Social-Emotional Learning: We Want to Hear from You!

SELWe Want to Hear from You!

Take Our Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum Survey  Here.

What is SEL?

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) focuses on aiding all students in navigating life skills, such as social conventions and self-regulation of behavior. Students who have a better handle on their own social skills and emotional regulation, have greater self-confidence and a better overall learning experience.

Why We’re Developing an SEL Curriculum

Current SEL curricula touch upon this skill set but many schools are dissatisfied with the current market choices available. This is why we are developing a SEL Curriculum that is practical, easy-to-use, meets state and school standards, and teaches students the value in identifying and regulating their own behavioral and social choices.

The Long-Term Effects of Teaching Our Students Important SEL Skills Equate to Better Life Management

If we can help students learn to self-identify their emotions at a young age, my hope is that there will be:

  • More validation from the teachers as to how a student is feeling and fewer trips to the principal’s office due to bad behavior;
  • More redirection for negative outbursts and less labeling a child as “The Problem Kid”; and
  • More peer support and encouragement instead of isolation, especially as our students enter the middle and high school levels.

I believe if we can equip our students with the skills to learn how to self-regulate and manage their own behaviors we can create a school culture of support, which somehow gets morphed into school culture of competition as students move from Elementary to Middle to High School. Perhaps, a reflection of our own society’s culture.

As a culture, if we start feeling more instead of doing more I think we’ll start seeing more of our kids grow into adults who value themselves and each other a little more too.

Tell Us How You Feel about SEL

Take Our Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum Survey  Here.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

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My Student is a Self-Described “Sheldon Cooper”

Big Bang TheorySheldon Cooper, Ph.D. is, of course, a fictionalized character from the comedy series The Big Bang Theory, which explores the friendships between four young scientists and their ability to navigate sticky social situations together. From dating to work related politics, it is very difficult for Sheldon, a genius who exhibits tendencies of Asperger’s Disorder, to know what to say and how to say it.

In contrast, his friends know the importance of social conformity and provide guidelines to help Sheldon sidestep social pitfalls. Leonard, Raj, Howard, Bernadette, and Penny often call him out when he’s engaging in behavior that is not up to social standards. His girlfriend,  Neurobiologist Amy, gives Sheldon social “due process” in a way as she is more apt to indulge him by listening to his point of view and trying to explain the way of the world in his language.

Teaching Social Skills for Those with Context Disorders

Underlying the comedic shenanigans that Sheldon often finds himself in each week is the real life issue of teaching social skills, especially when it comes to helping those who are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. The DSM-V has bundled Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and PDD-NOS into one umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) separated by various severity levels. Due to this new way of diagnosing, we will see more kids labeled with ASD and there will be more of a need to teach social skills in the mainstream classroom. This means incorporating Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) into daily lesson plans, as Common Core recommends.

High-functioning Autism, formally known as Asperger’s, is really an overall context disorder, meaning that it is difficult to naturally decipher and pick up on social cues. Rather, the person must learn these relational tools just as someone would learn math or physics or any other structured subject.

The problem with teaching social skills, however, is that there is not one formula and not one correct answer. Every social situation presents a different nuance. So how then do kids really learn social skills?

My Student is a Self-Described “Sheldon” & Uses Social Thinking to Understand Patterns in Behavior

My student is diagnosed with Asperger’s and is a self-described “Sheldon Cooper”. She identifies with his character because reading social cues and exhibiting appropriate social expressions can be trying. It does not come naturally to her but she has learned to compensate by using social thinking– applying a set of social standards to various like social situations. She is very bright and independent. For example, when I was a young girl reading “Anne of Green Gables” she was a young girl reading “The Origin of Species”. But for all her intellect she can seem lost when it comes to relating to others on a social level.

Sheldon provides her some context. Although somewhat exaggerated, his character is ultimately relatable. Sheldon’s love for physics overcomes his love for people. Why? Physics makes sense. People don’t. My student would agree. Her favorite thing is Paleontology. Why? Paleontology makes sense. People don’t.

To navigate her way through real-life social situations, my student has developed social thinking skills, whereby she looks for patterns in social behavior and then correlates those behaviors to appropriate responses. For example, when I’m smiling, she mirrors that facial movement back to me by smiling too. When I’m telling a story, she knows that her response should be something related to my story to show empathy and understanding. Oftentimes though, the conversation quickly reverts back to paleontology because that is the thing that she can most relate to. We’re still working on that one.

The Best Way to Learn Social Skills is Through Your Peers

The fact of the matter is that there is not a one-size-fits-all social formula for every situation because every situation presents different variables. But through pattern recognition and good old-fashioned trial and error, a student can learn what to do and what not to do. With my younger students who are diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning Disorder or ASD, we spend a lot time deciding what is appropriate and inappropriate in social situations. I cannot prepare my students for every social encounter but I can arm them with an arsenal of social tools that they can use to decipher an appropriate response in a new social situation.

The best way to learn social skills, however, is by way of a student’s peers. Mirroring and social cues will come more naturally if a student’s peer is teaching them through modeling. This is simply because students can relate more to someone their own age rather than an adult. The best social thinking groups are those who intentionally have designed the group for both typical and atypical developing children. (Here are some recommended Social Thinking Skills Groups in Los Angeles.)

Just like Sheldon, everybody can learn something from their peers and social thinking is no exception to this social rule.

A funny but true moment: Sheldon “Masters” the 3 Big Social Expressions

 

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

How to Be a Court Jester in a World Full of Kings

t600-court-jester-kayeThe Court Jester, often thought of only as the silly witted man, is actually the smartest guy in the room because he sits at the foot of the all-powerful monarch but is never subject to the guillotine. By observing, he learns to placate, shroud honesty in humor, and, most of all, he learns to survive.

We can all learn a thing or two from this “lowly” figure, especially for anyone who works with or has kids who struggle with social skills. Conventional schooling often dismisses the importance of learning how to maneuver through social situations in favor of academics and conformity. For those of us who have already passed the test of formal education, we know that it will actually be those social skills which will take us further in life than all of the A’s we have ever received. The kids who learn early on how to placate and shroud honesty in humor are the ones who learn to survive the corridors of the corporate world.

Shawn Achor, Positive Psychology Researcher and Harvard Professor who taught “The Happiness Course”, explains that 75% of success is based on how we process the world and 25% of success is based on our intellect. How we perceive our situation through a lens of our choosing dictates our choice to be happy. Interestingly, those in relationship based cultures with Attachment-Based Learning as the foundation of their education, tend to be happier because they view their benchmark of happiness against their social community. Much along the same lines, I find that for kids who are struggling in school things can turn around rather quickly when they find their social group– when they are accepted. Peer support seems to be the antidote to loneliness, isolation, and depression, which if left unattended can lead to real harm of self and of others.

However, in our American educational system we struggle with placing value on the important life lessons that social skills teach us because we are not a relationship based culture. For example, it’s a negative thing to call a kid a class clown. Really, when we break it down, a class clown is just a student who is longing to be accepted and who will use all the cards in their back pocket to find a friend.  That’s why comedians are actually observationalists by trade. They are the Court Jesters of our time. They possess the unique ability to read people and this saves them from the guillotine of social isolation.

So when your kid is struggling in school, perhaps it’s not the academics that should be the first thing we fix. Instead, let’s look socially–let’s look at what kinds of friends or lack of friends your child has at school. Because it only takes one friend to change a person’s perception of themselves and their surroundings and costs nothing but time. Most importantly, it will teach them about navigating this world where mastering social skills rule in the King’s Court.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student, combining Academic Support, Behavior Support, and Education Advocacy to bridge the gap between home and school in order to serve the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com