assignments back.  Share your successes so that more people come to understand that a learning disability does not limit an individual.

Accessible education depends on educators having the knowledge and attitudes needed to reduce barriers and provide an inclusive learning environment.  The good news is that college educators in my research indicated positive attitudes toward students with LD; however, knowledge is an equally important contributor to understanding best practices for teaching students with LD.  If you have other ideas on how to disseminate information about LD and the successes of post-secondary students in their academic studies and careers please share them on this blog!

 

References

Hansen, K. (2013) College instructors’ preparedness to teach students with learning disabilities. University of Western Ontario – Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository  http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/1244/

Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SSC SAST; 2011). Opening the door: Reducing Barriers to post-secondary education in Canadahttp://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/411/soci/rep/rep06dec11-e.pdf

 

Kathy Hansen, B.Sc., M.Ed.

Professor, Educational Support Program

St. Clair College of Applied Arts & Technology

Windsor, Ontario

khansen@stclaircollege.ca

http://www.stclaircollege.ca

Singing the Homework Blues

As we enter the third week of school, it’s safe to say that homework has become the norm.  With my own third grader, we’ve had a few meltdowns already and I’m seriously dreading the rest of the school year.  I have been working hard to help set up some homework routines that help minimize the homework drama that ensues.  We’re not there yet, but it’s safe to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

homework_problem

Homework can be frustrating for any student, especially after a fun-filled summer without many routines.  Helping students get back into the routine of school and responsibilities can help get them get back into the homework frame of mind.  We have a routine for after-school and homework.  Some students find they work best when they jump in and start their homework as soon as they get home.  I know for my little guy he needs some time to relax (and play Minecraft) before he is ready to dive into his school work.  You know your child best; do what works for them based on their needs and their personality.  We tried homework after school and the tantrum and the excuses took longer than the actual homework.  I figure out that he needed a break after school.  A lot less tears and complaining.

Set up an area where homework is to be completed.  Homework in our house is completed at the kitchen table.  The TV is off and I make sure there are no other distractions.  That includes putting my distractions away like the paperwork piled up on the counters and my cell phone.  When it’s homework time, I give him my attention.  It’s important for him to know that I think homework is important and that his struggles are important.  That I am there for him.

kitchen table

Have everything that you need for your child to complete his/her homework readily available.  I bought a small cup at the dollar store and purchased extra pencils, highlighters,  and coloured pencils when everything was on sale at the beginning of the year.  Everything is sharpened – I make sure of it or else we are spending time sharpening and organizing the pencil container.  Homework was challenging because he’d forget his pencil case at school or we wouldn’t have what we needed to get started.  Now I keep the pencil caddy and a ream of lined-paper in a cupboard in the kitchen so that we are always prepared.

pencils

I help my son review his homework so that he understands what is required.  I do the same with my students that I tutor.  In order to do their homework they need to know what is expected.  Just recently, my son was assigned five out of 9 questions.  On the top of the page the teacher had written “Complete any five of the following questions”.  He missed that the first time he read through.  Working with him, we discussed why it’s important to read the instructions and make a checklist of what is needed.  Helping him prioritize what is needed minimizes his anxiety and confusion.  He’s learning important skills on how to break tasks down into smaller parts and how to organize himself.  All are important and transferable skills for life.

homework-tips

If your child is really having a difficult time with an assignment – speak to the teacher and explain your concerns.  Work together with the teacher to come up with a plan that works for your child.

I always praise my son for a job well done.  If he worked hard on an assignment I make sure he knows that I am proud of him.  I want him to show GRIT.  I want him to understand the value of preserving, of working hard to get through a difficult task.  He needs to know that learning from challenges (and failure) is important and that achievement doesn’t come easily.  That it is something he needs to work for.   I don’t care if his paper was perfect or if he answered every question correctly.  I want him to know that I admire him for not giving up, for setting goals and working through tough times.  I share with him my own struggles and how I have to work hard.  He knows it’s not easy for me all of the time either.  Kids need to understand that as parents we too have our own challeneges that we face.

happy-child

Be a role model.  If your child needs to read each night, read next to him.  Show him what a good reader looks like, show that you enjoy reading. Reading together helps encourage a life-long love of learning for your children.

father-son-reading-300x199

I won’t lie – I hate homework.  I loathe the conflict it creates in my home.  As a parent, it kills me to go through the battle some days.  As a teacher, I know that homework is important.  It’s teaching my son to be resilient.  It is teaching him to be disciplined and helping him practice what he has learned.  Some nights it’s a struggle to read a chapter while other nights I can’t get him to put the book away.

When all else fails consider a tutor.  There was a time when I just could not go through the homework battle anymore and I hired a colleague to work with him.  It helped.  He was much more receptive and willing to try with her.  I don’t see that as my failure.  I’m a teacher and work with many students and help them with their struggles, why did I need to find someone to work with my own son?  The short answer is that my son and I have a multifaceted relationship.  I’m his mother, he’s my child.  We have an incredible bond and are very close.  At that time with all of his struggles he needed someone who wasn’t tied to him emotionally.  He’s in grade three now and I have learned to not sweat the small stuff.  Surprisingly, some days he enjoys homework or at least it’s not a battle.  Homework isn’t going anywhere.  It will get a lot worse as he gets older.  I feel confident that we’re working towards a system that helps him and minimizes stress in the house.  Each child is different and what works for one may not work for the other.

Labour Day Blues…

Am I the only one that feels this way?  I’m in my 30s (and no, I’m not going to get more specific than that), and I still dread Labour Day.  I’ve always felt it’s the worst holiday of the year.  To me, Labour Day always symbolizes the end of Summer and the beginning of school.  I remember listening to the radio one year on Labour Day and something must have happened at the radio station, because they just kept playing the R.E.M. song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” on repeat for over an hour.  I remember wondering if it was some cruel joke the radio station was playing on all of us students.  I haven’t gone to school for over a decade, and I still get that feeling of back to school dread.  Maybe if I had my own children, the feeling of dread would be replaced with the feelings of joy and happiness as I got to ship the children off to school.  I don’t know…

Regardless of my feelings of the holiday, for children with learning disabilities or ADHD, and their parents, the start of a new school year can be very anxiety provoking.  Parents worry about a wide variety of things, such as wondering if the:

  • new classroom teacher is going to “understand” the child’s disability and/or accommodation plan.
  • child is going to get the computer equipment the school promised the year before.
  • class bully is going to be in the child’s class this year.
  • etc…

During the next couple of weeks, all of these questions will be answered.  I wish the best for you and your child.  However, if difficulties arise, please don’t forget that there are lots of great organizations (such as LDAWE) around that can assist you and your family.

I also want you all to know that LDAO (our provincial organization) is hosting a webinar, “Starting the school year off on the right foot – how to help children with LDs transition back into school.”  The webinar takes place on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.  Please click on the flyer for more details.

Webinar

Lasting Impact at LDAWE Summer Camps

Here at LDAWE, we can’t believe that our Summer Enrichment Camps are now complete!  One of the most rewarding things this summer was to hear from the campers and their families regarding what a difference the camps were making in their lives.  Many of the campers made friends and even visited their new friends during non-camp time.  One mother mentioned that after attending just 1 week of camp, her son could now tell time using an analog clock.  A grandmother told us that for the first time ever, her grandson was excited to go to a camp every day (this was unusual since at other places he had refused to even get out of the car).  We hope the lessons learned and the friends made throughout this year’s summer camps have a lasting impact on the campers’ lives.

Week 5 in Essex: Eco-Explorers

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using computers, iPads, a Smart Board, and by playing various games.  This week the campers spent a lot of time outdoors interacting with their environment.  During the week, the campers got to go on nature walks around the school.  During their walks they used their magnifying glasses to find snails, insects, flowers, rocks, and minerals.

Summer Camp Essex

This week the campers also:

  • Made animal sculptures out of their own homemade play dough.
  • Used their homemade play dough to answer math questions.
  • Researched their favourite animals and made posters about their animal.
  • Tested their engineering skills by using recycled products to create race cars.
  • Created scratch art and made handprints to tell all about themselves during arts and crafts time.
  • Played octopus during indoor recess.
  • The last day of the camp was capped off with an outdoor scavenger hunt!

Summer Camp Essex

The campers also watched the animated TV special, “The Lorax,” based on the book by Dr. Seuss.  The story focuses on the consequences that corporate greed can have on our environment.  As a result, the campers participated in a garbage cleanup around the school.

The Lorax at the Essex Summer Camp

 A very special thank you to Mrs. Christina, Mr. Nick, Miss. Sarah, Miss. Hannah, and Miss. Amy for making this year’s camps in Essex so successful for all of the campers!

 

Week 5 in Windsor: The Wacky World of Science

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using computers, iPads, the Smart Board, and by playing various games.  The campers learned all about acids and bases from Mr. Daniel.  The campers had the opportunity to participate in a variety of science experiments, such as:

  • Exploding lunch bags by mixing baking soda and vinegar together
  • Sucking an egg into a bottle by changing the air pressure
  • Watching a volcano eruption by mixing Diet Pepsi and Mentos together
  • Turning our campers into human bubbles
  • Making slime and bouncy balls

One of the most impressive experiments was the volcano eruption.  Watch it below:

One of the campers’ favourite activities during the week was becoming human bubbles!

Summer Camp in Windsor

The last day was a fun day with all kinds of games and activities.  The campers played face the cookie, potato sack races, jumping for donuts, and group hula hoop races.

Windsor Summer Camp

A very special thank you to Mrs. Dana, Ms. Lori, Miss. Kayla, Mr. Daniel, Miss. Maegan, and Miss. Mackenzie for making this year’s camps in Windsor so successful for all of the campers!

All of the staff members of LDAWE would like to wish the campers a wonderful end to your summer vacations and best of luck in school in the fall! We hope to see you again next year!

Technology that can change learning

My final blog,

I’ve used technology to create some videos, along with some helpful links. Technology has really been my wings in learning to fly free of my disabilities. There are so many great programs out there that no matter who you are, there’s an answer out there for you.

I think the first step to knowing what technology is right for you is to understand what needs you have and where do you excel.  Both through learning styles and types of intelligences, we can create a better undrestanding of ourselves.

VARK is a site that asses learning styles.  I subscribe to the VARK theory rather than the traditional Visual-Oral-Kinesthetic theory because it distinguishes differences between reading and visual and is a lot more intensive.  The acronym stands for Visual, Aural/Oral, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic.  I would suggest completing the questionnaire and reading up on the descriptions of the various learning styles.  If you find that you are more visual, than programs like Prezi, and SmartIdeas may be better suited to your abilities.  If you find that you are lower in the Reading/Writing learning styles than you may benefit from using programs like Premier.

Multiple Intelligences:  Here is a test to determine where you are likely to find the best skills.  When students struggle in subject/intelligence areas, they tend to lose motivation to complete tasks.  Knowing that a student mayy struggle with a certain subject area, teachers, parents, and students themselves can use technology to make studying easier and more enjoyable.

Once you have an idea of how you learn and you strengths, here are some programs that may help.  Each link will redirect you to a short video that walksthrough some of the functions of the program and how they may benefit your student.

Smart Ideas and Inspiration are brain storming/mapping software programs that help students with studying and writing.  These programs draw on visual learning.

Premier and Kurweil3000 are reading programs.  Both programs allow students to scan in text books, have them read back to them, create study notes, and even create MP3s of the scanned documents.  Premier has a few more tools, such as word predictor, word processor that reads back your work to you, and a summarizer.  It also has a lower price point.  For this point, I have focused mainly on the Premier software.  Both of these programs support aural learning.

Google Drive, Google Forms, and Google Sites are all part of Google’s version of “Office.”  They are all cloud based and allow for collaboration, revision histories, and strong communication venues for parents and students.  You can truly spend days trying to figure out all the possibilities that the Google suite can offer learning.  This suite focuses on Visual, Aural/Oral (you can dictate text through Google speech), and Reading/Writing.

Prezi is another free program that runs off of the cloud.  Prezi is a presentation alternative that many student prefer.  It is very visual and interactive, focusing on the Kinesthetic and Visual learning.

Now, some of these programs are free to use (Prezi, Google drive, Google forms, Google sites) while others can cost as little as $50 to as much as $3000.  It can’t be expect that every parent will be able to afford such luxuries and as such the government provides programs to increase accessibility to these programs.

IPRC is a program that is used at the primary and secondary levels.  Once a student is formally diagnosed, recommendations are made by a panel ofeducators, psychologists, and parents on which resources will be available for the student to use.  Being informed, parents can advocate for the proper technology so that their students can find the most success.  Often students may be assigned a personal computer along with access to many of these programs.

The Bursary for Students With a Disability (BSWD) is not advertised as well as it should be.  This program is available at the post-secondary level.  Students must report to the schools’  centre for students with a disability and request a form.  They usually are then given an appointment with a councillor to help fill out the information.  They will need a final approval from the councillor, and often the councillor will insist on an updated diagnosis.  The BSWD will cover for various resources up to $15,000 a year (from what I can remember.)  In the past, I have received approval for a video recorder, voice recorder, laptop, desktop, Kurzweil3000, Inspiration, a printer, and a scanner.  Approval is based off of financial (must qualify for OSAP) and educational needs.  Not everyone will get a new computer, however, this program is still something everyone should look into.

These bursaries are great for evening out the educational playing fields.  As teachers continue to adapt to DI, technology allows students to find success without having to wait for teachers to understand their personal needs.  By being informed, educated, and prepared, both students and parents alike will have the necessary tools to advocate for a strong and fair educational program.

As my blogging comes to an end, my work for students with disabilities continues.  I have been and will continue working as an advisor and tutor to many students with disabilities along with my daily work as a teacher.  I encourage any and all parents with any other questions regarding my personal experience, or my professional opinion to tweet me @followmrcasey.

Cheers,

Matt Wachna

(aka Mr. Casey)

Don’t stop building your smarts (some summer advice for students)

Stylized image of a human brain lit up with blue light indicating activity and growth.

“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining” Max Brooks

School’s out (almost)! And if you’re a student getting ready to graduate from high school, you’re probably ready for some well earned down time, right? And if you’re headed off to college or university in September, you probably want to make this summer count. Spend time with your friends. Party a bit. Maybe spend time at a cottage, or just chill somewhere. Honing you academic skills is likely the last thing on your mind. But…if you truly want to meet your potential in college or university, there are some things you should do this summer that can’t wait until the last minute, which will keep you sharp and on your game, will prevent your skills from getting rusty, and will allow you to start this next chapter of your academic career with some momentum. It is absolutely true that “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, so here are some things you can do over the summer to maintain your edge:

Keep reading! It doesn’t have to feel like homework. Read anything that interests or inspires you, or sparks your interest. Read at a level that’s fun for you. Read magazines, or newspapers, or trashy novels if that’s fun for you, but read! And if you want to challenge yourself a bit, try listening to audio books, or try a novel using that text-to-speech software (Kurzweil, perhaps?) that’s been gathering dust on your laptop. The whole point is to keep your mind active and stimulated by giving it new information to process.

Keep writing! Nobody’s asking you to produce 10-page papers every week, but you can keep your writing skills sharps by doing something as simple as maintaining a daily journal.  And no…texting does not qualify as the kind of writing you need to be good at.  In college/university you can’t write using acronyms or emoticons (LOL), so keep your skills up by practicing the kind of writing that you’ll be required to do when you get here. Go old school and write a letter to your Aunt Daisy in Newfoundland, or a thank you note to Uncle John in Red Deer.   Journaling, letter writing, whatever you do, find a reason to write frequently throughout the summer. You may even want to do this by experimenting with the Dragon software that is sitting alone and lonely on your laptop.

Learn your technology! Many high school students with learning disabilities have access to technology and assistive software that they never use.  Take some time this summer to learn it.  Post-secondary students routinely use programs like Kurzweil, Dragon Naturally Speaking, and Inspiration to level the playing field and to achieve at their academic potential.  And with very few exceptions, every student at this level is using some form of technology. Get comfortable with your technology and be ready to put it to use when you get here.  You’ll be glad you did.

Learn your self!  Part of that self is the small but important part that is your learning disability. This part should never define who you are, but ignoring it won’t do you any good either. So, start by reading and understanding your IEP and assessment (if you have one). Understand your diagnosis and what it means. Understand and be able to explain why you get the accommodations that you get. Take responsibility for developing an understanding of how you learn, and what the learning strategies are that empower you to reach for your potential. The more you are able to do that, the more independent you become, and the more effective you will be in advocating for yourself after high school.

Maintain a schedule! One of the biggest potential stumbling blocks high school students encounter in transitioning to university is with time management. In high school, your schedule was largely determined for you, but in university…not so much.   In most cases you will determine the number of courses you will take, when they will be, whether or not you will attend, or whether a social event with new friends will take priority over your academic responsibilities. This kind of independence and responsibility can seem like freedom, but it can become a curse if you let it. So get a handle on your time management now. Plan and stick to a routine over the summer. Set an alarm and get up on your own. Figure out when you will work out, when you will spend time reading and relaxing, when you’ll hang out with friends, when you’ll take time for college /university prep, and how you’ll do all of that around the summer job you may have found. Put all of this on a schedule and stick with it, in preparation for the new time management demands you will find after high school.

Get ready for your courses! Look for course information online, and get the lay of the land as early as you can. It’s much better to start the first day of class having already established an overview of what will be required. You may even be able to buy your books ahead of time, and if you can do that, there’s no reason not to scan some of that material as part of your summer reading program. And to the extent that it’s possible, learn your new campus. Explore it if you have the opportunity to do that. Figure out how to find the offices and services you may need, and get comfortable with navigating your new campus well before class begins.  One less thing to worry about once class actually starts.

Make early contact with the Office for Student’s with Disabilities! As we discussed in a previous blog post (Smooth Moves: Transitioning to University), the process for being accommodated at a post-secondary level is very different from what you may have become used to in high school. So…it is never too early to start the process. Meet with a Disability Advisor at your new school, who will spend time with you reviewing your current accommodations and documentation. Many high school students require an updated assessment when they move on to college/university, and an advisor can facilitate and guide you through a process to ensure that you are appropriately accommodated when class begins.

So enjoy your summer, by all means, but don’t neglect important aspects of yourself in the process, and don’t stop building on the solid academic foundation you established in high school. Use some of your “down time” this summer to build yourself up, preparing your body and mind for the new journey that lies just ahead. Have fun, but make sure you don’t arrive at the first day of class with an empty tank. Get proper rest, and exercise, and nutrition, and nourish your mind in some of the ways that we’ve talked about. Nourish your spirit too, by spending time with people you love, and who love you, and who inspire you somehow to be your best self.  Have a fun, safe and productive summer, and plan to arrive at your new school with a full tank of gas, fully prepared to head out on the road to success.

 

If you have any thoughts on what you’ve read,  please feel free to comment,  ‘Like’ it,  ‘Share’  it,  or otherwise spread the word via social media.

Self-Regulation in the classroom

 

Self-regulation. What is it? Why is it important for student success? What is needed in order to support the development of self-regulatory skills within oneself?

Self-regulation is defined as regulation of the self, by the self. It monitors conditions to maintain optimal arousal for a given task. A lack of the regulatory forces that govern our organization and behaviour can have detrimental effects on a child’s academic and socio-emotional success.

There are a broad range of mental and physical problems that are not caused by difficulties with self-regulation, but are often accompanied by it. Self-regulatory skills are typically not seen in isolation. calm alert learningAccording to Dr. Stuart Shanker, author of Calm, Alert and Learning, there is a high comorbidity for self-regulatory deficits to occur with Autism, ADHD and high anxiety, to name a few.

It is critical to accommodate students with complex profiles because these children are at greater risk. Teachers can help improve self-regulation in students by modelling and scaffolding good self-awareness and self-regulatory skills, by making their environment more conducive to self-regulating behaviours and by providing a stable and predictable routine.

Like motivation, self-regulation is not always automatic or internalized by individuals, particularly young children or those with Executive functioning disorders. For a student who lacks internal motivation we may provide stickers or a token economy to externally motivate, with hopes that these are only part of the scaffolding that will eventually lead them to become internally motivated. It is the modelling and scaffolding that is the structure of this support.

For students lacking self-regulation skills, we can use externally organized environments, routines and strategies to assist them in finding their own self-awareness…, self-monitoring… and ultimately… self-regulation.

Mindfulness or self-monitoring of arousal level is paramount in determining if there needs to be up- or down-regulation in order to match the task with the appropriate state of arousal. Students need to be aware of their arousal level before they are able to regulate it. Adults can facilitate the process externally until the awareness and regulation is internalized. Child-friendly strategies like use of meditation and purposeful, calming movement are a few ways for a child to attain mindfulness.

A person’s environment is a very important aspect of their education. Everyone benefits from purposeful changes in the physical setup of a classroom. Children who are easily overwhelmed by auditory or visual stimuli, benefit from a environmental makeover in the classroom to provide external help with self-regulation.org.crayons

The third teacher, the environment, should be utilized to assist students in regulating themselves.
Addressing the arousal level of the students through use of a calming environment, such as that expressed by the teachings of Reggio Emilia, is essential in order to provide students with different strategies to up or down regulate themselves. This approach involves a calm atmosphere, interaction with the environment, communication with others, and self-constructed learning.

The Reggio Emilia teachings provide an ideal environment to foster self-awareness and monitoring.
Research in this area finds that children concentrate better with a reduced number of visual distractors. Use of fidget toys, neutral colours around the room and secluded areas for breaks are some examples that one may consider to support the development of self-regulation skills.

organizedAuditory stimuli are by far the most powerful of all distractors. Strategies that can be employed to help decrease anxiety and provide predictability include… chimes instead of bells, use of visual timers, and the use of songs, drum beats or other soothing sounds to signal transitions within the classroom.

Visual supports such as schedules provide students with predictability within their classroom environment. Once students have an established schedule that they are comfortable in following, they are aware of what is next in their routine. This predictability in routine allows children to up- or down-regulate in preparation for upcoming activity. This strategy fosters a sense of self-awareness.

When the external organization system is strong, the strategies will be transferred and generalized to sock drawerhigh school, post-secondary education and beyond to the work place. For students to be properly regulated for learning, our goal as educators is to reduce the demands on the sensory system. This includes satisfying the needs for certain types of sensory stimulation while helping to avoid others. Optimal self-regulation is achieved when one is calm and focused.

thinking cap

Given the current realities of the significant increase in student needs in our schools, it is imperative that parents, staff and community partners learn, model and teach self-regulatory behaviours in order to improve the success of all children. Dr. Stuart Shanker states, “the better we understand self-regulation, the better we can implement educational strategies that enhance
students’ capacity to learn and develop the skills necessary to deal with life’s challenges.”