As part of designing an IEP, how can I support a learner with emotional problems as well as physical and health needs?  

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This post is not to answer your question because post two has already done so.  This post is to remind you that the parents may have ideas you can use which may help.  I know that this idea is fraught with tension at times, but many parents know their children well and could be of help.  For example, I have a child who had an IEP starting in grade six.  When he was in grade 7, the IEP Teacher goals were for what he should do in school as far as keeping track  of assignments, bringing his books  and homework to class etc.  My goals for him were to get up by the alarm clock, take a shower, get on the bus, go to school, and meet his para all of which were before he was ever in school. He had so many new issues which kept appearing that the school thought he was faking while I was dealing with no speech, jumping out of a moving car, etc.  In other words, when he could be in school, my goals for him were to stay in class the whole time, draw to stay in control only as much as he had to, to be polite in his speech to his para and the other students even though he talked to other students very little.  What I could help the teachers with were the little things such as 1. Don't ever yell, but tell him quietly  2. Don't touch him ever. 3. Follow the para's directions for using the blanket wrap. 4. Don't give him all of the problems on the page but only what is needed to practice a bit. 5. If he is doodling, don't assume he isn't listening because he usually is.  6.He has sleep issues as well as medication issues, so he is usually tired. 7. He is very bright, learns easily, hates  writing because no one can read it, and has a very large knowledge base which will help in class. If you ask parents for IDEAS, not goals, they will feel included and you can still write your own goals while incorporating something from the parents.  I've sat on both sides of the table and it is VERY difficult. 

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Prior to establishing an Individual Education Plan (IEP), you may have filled out an SST (Special Services Team) form which lists over 144 strategies suggested as methods of intervention. Ensure, first and foremost, that you list the strategies from the SST form that did work. Do not start from scratch, and add more strategies as you develop a relationship with your student. However, consider the following comments as well.

Students who have a precedent of health and physical disability are likely to develop emotional issues. These raise from several sources: medication may cause mood swings in some children, while others may be frustrated overall for having to submit to specific treatments or for having to receive different services.

This being said, it is best to shift your perspective as a teacher and just embrace the fact that emotional disturbance is not a unique condition; it is a very likely condition to occur in children with and without physical or health conditions. It will be easier for you to plan your differentiated instruction best if you consider emotional impairment as a reality that could touch the life of any one of your students any day of the week. In this day and age, it is more likely that you will have more than one EI student than that you will not.


A) Prepare an open-floor classroom floor-plan. This way students will have more chances to interact without the "little accidents" that may occur when children are in too close proximity.

B) With that floorplan, limit the number of tables to 4 or 5 so that you can always fluctuate your differentiated groups. Separate all the tables.

C) When you post the directions to each activity, put them on the center of the table and assign a job to each person in each group. Ensure that the directions are clear and easy for all students to read from a distance (20 font). Place each rubric or activity sheet on clip boards (1 per student) so that any student who chooses to work independently can do so. This act alone will make the emotionally impaired student realize that he or she is not going to be forced to act or behave, but that the student is invited to do their best in their own learning style.

D) Set up the rules of the classroom and post them on a visible spot. Remember that the rules of the classroom must be decided by the students, and should be seen everywhere throughout it. This solidifies the hope for a safe and balanced environment.

If you run out of strategies and nothing works, then the IEP committee meets and decides for alternative and additional interventions that will greatly improve the learning conditions of the student. Either way, keep in mind that we do not plan FOR emotional impairment, but for learning. The student will already receive specific services from a designated team; just ensure that your room is a safe and active one where mutual respect and security are highly cherished.

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This is a hard question and one that is important. Here are few suggestions. 

First, it might be good to acknowledge that you are there for the student. In other words, let the student know that you want what is best for him or her. This rapport can go a long way. 

Second, see what kind of learner the student is. All students differ in how they learn. So, if you can figure out this, then you can tailor make lessons for that student. Also you should obviously take into consideration the health and physical limitations. 

Finally, there is no shame is admitting that you need help. Hopefully the school will have specialists to aid you. 

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