Five Skills No Learner Should Be Without
2. Social Skills
Perspective taking, the ability to understand others’ thoughts and feelings, improves people’s ability to navigate social situations. It’s often underdeveloped in students with social-emotional disabilities.
Setting up an alternative small-group lunch or recess helps these kids tune in better to others, reduces social anxiety, and facilitates positive social interaction. Social successes improve a student’s self-esteem and often lead to fewer negative interactions throughout the day.
3. Executive Functioning
Executive-functioning skills are key to setting goals and solving problems. They help students start tasks, organize materials, plan projects, manage time efficiently, and stay on-task. Students with poor executive functioning often have difficulty handling frustration and completing work.
To boost executive functioning, use checklists and how-to lists, break long assignments into smaller chunks, and help students organize through calendars, time organizers and mnemonics. Communicating expectations visually - such as giving a student a laminated photo (“Here’s how your desk should look like when you’re ready to go to lunch”), rather than saying “Get ready for lunch!” - helps an organizationally challenged child remember what needs to be done.
4. Positive Thinking
Students who struggle with positive thinking engage in all or nothing thinking (“I hate math”) or have frequent catastrophe thoughts (“If I fail this test, I’ll never get a good job!”). This can lead to shutting down before even trying an assignment - or out-right refusing to participate in a certain subject. To promote more positive, realistic thinking,
5. Flexible Thinking
Flexible thinking enables students to manage unpredictable events and disrupted routines. Improving flexible thinking helps a learner adapt to new situations and improvise to meet different types of challenges.
A great way to heighten this skill is to catch kids being flexible and reinforce them for it. Set up a Flexibility Jar and add a pom-pom to it every time the student demonstrates flexibility. Displays of flexibility might include calmly allowing a peer to use the computer first or saying, “Oh well!” when there’s an unexpected change like the class not being able to watch a planned movie. For young children, define flexibility as any time the child stops, stays calm, and makes a new plan.
When educators structure problem-solving meetings using this skill-building lens, teachers feel more empowered. This attitude transfers to students. Everyone wins.
By: Jessica Minahan and Diana Baker
Educational Leadership Magazine-October 2015