Student with special needs gets frustrated.

The Story: Different Levels of Support

Billy walks into his 5th-grade math class after being greeted by his teacher, Mr. Ware. Mr. Ware has been teaching for three years, and his students love his enthusiastic, fun-loving approach to learning. Billy agrees that Mr. Ware is pretty cool, but due to his learning disability, he struggles in math, and Mr. Ware provides too little support. Despite his learning disability, Billy enjoys math class and pays close attention during instruction. However, when it’s time to complete individual assignments, Billy gets frustrated easily and shuts down. He frequently complains of headaches and asks to go to the nurse, puts his head down, saying he’s tired, and he often refuses to attempt assignments without support. Billy becomes disengaged because he knows he can’t complete the assignments.

Billy walks into his 5th-grade language arts class where Mrs. Stevens is busily preparing everything she needs for class, including several modified assignments she provides to Billy and other students. Billy is a child with an identified disability, but only in mathematics, so these modified assignments in language arts aren’t necessary. Billy doesn’t really know the difference, so he never complains or says anything to his parents about it. Besides, it makes language arts easier for him, which means he doesn’t need to work hard in class. In fact, he can pretty much sleep through class and still get good grades. Billy becomes disengaged because the modified assignments are too easy, so he doesn’t need to pay attention in class to complete them.

Billy walks into his 5th-grade science class where Mrs. Garcia is chatting with the school’s principal. As the bell rings, Mrs. Garcia instructs the class to resume their work on the simple machines lab assignment they started the previous day. Billy quickly gets to work on the assignment with his lab peers. Several of the tasks involve completing math problems related to finding how much a simple machine reduces the amount of effort required to complete a task. During this step, Mrs. Garcia has provided Billy with a written, step-by-step process of how to solve math problems. This adaptation is just-right and encourages Billy’s engagement, because the assignment is both accessible and appropriately challenging.

The Context: Not Too Much, Not Too Little…Just-Right

Finding a just-right level of support is key to engaging the child in class, instruction, and assessment in meaningful ways. Providing too much or too little support causes disengagement that looks different depending on the child. Too much support can cause a feeling of dependency on others, which leads them to become unwilling to attempt tasks on their own, feeling like they need the help of someone else to complete the task. Too little support can cause disengagement that results in passive actions, from the child putting their head down or failing to complete an assignment to aggressive actions that endanger the welfare of the child and their peers.  In both cases, too much or too little support leads the child to disengage from class, instruction, and assessment.  It’s important to remember that support can be provided in various ways, not only through individual accommodations and modifications. As we work to ensure a just-right level of support, we must consider the presence of these other forms as well!

The Point: Just-Right Support Results in Engagement

A just-right level of support is necessary to engage the child in class, instruction, and assessment in meaningful ways. In its absence, the child becomes disengaged. This looks different for every child ranging from passive participation and failure to complete assignments to aggressive behavior.

Be Action Driven: Things To Do

  1. Learn more about how to select “just-right” adaptations check out our “Tools for Effective Inclusion” asynchronous course.
  2. Be sure to sign up to receive our future newsletters!  Scroll to the bottom of our homepage to sign up.  It’s free!  See previous newsletters where “just-right” is a common theme.
  3. Dive in to Accomods to consider ways you might support a child around their needs.  Don’t have an account?  Learn more here.