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Self Reflection Skills are hard for students with autism to learn. They require a self-awareness that kids on the spectrum take time to learn. However, that does not mean that we as special education teachers shouldn’t take the time to teach it. Working on it one on one with students can be a great way for them to learn how to reflect on their social skills and academic progress.
Children with special needs or autism often have self-confidence problems because they compare themselves to others in their class or at home.
The best thing for them to do is to compare themselves now to who they were in the past, so they can recognize all the progress they’ve made. Rather than stressing about all the progress, they have yet to make.
That is where self-reflection skills come in.
Self-reflection skills allow students to look at what they did and recognize not only where they need to improve, but where their strengths are.
In this post, we’ll cover what self-reflection skills are, why they matter, and some activities to help children learn them.
If you need more self-reflection skill practice opportunities consider purchasing my Beginning and End of the Year self Reflection Bundle!
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What are Self Reflection Skills?
It does require a certain amount of self-awareness though, so if your students do not yet possess that, I recommend starting out there.
Self-Reflection skills are not all about saying what you did badly or what you hate about yourself. In fact, ideally, when we reflect back on what we did, there should be more good things than bad.
For example, once I was observing one of my students work with a group. One of his group members told him to add images to a presentation. My student had just added tons of images to the presentation, and this was not an ideal time to be asking for that.
Instead of saying that though, my student started yelling at him to do it himself. A fight ensued. Afterward, I asked, what my student thought went well about that interaction.
He said nothing. They got in a fight. A lot of adults might agree, but I saw the beginnings of what could have been a positive interaction. The student asking for images to be added was being rude and brusk. They were trying to force my student to do something they could have easily done themselves.
It wasn’t fair. My student realized that which is a good thing. The part that needed improvement was how he handled communicating that it wasn’t fair to their classmate.
We reviewed what he could have said instead of yelling that might have avoided a fight.
That’s self-reflection skills, what did I do well and what can I improve on.
If you want to give your students extra chances to practice those skills and grow, make sure to purchase my Beginning and End of Year Self Reflection Bundle from TpT!
Why Do They Matter?
Self-Reflection skills are very important because it allows students to have more control over what they are working on.
Very often students with special needs are told what to work on or where to go or who they need to see. They don’t get a lot of choice in what to work on or what goals they have for themselves.
However, in teaching self-reflection, we’re empowering students to choose their own goals, based on what they see as challenging in their own lives.
It gives them a level of autonomy and can help them become more invested in their interventions and social skills.
Teaching Self-Reflection Skills to Students with Special Needs
Typically developing students might learn self-reflection skills naturally on their own, with very little help.
However, children with special needs or autism might need more explicit instruction, which is not uncommon and is nothing to worry about.
Demonstrate yourself doing self-reflection skills. However, don’t just make something up. Children are very intuitive and can tell if you are being insincere or fake. Pick something real.
For instance, my real thing is that I procrastinate too much. I set the intention of writing this blog post at 11 am. However, I decided I just couldn’t start till the kitchen was clean, the laundry was going, and I’d worked out. But by the time I did all of that, I was hungry. After lunch when I finally sat down to write this post, which should have been done by now, I spent five minutes picking what ambient music to put on and wound up watching two youtube videos about nonsense.
So what did I do well?
Well, all those things were productive on some level, and I did eventually start writing this post (obviously).
What can I do better?
I could have started all of those things, like the cleaning and the working out earlier in the day, if they were so important to me. Next time, I should start my day a little sooner. Also, I judge myself too harshly, so I should be less hard on myself when I do procrastinate.
There, self-reflection demonstrated.
So pick your own area that you would like to work on, lay it out for your kids, and talk about what you did well, and how you plan on improving for next time.
This should be easy because we’re teachers, but document what your kids do or the work they produce. It can be very powerful.
I once had a student insist there was no point in even trying to learn to write a five-paragraph essay because she was never going to get it.
I responded by pulling up an essay she did a year ago. We read it together, and she couldn’t believe how much better her current essay, which was previously giving her such a hard time, was.
Showing students their old work or old videos of them struggling to do something can demonstrate to them how much they’ve grown and that their efforts do pay off!
It keeps them motivated!
Don’t Shy Away from Chances to Practice
After you’ve given your thoughtful careful instruction on how to reflect on past performances and actions, let your kids try it in a variety of contexts.
A skill is not truly learned till it is generalized.
Request other providers on their team or in school ask students to use their self-reflection skills. Collaboration is a great way to encourage generalization.
For more on Collaboration as SEIT click here!
Additionally, consider purchasing my beginning and end of the year goal setting and self-reflection worksheet.
It can be a great way for students to set goals for the school year, reflect on their progress, as well as consider what subject they enjoy or find easiest.
Click here to purchase and save on prep time!
Teaching Self Reflection skills is vital for students with special needs to learn, not only to keep them motivated but for life. Being able to look back on what you did and decide how to improve is needed in almost every job!
Make sure your students get plenty of chances to work on this vital life skill.
Find me on Instagram and let me know your favorite way to teach self-reflection skills and what goals your awesome students set!