Have you ever had a student who is very resistant to going to and participating in activities outside of the classroom? We have a very systematic approach that has been very successful with our students. The best part is you only need a timer to start it, so these ideas can be implemented right away!
The first thing we do when we have a student who acts up when ever he leaves my classroom is try to figure out the cause. Many times, I find out the cause is one of 2 things. Either the student has never attended specials or had lunch in the cafeteria or it is that they have had a negative experience in the past. Most of my students fall into the first category. There are many possible reasons to explain why attending specials haven’t been addressed by the time a student enters your classroom.
Regardless of the reason, put yourself in their shoes. Your student hasn’t attended specials before or he did and it didn’t go well. Students are often anxious and unsure of what to expect, what they will need to do, etc. To help the student feel calmer and better prepared, we write a social narrative or script of what the student is going to do, what will happen etc. It does not have to be fancy! Many times it is me just writing a couple sentences on paper like the one below.
Other times, it is a more detailed, step by step, script. For the one below, we also had a checklist to keep the student on track during lunch. It’s also helpful for making sure everyone is on the same page… paras, students, aides, etc.
If students haven’t attended special area classes before or for a long time, we add a time limit. We start with very short times to make sure that the student is successful. For example, a student may only need to attend art class for 2 minutes. When the timer goes off, the student comes back to the classroom and gets to do a reinforcing activity… this reinforcer was listed in the social narrative. We don’t want any surprises! We want everything to go smoothly and just as it was listed to build trust between the student and adults.
As the student successfully attends and participates in the special area classes, cafeteria, etc., we begin changing the time in the narrative to build stamina (written in pencil so we can keep changing it). We usually increase the time by 2 to 5 minutes each class, but that is dependent on how well your student is doing.
1) Problem: Our student was being successful, but is now having trouble in specials.