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Building relationships with students with special needs is a vital part of being a teacher. Kiddos with IEPs are more likely to be disciplined or have negative interactions with their teachers than their general education peers. Maintaining a relationship with them will keep them motivated and engaged in your lessons.
Imagine if something was super hard for you and you got criticized all the time or punished frequently.
That is what school can be like for a lot of students with special needs.
These are children who are academically and/or socially disadvantaged and who are also statistically more likely to face discipline at school.
It’s no wonder a lot of them say they don’t like school. It’s hard, and the adults punish them a lot.
That is why building relationships with students with special needs is so important in order to keep them motivated and improve their academic performance.
Keep reading to get tips and tricks on building relationships with students with special needs.
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Positive impacts of having a good relationship with students
Having a good relationship with a teacher can be vital to keeping kiddos doing their best in school and learning.
When kids have a better relationship with their teachers, they’re more motivated and apply themselves more.
These kids are more likely to be involved in school programs and feel like valued members of the community.
On top of that, when teachers have a good relationship with their students’ behavior concerns are less likely, and since punishments like in or out-of-school suspensions limit kids’ ability to learn and socialize, it’s best if they’re avoided altogether.
And it can help with the systemic problem of children with disabilities getting suspended more often than their general education peers.
To learn more, click here!
The benefits of a good relationship include
- Improved Motivation
- Feeling like a member of the community
- Better grades
- Fewer behavior problems
- Increased school involvement
Building Relationships with Students with Special Needs
So we’ve established why it’s important, but how do we actually do it?
If you’re a SEIT
If you are working one on one with students in various environments, then you have more freedom in how to build a relationship with your students.
The route you go will also depend on what environment you’re in and which philosophy you’re working off of.
For example, Son-Rise believes in what’s called joining, when you stim with a child in order to show them you share their interests.
(Side note: I’m oversimplifying that, so check the link if you want to learn more.)
Other than that, I always recommend taking the first few sessions to only do things the student enjoys and let them show you their world.
That way, you’ll understand them better, and they can see that you share their interests and care about their favorite things.
Even after you start teaching, make sure to integrate what they find motivating and the activities they find enjoyable at every session.
If you’re a teacher in a school
If you’re a teacher in school, and you don’t know what a SEIT is, then your options are going to be a little different.
When you’re working in a classroom, you’re not in a one-on-one session, and that can make things more challenging.
The most important thing you can do is to make sure your students know you care about them.
You can do that through a lot of different strategies, like
- Employing a lot of praise
- Run an after-school Club
- Listening to their stories
- Asking about their lives
- Offering compassion
- Validating emotions
- Knowing their interests
That last one is the most important in my experience. When I know my kids’ interests, I can keep books they like or integrate their favorite things into my lessons.
On top of that, knowing their motivations means you can offer them custom rewards, or if you’re so inclined, you can run an after-school club related to what they like.
No matter what you choose, though, the most important thing to do is to make sure you know your students!
When it comes to building relationships with your students, the most important thing to do is to make sure you’re putting in the effort.
The kids will see that and react accordingly.
And it’s also important to remember that it’s easier to build relationships with students and people if you’re in a good place yourself. Don’t forget your own self-care.