• Dr. Patricia Cook

Creating checklists for special needs students in the online setting to support positive behaviors.

It is not uncommon for a parent of a special needs student to contact their teacher when working online to ask for help with strategies to reduce negative behaviors. For some students with more severe and profound social/emotional needs, specific interventions and supports should be determined by the members of the IEP team. However, if you are looking for interventions to support existing plans, I have a few ideas I can share for you. These materials can be prepared in digital form, but can also be printed and laminated, or put inside a folder they keep at their desk, so that the student can keep them in their work area for quick reference and use, as needed.


Provide clear information on how/where to log on:

Many students with disabilities can become easily overwhelmed with the many tools and materials they are offered to support their online learning. Having a clear, handy checklist of websites, logins, and passwords can prevent rising frustration levels while trying to access school materials. A student who is at their wits end after multiple failed attempts to log in, is not going to be at their best while trying to learn new concepts.


Provide a list of "help" supports available and when to escalate to the next level:

Offering levels of support, in a written reminder allows for the student to refer back to previously reviewed tiers of support, in order to maintain as much independence as possible. For some activities, they may need to first refer to their notes or vocabulary list in order to access an answer. Other times, they may need to ask a parent or an online tutor (like Homework Help or FEVTutor.com) to help them to work through a problem. Sometimes, they may need the teacher to intervene to reteach a lesson, or to provide additional accommodations or modifications. Yet, even in the case of reaching out to the teacher for help, the student may need explicit instructions on how to do that (via curriculum communication tools, via email or through a text/phone call). Other times, there may be videos or websites that teachers may want students to review before asking for help from an external source. The key here is you have to lay out those tiered layers, and identify for the student what each layer looks like, so they know the resources available and when to use them. Here is a simplified example of this tool:



Read more about teaching students how to ask for help here: https://www.edutopia.org/article/teaching-students-how-ask-help


Define behavior expectations and supports available for when things start to take a turn.

Even the best students have hard days when they are working on school online. As a teacher, you can help support your families by being ready to offer resources to families to facilitate communication and also to help them identify triggers that lead to unwanted behaviors. Again, for those students who behavior or social/emotional skills are identified as an area of need within their IEP, you want to make sure that any specific interventions or behavior management plans are included in the IEP documents, and are discussed and agreed upon by all members of the IEP team. For students who only need reminders and support as they engage in online learning, describing what different behaviors look like, and the ways the student can respond is a great way to provide an outlet for frustration; but in a constructive way that allows for the student to learn independence and self-regulation skills while managing academic challenges and frustrations they may face. Here is a super simple version, I have used in the past to help students and parents track behaviors, while doing online learning at home:

Remember, all students are going to have some things that they can do well on and some things that are challenging for them academically. However, as a teacher, if you can provide them tangible reminders of your expectations, and the ways that they can get to help, they are less likely to shut down and feel defeated, and more likely to advocate for themselves, and find proactive ways to communicate their needs for help and support from their teacher or parent when monitoring behaviors in an online setting.





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