By: Asmaa Fellah
Starting school (including preschool and kindergarten) is a major transitional event in children’s lives. With transition comes change, and with change comes coping and adapting. For many children, coping with change can be very daunting and intimidating, especially when children have fears. Children are scared of being away from their parents in a new setting and environment. In addition, they are also scared of rejection, meeting new people, and failure.
In kindergarten, many children begin to feel separation anxiety and will start crying, yelling, screaming, and throwing temper tantrums, especially on the few first days. Children are attached to their parents, and therefore feel a sense of securement when their guardians are in their environment. Rather, when children are away from their guardians for the first time and for long periods of time, he or she feels lonely and scared. Not only do they feel scared, but their environment also is completely new to them and they feel lost and overwhelmed. Their sense of securement is instantly gone, leaving them with a sense of fear from their new environment. This is a commonly seen fear amongst kindergarteners.
As children continue in their schooling, expectations and accomplishments are expected from teachers and parents. Homework and assignments are expected to be completed, inside school grounds and outside school grounds. Fear of failure starts to arise as children may be overwhelmed with how much they need to get done, or maybe the difficulty of the tasks, or the pressure of parents and teachers. Fear of failure may prevent them from enjoying school as it will feel forced and unwanted. In addition, children may think that if they don’t meet these expectations and complete their work, a harsh consequence may be set.
The mentioned fears and concepts are applicable to how protentional feelings a child might feel prior to and during an in-home service. Remember, you are a complete stranger to this child and in their point of view, you might be invading their territory. In addition, that child doesn’t have other children around him or her, so they might feel more singled out leading to increased feelings of fear. Now how do we overcome this?
Time and patience. One must understand the difficulty that a child endures when trying to become comfortable and opening up to strangers. In a situation where an in-home aide only has 4 hours, this becomes exceptionally more difficult as it takes longer for the child to become comfortable and adapt.
Second, it is crucial to provide a therapeutic environment that includes the least restrictive environment is necessary for children’s growth and development. A least restrictive environment (LRE) is incorporated in a therapeutic environment. The more negative and unsafe environment, the more children are least likely to learn appropriate behavior to adapt to new environments and events. Proper educational and behavioral support includes an LRE that incorporates a therapeutic and engaging environment, allowing students to prosper and flourish intellectually, emotionally, and socially.
When a student feels safe, he or she is more likely to engage in actions and adventure outside of their confront zone. On the other hand, a student is more likely to present inappropriate actions such as not listening, and engage in inappropriate behavior if the safety component is not presented in their environment. Students use these tactics as a defense mechanism in order to create a sense of safety. A safe environment also creates a sense of welcome and is composed of mutual respect, no-judgment rule. When teachers engage in welcoming actions such as smiling at their students and asking how they’re doing, the students are less likely to be guarded and rather open up and show their true selves. Providing a no-judgment rule allows for students to feel safe to take new opportunities, experiment with new strategies, and engage in new appropriate behavior.
An LRE environment speaks about the accessibility to preferred activities for exceptional students which in turn increases responsiveness to new behavior. Much the same as adults, youngsters have interest and preference which makes them more inclined to complete a task when these are available. Students are also more likely to rebel against the teacher which results in inappropriate behavior if the task is too boring or too demanding. It is important to relate academic and non-academic tasks to the preferences of the exceptional student when possible. When tasks personally relate to the student, he or she is more like to be engaged in the activity. The accessibility to preferred activities also fosters creativity and active learning for these students. Realistically, not all tasks are relatable to different interests nor appeal to students, rather rewarding them after a completed task with an interest of theirs is also effective. For example, a reward for a student who enjoys reading could be ten extra minutes of preferred reading after finishing a math worksheet. Using these techniques increases the chances of responsiveness and participation for all students and can in turn lead to increased active learning.
To summarize, utilizing these strategies allows aides to create a sense of security and welcoming. We all must be patient in regards to children opening up. It is crucial to allow enough time, create a positive atmosphere and allow the child to engage in activities they love. These strategies not only benefit’ the aides but also allows students to take risks and new attempts without feeling embarrassed or afraid.