Teaching Coping Skills To Students With Disabilities

It is so important to help our students build coping skills. Having coping skills will help our students with practice academics and build social skills. Here are some tips to help organize instruction, practice and generalization of coping skills

It is so important to help our students build coping skills. Having coping skills will help our students with practice academics and build social skills. Here are some tips to help organize instruction, practice and generalization of coping skills.

Having effective coping skills not only helps the classroom run smoother, but there are other great benefits:

*Students will have more on task time which can lead to stronger academic skills

*Students will have better relationships with peers

*Students will have more opportunities to go out into the community 

All sounds great, right? Well, now it is time to target them. The BEST time to practice coping skills is when the student is calm. Instruction involves:

Visuals

Use visuals to teach and to break down concepts and help with understanding. I often use social stories with visuals to help my students understand the coping skills I am targeting. For example, when I teach waiting I use a story highlighting general times we have to wait and how the student should handle it. We read the story 2 to 3 times a day. 

The waiting story talks about taking 5 deep breaths while he waits. While reading the social story, we practice hearing the word wait and taking the slow, deep breaths. This practice will help make it easier for students to use the breathing correctly when he needs it. 

You could also use visuals to help students understand when he is mad or upset. Examples would include showing the student a picture of what he needs to do- whether it be the direction or the coping strategy. 


Role Playing

Role playing is a great way to work on coping strategies. My students all have language based disabilities, so they have a hard time with abstract concepts. Role playing helps them understand what they should do and how to do it. 


Replacement Behaviors

It is important that we don't just take away a strategy students are using (even if it is inappropriate) without giving them a replacement strategy. Make sure the replacement strategy is something that you practice and the student can do on their own. Here are some of the replacement strategies that work best in my classroom:


* Asking for a break

*Asking for help

*Yoga moves such as downward dog

*Sensory toys


Reflection- Crucial Step!

Lastly, after an incident where a student used or should have used a coping strategy, it is important to help the student reflect on what happened. All students, even non-verbal students, should do this crucial step. It is important to talk about what happened and what coping strategy the student used. 

This is a great time for students (with adult support) look at the strategies they used to see if they were helpful, which one felt better, which one was effective, etc. This is a great time to add in visuals to help the student understand the reflection time and answer questions such as, "Which worked better kicking or asking for help?"

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It is so important to help our students build coping skills. Having coping skills will help our students with practice academics and build social skills. Here are some tips to help organize instruction, practice and generalization of coping skills.





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