1. Establish a Welcoming Environment
From the get go, make it clear that your classroom is a safe place where everyone is accepted. If a student with an emotional disability is behaving inappropriately in a way that is not harmful, guide your other students to ignore the behavior. Encourage your student by giving her responsibilities, such as passing out papers.
2. Clearly Explain Classroom Conduct
Be very clear about your classroom rules. Describe each rule with a clear example, and allow time for questions and interactive feedback. Spell out rewards for when rules are followed and consequences for when rules are disobeyed.
3. Be Positive, Not Punitive
Be kind, courteous, and patient with your student, and make it clear that you expect her to treat you (and other students) the same way. When your student follows rules or contributes to class discussions, give her compliments that are specific and timely: "Madeline, I'm glad you volunteered an answer in class today. Thanks for doing that!"
4. Be Respectful, Not Reproachful
If your student misbehaves, fight the temptation to react angrily to the behavior. Remember that he is a human being with feelings, and teach him what appropriate social behavior looks like by:
Asking him to think about his actions
Asking him to consider what he should have done
Requesting that he try again
This method will teach your student that it's not okay to misbehave, but that you're supportive of him as he develops his social skills.
5. Show Tolerance
Pick and choose when you want compliance and when you want time to cool off. If your student has an emotional disability, allow him the freedom to participate in his own way. When other students move to the floor, let him participate from his desk to avoid a confrontation.
6. Foster Social Skills
Weave social skills instruction into your teaching: review acceptable ways of asking and answering questions, go over strategies for resolving conflicts, and discuss how to respectfully work with others in groups, at lunch, and on the playground.
7. Get to Know the Student
Communicate with parents, former teachers, and the student herself to learn what particular anxieties or situations bother her. If the student consistently misbehaves during certain class activities, provide her with an alternative independent-work activity. Sometimes students with emotional disabilities work better alone, even when the rest of the class is working in groups.
8. Refocus Distorted Thinking
Positive thinking leads to positive actions and behaviors. Teach your student to celebrate his successes rather than attributing them to luck or outside forces. Acknowledge positive thinking and decision making: "You stopped screaming that you were going to run away, and instead chose to sit down quietly and raise your hand to ask if you could go to the restroom. Good job, I'm proud of you!"
9. Shape Up the Surroundings
Strategically seat the student near positive peer models and away from peers who cause trouble. Keep him away from potentially harmful substances or objects. When you're giving a quiz, help the student feel at ease by providing a distraction-free environment and extra testing time.
10. Modify Materials
Don't overwhelm your student! Break down assignments, readings, and test items into smaller, more manageable chunks. Teach self-monitoring by providing checklists or charts so that your student can track his own behavior and academic progress.