5 Tips for a Tough Caseload
Or, ways to cope when you aren’t having fun!
After years of working with students who can’t make it in a regular school setting, I’ve accrued a variety of hints for working with more difficult students. Here are some ideas for older students that have worked for me.
1. Include your students’ interests!
Incorporating your students’ interests into therapy is always helpful for getting them to engage. Currently, for older students, this involves using YouTube links and video clips. Since my students have much more time to spend surfing the net than I do, I’ve found it helpful to let them choose a video clip to watch at the end of the session. As you become familiar with the types your students like, you can figure out ways to incorporate them to meet your IEP goals.
In a pinch, if I can’t get students to respond in any other way during the session, I can count on being able to work on answering WH questions, having a conversation, retelling or summarizing the video’s story, sequencing the events, and eliciting specific grammar or speech sounds when a surprise video is completed. This week’s mailing includes a FREE worksheet to use with one of the standby YouTube links that my students love. Be sure to open it! If you aren’t on my mailing list and want to receive my follower freebies, just add your email on the top!
2. Make a connection!
Many students with significant difficulties in their lives won’t really respond to you at all until they feel like they have a connection with you. Getting to this spot often involves playing games, doing what they are interested in, and being open to listen to them before ever approaching your therapy goals. This can be very difficult to do, as we have to be addressing our goals every session, but it can pay off in the long run.
3. Use many different formats to work on a skill!
My students often need a significant amount of practice, using specific strategies, in order to make any gains. However, they don’t have long attention spans and don’t like to do the same activities every day (unless they are on the spectrum, and that’s another post!) This is the reason why most of my products include multiple activities for the same skills, as well as ways to vary the difficulty levels. Giving students choices about their work, even if it is as simple as offering a conversation spinner, conversation cards or a conversation game, can get students working since they have made the choice.
4. Provide choices!
Choices are a big option, and this includes the student’s behavior. I often tell my students that I can’t make them work, but I hope that they will think about their choices and make a good decision. While the students are contemplating taking off their hoods and looking like they might interact with me, I keep busy with doing my attendance sheet and getting out some easy, hopefully, more engaging work choices than the one I had hoped to do that day. I make it a point to have varied options for each IEP goal, and lots of games, available at all times for just this reason.
5. Use Incentives!
Incentives to work are so important! Negative consequences, such as notifying the teacher or parents, may work in the short term but are not ideal for helping students to make better choices for themselves. Games, contests, something fun to do at the end of the session, and point systems all can help. Prizes for older students can include no homework passes, extra game or computer time passes, items from the dollar store that interest them, something special from the cafeteria or school fundraising events or an end of year speech pizza party.
What has worked for you?