4 Ways SEL Supports Special Education Students

The increasing awareness and research behind social and emotional learning (SEL) is shining light on a truth that special education teachers have long known: Building supportive relationships, increasing self-efficacy, and helping students learn how to manage their emotions are factors critical to student success. All students can benefit from SEL, yet as special education teachers know, building social and emotional competence is especially important for students with disabilities.

Here are four ways SEL can help you support your students:

1. A Clearer Understanding of Strengths and Needs: Students with disabilities benefit from SEL assessments, just as their peers do. SEL data provides important insight into special ed students’ social and emotional needs. A clearer understanding of where students are struggling and areas of strength can help educators better understand and support their needs.

2. Improved Outcomes: Many schools use SEL screening and programming to better identify and address the needs of special ed students – and with good reason. Research on students with disabilities shows that SEL contributes to higher grades and improved behavior. Students and teachers alike benefit from improved relationships and more productive learning environments. Students increase trust in their teachers, and educators are better equipped to create the supportive environments needed for special ed students to thrive.

3. Learning to Overcome Adversity: All students face adversity in their everyday lives. Environmental conditions, economic situations, and home factors can have lasting impacts on students’ abilities to succeed. For students with disabilities, these factors often become too much to handle. The good news is that SEL can help. When students have strong social and emotional competence, they are more likely to overcome adversity and attain better outcomes in school and in life.

4. Universal Inclusion and Acceptance: Implementing SEL programs for all students helps special ed students in a number of ways. They benefit from opportunities to build their own social and emotional competence, and they enjoy better and more trusting relationships with their teachers. Additionally, universal SEL programs promote a climate and culture of inclusion and acceptance. When all students receive SEL programming, bullying decreases, peer-to-peer relationships improve, and students demonstrate more empathy and helpfulness toward students with special needs.

Special ed students, like all students, benefit from SEL. Quality SEL assessments help educators better understand their students’ needs. Evidence-based SEL programming helps improve student achievement, gives students the tools needed to work through adversity, and promotes a school-wide culture of tolerance and inclusion. Learn more about how SEL supports students with disabilities and how to integrate an effective SEL framework in your school or district.

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