Change the Environment, Not the Child

 

Last week I had several times where my students could not accomplish a task in their general education classrooms, even with support, but were able to accomplish it easily in the resource room. In the second setting they even seemed to need less support. This reminded me of how, when I was young, I could easily do the techniques my speech therapist showed me in the therapy room, but I couldn’t even begin to use them back in my classroom or out in the world. It wasn’t until I returned to speech therapy in college that I could use techniques out in public.

What does the private setting do to allow for the acquisition or demonstration of skills that isn’t available in the general classroom or outside world? My guess is that there are fewer distractions, more privacy and a generally safer environment. So the next logical question is how can we help kids transition from being able to demonstrate these skills in the individual or small group setting.

But is that really the question we should be asking? What other variables in this equation could be changed? When I think back on my experience in speech therapy, I don’t think there was much more that could have happened in the therapy setting to prepare me for the outside world. I would argue that what was being expected was not developmentally appropriate for me. What would have been more appropriate would have been to teach me how to navigate through a classroom or outside world as a child with a stutter.
I think the same can be applied to my students who face a myriad of processing, sensory and expressive challenges. If I can teach them how to ask for accommodations such as an opportunity to do their work in a private and secure area rather than an overwhelming and stimulating classroom, I think they will also feel more accomplished.