There are times when the real issue may not be the child but rather in the teaching style of the classroom teacher, that is, having unrealistic expectations, being critical, or being overly demanding. In such instances, help for the teacher can come in the form of classroom management techniques. Classroom management techniques are strategies developed to help handle various problems and conflicts within a classroom. An administrator, psychologist, or any realistic and diplomatic team member who feels comfortable with this type of situation may offer these practical suggestions to the teacher. There are many classroom techniques and modifications that should be tried before taking more serious steps. These include the following:
- Display daily class schedule with times so that the student has a structured idea of the day ahead
- Change seating
- Seat the student with good role models
- Use peer tutors when appropriate
- Limit number of directions
- Simplify complex directions
- Give verbal as well as written directions
- Provide extra work time
- Shorten assignments
- Modify curriculum but change content only as a last resort
- Identify and address preferred learning styles
- Provide manipulative materials
- Provide examples of what is expected
- Use color coding of materials to foster organizational skills
- Develop a homework plan with parental support
- Develop a behavior modification plan, if necessary
- Uses lots of positive reinforcement
- Use technology as an aid
Certain children may require only a temporary support system to get them through a difficult academic period. Some schools provide additional non special education services, such as help classes, that may be held during lunch or before or after school. These classes can clarify academic confusion that could lead to more serious problems if not addressed.
Remedial Reading or Math Services
Remedial reading or math services are academic programs within a school designed to help the student with reading or math by going slower in the curriculum or placing him or her with a smaller number of students in the classroom for extra attention. These services can be recommended when reading or math is the specific area of concern. Remedial reading and math classes are not special education services and can be instituted as a means of alleviating a child's academic blems.
In-school counseling is normally done by the school psychologist, social worker, or guidance counselor, and is designed to help the child deal with the issues that are currently problematic for him or her. Sometimes, a child may experience a situational or adjustment disorder (a temporary emotional pattern that may occur at any time in a person's life without a prior history of problems) resulting from separation, divorce, health issues, newness to school district, and so on. When this pattern occurs, it may temporarily interfere with the child's ability to concentrate, remember, or attend to tasks. Consequently, a drop in academic performance can occur. If such patterns occur, the school psychologist may want to institute in-school counseling, with the parent's involvement and permission. This recommendation should be instituted only to address issues that can be resolved in a relatively short period of time. More serious issues may have to be referred to outside agencies or professionals for longer treatment.
A progress report is a synopsis of the child's work and behavior in the classroom sent home to the parents in order to keep them updated on the child's strengths and weaknesses over a period of time (e.g., every day, each week, biweekly, or once a month). Sometimes, a child who has fallen behind academically will "hide" from the real issues by avoiding reality. Daily progress reports for a week or two at first and then weekly reports may provide the child with the kinds of immediate gratification and positive feedback necessary to get back on track. They offer the child a greater sense of hope and control in getting back to a more normal academic pattern.
This recommendation is usually made when the child in question needs a structured boundary set involving inappropriate behavior. If a child demonstrates a pattern of inappropriate behavior, disciplinary action is usually used in conjunction with other recommendations because such patterned behavior may be symptomatic of a more serious problem. The appropriate disciplinary actions necessary should be discussed with the school psychologist, and how it should be implemented must be carefully considered before it begins.
Change of Program
A change of program involves examining the child's program and making adjustments to his or her schedule based on the presenting problem. This recommendation usually occurs when a student has been placed in a course that is not suited to his or her ability or needs. If a student is failing in an advanced class, then the student's program should be changed to include more modified classes.
Consolidation of Program
There are times when reducing a student's course load is necessary. Consolidation of a program involves taking the student's program and modifying it so that the workload is decreased. If a child is "drowning in school," then that child's available energy level may be extremely limited. In such cases, you may find that he or she is failing many courses. Temporarily consolidating or condensing the program allows for the possibility of salvaging some courses, because the student's available energy will not have to be spread so thin.
Referral to Child Protective Services
Child Protective Services is a state agency designed to investigate cases of possible neglect and abuse of children. A referral to Child Protective Services (CPS; name can vary by state) is mandated for all educators if there is a suspicion of abuse or neglect. The school official or staff does not have a choice as to referral if such a suspicion is present. Referrals to this service may result from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and/or educational, environmental, or medical neglect.
If the CST feels the prereferral strategies are not working after a realistic period of time, team members may recommend a screening for a suspected disability. The source of this suspicion may emanate from the team, a staff member, or the parent. Keep in mind that the team does not have to diagnose a specific disability, but only suspect one in order to begin the referral for a more comprehensive assessment to a multidisciplinary team. This team will administer a comprehensive evaluation conducted by a multitude of professionals to decrease the possibility of subjective and discriminatory assessment.
Screening measures may include a variety of tests and procedures that can be sensitive enough to allow team members the opportunity to determine the presence of a suspected disability. Other than the very obvious cases involving attempted suicide, neglect, abuse and so on, which must be dealt with immediately, a child with a suspected disability is defined as a child who exhibits one or more of the following symptoms for more than six months:
- Serious inconsistencies in intellectual, emotional, academic, or social performance
- Inconsistency between ability and achievement and/or ability and classroom performance
- Impairment in one or more life functions, that is, socialization, academic performance, or adaptive behavior
In order to accomplish this screening, team members utilize
- Abbreviated intelligence tests
- Selected subtests or screening versions of individual achievement tests
- Informal reading inventories
- Observation scales
- Rating scales
- Prereferral data already discussed
If the screening determines the possibility of a suspected disability, then the CST must make a more formal referral to the district's multidisciplinary team for a comprehensive assessment.
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