C.M. Corner: EBD

Travis Chapman

Special Education can be one of the most rewarding places to work.  You get to watch students learn new techniques, skills and behaviors and get the chance to really build positive connections with them.  However, no two classrooms are alike, so it can present a challenge in needing to adapt to the various students that you are working with.  One of the most common needs that people work with in education is Emotional Behavioral Disorders.  Below, we have put together some tips on working with these students.
First, be honest and straightforward with your students and be aware of your own distractions.  These students typically look toward social cues to determine your authenticity.  They often value people who say what they mean and respond better to directness.  Make sure that you still maintain professionality, but speak in plain, clear language.  Further, when speaking with or listening to these students, make sure that you give them your full attention.  If you are not able to give them that attention, then let them know and briefly explain why.  If you don’t, they will often think that you don’t care about them and they may misbehave or escalate.  While we have other responsibilities in our positions, keeping open communication with these students can help to connect with students.
Another way to proactively manage behavior, when you set expectations, be firm and fair with everybody.  Yes, we want to be welcoming and caring, but we want our students to feel safe and that they feel cared for.  Often in Special Education programs, students may have a harder time reasoning information that negatively affects them.  If your basic set of expectations, or how you enforce them, favors one or a portion of the students, then the other students feel excluded.  They are more likely to see this as a judgement of their character or value and then misbehave because of the perception that you are “playing favorites”.  If we are holding everybody to the same expectations and they claim we are playing favorites, then explain that you are not and the behavior you are expecting.
Lastly, connect with the other classroom staff especially regarding behaviors.  A few posts back, we talked about how the other staff in the school can be your greatest asset.  If you missed it, you can check it out here: C.M. Corner: School Staff.  With students in EBD programs, they are even more essential, especially regarding expectations for behavior.  Depending on the program, age and severity of the needs, we may overlook behaviors that we would immediately address in a regular ed classroom.  Talk with them as soon as possible to find out how you are to address things like swearing, using classroom technology, aggressive student behavior, the regular classroom expectations, etc.  The more we know about how they normally operate, the easier it will be to help these students throughout the process of the day, especially what we and how can and should not enforce. 
We have heard from several people that while they had a challenging day with the students, the next time they were in the class, the students were excited to see the sub.  With any students, but seemingly more-so with EBD students, the more we communicate that we are there to help the students and care about them, the fewer challenges that we will face in the classroom.