Interacting with the Learner
It is imperative that all individuals with multiple special needs be given the opportunity to participate in educational programming that meets the learner's developmental needs. In her book Are You Blind? Dr. Nielsen describes how some children with multiple special needs exhibit severe anxiety or behavioral challenges including autistic-like, stereotypical, aggressive, self-stimulatory, and self-injurious behaviors. Understanding why these behaviors occur is key to appropriate interactions with special needs children.
In providing activities for those with special needs, the Five Phases of Educational Treatment identify the adult's role in recognizing the emotional level of a learner and the key factors in building a trusting relationship between educator and student, parent/caregiver and child. Only after trust has been established, can an adult be an effective role model and educator for those individuals with multiple special needs.
What is the emotional level of a learner and why is it so important? Dr. Nielsen describes the emotional level as the method by which a child makes contact with an adult. At an early age, this contact is non-verbal and frequently based on visual and physical cues. Types of contact change in the typically developing child as he/she establishes self-identity, improves verbal communication skills, and demonstrates independence.
Any person should develop the ability to:
- Identify and understand his/her own feelings;
- Accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others;
- Manage strong emotions and their expressions in a constructive manner;
- Regulate his/her own behavior;
- Develop empathy for others; and
- Establish and maintain relationships.
The emotional level of a child with multiple disabilities can be more difficult to identify. Emotional and social development is often overlooked as part of needed instruction for children with multiple disabilities. It is important that the adult understanding how visual, cognitive, sensory or physical impairments effect the development of the emotional level and understand the adult's own reactions toward a child with multiple disabilities. Does the adult emphasize activity and independence or promote passivity and dependence?
The Five Phases of Educational Treatment provide teachers, professionals, and parents with the techniques necessary to treat the emotional and social level of a learner, as well as academic, cognitive or physical ability level.