Boston University’s School of Psychiatric Rehabilitation provides a public resource to educators looking to build better relationships with students struggling with disabilities. On their How-to Tips for Educators page, they review interpersonal strategies that we feel can be seen as not only helpful to the student with disabilities but to all students in our nation’s schools.
- Develop a working alliance with students.
- Ask your student “how can I be helpful?” and then listen.
- Avoid advice and premature problem solving.
- Do not assume you know the student’s feelings, thoughts, and reasons for behaviors.
- Be as clear and concrete as possible.
- Separate the person from the problem.
- Agreement does not equal empathy; disagreement does not mean disconnection.
- A good working relationship does not require approval or shared values; you can have differences.
- How to deal with differences:
- Balance reason and emotion
- Demonstrate understanding
- Use good communication techniques
- Be consistent and reliable
- Negotiation builds respect and works better than coercion.
- Genius of good communication is to be at the same time as honest and as kind as possible.
- Pay attention to gender and racial/ethnic issues.
- Document your communications and interactions.
- Know yourself:
- Why do you teach?
- What do you like/dislike about working with students?
- With what emotions are you uncomfortable?
- How will you deal with your students feelings for you?
- What are your “hot” buttons? Who can easily press them?
Additional resources on: providing supports to students with psychiatric disabilities, and how mental illness interferes with school performance are available on Boston University’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation site.