Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mind the Gap

Trying to teach students who lack empathy that their actions have consequences is challenging.  I struggle with it; there is a fine line of what and how to teach a child who takes pleasure from hurting others.  My student will give the scripted response that his choice is bad, or that the other person will be "sad" or "hurt;" however he truly does not understand that there is a consequence for him and a consequence for the person whom he has injured.  For example, if he pushes a shelf over onto another student, he understands that it is bad to do and that the other person will be "sad," but he does not understand that he loses privileges and that the other person may break a bone or bleed and not want to be around him.

I am a non-violent crisis intervention trainer, I have a background in behavior, and I have been teaching Autism and Severe behavior for over 8 years.  I keep coming across the "mind the gap" intervention but could never understand how to implement it.  I finally had that lightbulb moment!

Here's the overview:  We are all faced with choices each day and each choice brings us to a metaphorical fork in the road, each route has consequences directly related to the choices that we make.  Example:  I love shoes!  They make me very happy!  I was at the shoe store and I was faced with the choice of whether or not to buy a new pair of shoes (CHOICE).  ROAD A-If I buy the shoes I will not be able to go out for bagels and coffee each morning this week, but I will have new shoes.  ROAD B- If I do not buy the shoes, I will not have new shoes, but I can afford to eat the breakfast of my choosing this week.

Classroom Translation:  We teach our students that they are responsible for their choices and that a choice is either good or bad.  However, we never explain, or map out, what each choice means.  I have begun to implement this with my students, especially with my more aggressive students.  I phrase it in more of an if/then statement, "If you destroy property you lose your break time.  But if you follow directions you earn all of your break time."  I have begun to put this in visual form as well; we must remember that when our students are in their brain-stem thinking they are not comprehending our words, thus visuals are important!

Word of Caution:  You know your students.  I have to be very careful with my one student who enjoys violence and hurting others.  I teach him that his actions have consequences because of his future, not because I want him to be excited that he knows his actions hurt others.  I make sure not to validate that his actions hurt or upset me or others.  I try to keep emotions out of his teaching.

More to come on this later and hopefully a video of how to utilize this strategy!  A product will be up on TpT soon!