Learn How to Help Kids Respond Instead of React

Posted on Categories Blog, General
Helping kids to respond instead of react

Supporting social and emotional learning competencies

School Specialty Subject Matter Experts: Cecilia Cruse, MS, OTR/L, Special Needs; Jennifer Fernández, Early Childhood; Laura “Nicole” Hill, Instructional Solutions

The EANS program, “provide(s) services or assistance to eligible nonpublic schools to address educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As part of ClassWallet’s EANS Coffee Break series, we spoke with foremost authorities in social and emotional learning about the CASEL 5: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision-making and relationship skills. These are interrelated areas of competence that help cultivate skills to advance student learning.

Learning is an interactive process and having strong social and emotional skills will help children do better in life. It yields a sense of importance and educators know they need to address this to get to the academics. In early childhood, it begins with identifying emotions as children begin to understand themselves, their thoughts and cultural identity.

Teachers and Parents are Role Models

Tools and language are essential for younger children and as sixty-five percent of the population learns visually, use the visual that complements a feeling:

  • Utilize visual characters identifying emotions (e.g.happy, sad, mad, scared)
  • Children’s literature helps kids talk about those emotions
  • Be hands on-incorporate board games
  • Real photos make it easier for kids to understand those feelings
  • Integrate talking about emotions everywhere in the classroom (i.e.beyond the calming center)

At all times, educators and parents should talk about emotions to reinforce concepts. As they grow, be mindful of sharing different tools to understand more complex emotions. This is all part of helping children become more self-aware and creating safety nets to feel secure and continue to learn.

The First Three Years of a Child’s Life Form their Relationship Blueprint

What a child learns in the first three years sets the relationship with future teachers and into adult years. Educators and parents should be mindful of the importance of facilitating peer interactions and communication in all forms. Do an audit – does your classroom have floor seating, are you stressing the importance of listening as a skill, making eye contact and creating play areas? For peer-to-peer play, having a play area is important to both have fun and learn about science and math. It also facilitates sensory learning and the concept of cooperating with one another. ClassWallet can ease the burden of these purchases and reimbursements to create these necessary growth opportunities:

  • Dollhouse
  • Light table
  • Water table
  • Play kitchen
  • Board games
  • Puzzles

The above require kids to work and talk together. With the proper instruction, children will feel safe to explore, enabling the safety net and self-assuredness for academic learning.

Techniques to Best Support the Communication Challenges of Special Needs Children

It’s important to have inclusive practices to ensure the necessary communication skills for verbal and non-verbal learners. For verbal learners, teaching the nuances of communication and social skills are so important! Use visual cues and expressive language which is especially helpful for children on the autism spectrum. The ability to understand idioms (i.e. it’s raining cats and dogs) is also fundamental to building core skills.

For non-verbal children, explore low-tech options to facilitate communication. There are speech-generating devices and applications that create voice output for a child that cannot express themselves verbally, and these tools will help with communication competency.

We Need our Bodies and Senses to Understand the World and Self-Manage

Visual, tactical, auditory and movement tools help support self-management. Research suggests that carrying an item like a weighted sports ball or weighted stuffed animal are helpful to get through a transition (i.e. moving from classroom to classroom). Movement can help the brain better organize and in turn, have a positive influence on emotional responses. It’s never too early to add to the arsenal and teach children to meditate. Developing an appreciation for that practice early will last a lifetime.

Educator tactics:

  • Hold classroom meetings to bring the entire class together to talk about situations they have encountered and how to reflect and solve those problems
  • Try STEAM and STEM initiatives to collaborate and use hands-on learning tools
  • Implement journaling time with prompts to reflect calmly in a safe environment
  • Use behavior charts, positive play and reinforce good behaviors we want to see with behavioral intervention plans
  • Use a visual timer to set clear expectations on the upcoming transition  (i.e. once time runs out they will transition)

Expose Kids Early to Concepts of Empathy and Ethical Responsibility

From environmental responsibility to responsible social media use to equity, socialize these concepts early! Literature is a great on-ramp and follow-up with core content to reinforce themes. Present diversity in authors and different types of stories. To further help kids think about putting themselves in other situations and demonstrate empathy consider:

  • A self-check when they walk in the door (i.e. review emotions, where am I today)?
  • Where are their classmates today? (i.e. do I have a friend who is sad? How can I help them)?
  • Hold classroom meetings (i.e. encourage sharing as a great way to get to know one another)
  • Use conflict as an opportunity (i.e. how do I resolve this issue with my friend)?

These are great ways to practice empathy and create a safe, positive learning environment that leads to academic achievement. It starts with all of us.

View ClassWallet’s EANS Coffee Break Webinar


ClassWallet has industry expertise with EANS and other state programs, and distributes payments for 20% of the country. If you have questions about taking the purchasing and reimbursement process digital, let ClassWallet help you better focus on the critical needs of your community by streamlining and improving your current process.