Friday, August 10, 2012

My work as a SPED teacher is also clinical #spedchat

(Photo from LSCI Facebook page)

During my end-of-the-year conference with my principal, we talked about the possibility of having more students with challenging behaviors in my caseload than last year. In my 9 years as a special education teacher, I've seen that many of our students have painful memories of their childhood, particularly of their experiences and frustrations in their home environment. I know that many of them experience years of failures and serious depression.
I took a deep breath and asked myself if there are more practical strategies out there for behavior management than just what I read in the books and see in exemplar videos which I can use to help my students with special needs. Like many teachers, I frequent the bookstores and surf the web for hours afterschool. I buy a lot of reference materials out of my pocket and do a lot of online research at night until wee hours in the morning hoping to find effective tools to help me with the day-to-day challenges in the classroom. Although the list of tips and behavior management techniques from books and video clips that I find are helpful, most of them are only effective when putting out fires.
Having a good background in Clinical Psychology in graduate school, I knew that what I needed was something that will target the "inner working of the child", supports that will help prevent the cycle of failure, frustration and plummeting self-esteem. I wanted some steps that I can follow to help me diagnose the problem so I can give an effective intervention, and I had to find it fast! So I asked other teachers about this and found a certification program for crisis intervention. During our first day I met more than 30 participants, mostly administrators: principals, dean of students, special education coordinators, social workers...only 4 of us were teachers. Yes, it was for me...there are times when I feel that my work as a special education teacher is not only instructional, it is also therapeutic and clinical!
Life Space Crisis Intervention program is an advanced, interactive therapeutic strategy for turning crisis situations into learning opportunities for children and youth with chronic patterns of self-defeating behaviors. It has a way of understanding the elements that create crisis, outline a procedure for identifying feelings and anxieties that often are expressed in students' inappropriate behavior, and it discusses what I need to understand about myself and my student as I begin every intervention. I learned with practice and role-plays how to guide our students through stressful experiences, how to help them make sense out of the ineptness and meanness they see around them, how to help them view situations in which they have messed up, and  how to make the most of they can focus in class and learn better. You can visit or email our presenter at for more information about the certification. If you have not been on a LSCI training, I suggest that you purchase this awesome book which contains all the strategies that were presented: Life Space Crisis Intervention by Nicholas James Long.
Today was my last day with LSCI. Thank you to my wonderful classmates and facilitators, I had a great time in that class! We had our final exam today, both written and practical tests, and I received my certification. There are things that happen to our students that are beyond our control and it is always an advantage when we have other supports staff in the team to help a student in crisis while the teacher is providing instruction in the classroom.  I am expecting more challenges this coming school year and, as always, I am here to help my very unique students whatever it takes!

1 comment:

Alicia said...

As a student in the Masters in Educational Therapy program at California State University, Northridge, I must say that I can completely relate to your post. Educational therapy is a clinical practice in which a professional takes into consideration the social and emotional functioning of a student in terms of how it affects his or her learning. Therefore, when you said, "my work as a special education teacher is not only instructional, it is also therapeutic and clinical", this is the heart of educational therapy! I am glad there are other professionals like yourself who understand the importance of addressing not only the academic but the social needs of students as well. The major goal of educational therapy is to enable a student to become autonomous in his or her learning which is why it is important to give them motivation and improve their self esteem by showing them that they are able to succeed academically.

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