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Connecting social emotional development and social emotional learning

When introducing social emotional learning (SEL) to children and youth with special needs it is important to remember that brain-based conditions are static throughout the lifespan. An effective SEL intervention for children and youth with special needs focus on a young person’s profile rather than on a diagnosis. Goals are realistic and are based on the developmental age of the child. As in most learning programs for children with special needs, each child is recognized as an individual, children are not compared to one another and the focus is on what the child is able to do. When dealing with challenging behaviour teachers focus on the underlying causes, gaps in knowledge and skills, and the unmet needs of the child rather than emphasizing the behaviour.
 
Evidenced based SEL programs or approaches may incorporate explicit teaching about emotions, self-regulation, relationship skills, problem solving, kindness and compassion, as well as understanding similarities and differences among people.  Research shows positive outcomes for children with special needs who participate in effectively implemented social emotional learning programs, whether universal (in the classroom) or in combination with selective interventions that include small group work.  These interventions can reduce the need for intentions interventions that are costly and can contribute to increase stigma for children with challenges.
 
Social emotional competence helps children and youth build resiliency.  They are included more successfully, have better educational and vocational outcomes, are more socially connected and are more independent.  They are healthier overall - both physically and mentally.