Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Creating safe places in the classroom

One of my roles in the school is to help support teachers create a safe and welcoming classroom for all students. I often work with the autism resource teacher to create visual aids, social stories and visual schedules (we've been using a lot of LessonPix, which makes visuals quick and easy). We also help teachers learn how to interpret and help unexpected classroom responses. Is that student yelling because he is just defiant? More likely, he doesn't understand the assignment and feels overwhelmed at the task.
So I've been searching for some great online resources to share with teachers, especially after some professional development for using the Zones of Regulation. Tonight I found a great blog with suggestions for a Safe Zone in the classroom.

From the collaborative PreK and K Sharing blog:
Childhood is a magical time. It can also be very frustrating! Learning to navigate our own feelings and emotions and dealing with others' as well can be a slippery slope. Much of the time that children are acting out, they are actually struggling with managing their emotions.

One of the ways I help children in my classroom learn to deal with emotions is by providing a "safe zone" for them to get away. Not so long ago, "time out" was the suggested way to deal with difficult behavior. A safe zone is NOT a "naughty chair/spot" or a time out area in the traditional sense. It does provide the child with an area to go for a "time out", but not as a punishment. The safe zone is a place where children can go to release emotions and take a few moments to regain composure. There may be a few times that I might suggest a child go to the safe zone to collect themselves, but most of the time the area is self-selected by the student without any adult prompting. Again, this is NOT a "time out" or punishment area!

Read the whole post here. It includes some great visual examples, too!

There are some great apps that can be used along with a Safe Zone in the classroom. For example, even schools not yet implementing a program like Zones of Regulation, The Zones of Regulation app is useful for helping kids to more clearly express how they are feeling.

The Zones of Regulation
iPad/iPhone - $3.99
The Zones of Regulation ( is a framework for thinking as well as a curriculum geared toward helping students gain skills in consciously regulating their behaviors, including the management of their emotions and level of alertness. This, in turn, leads to increased self-control and problem solving abilities.

A visual schedule app like Choiceworks can also help make the whole classroom a safe zone. It's important for teachers to remember that visuals are important, and many students with autism need a visual schedule, often with pictures, even if the classroom schedule stays the same most days.

iPad/iPhone - $6.99

The Choiceworks app is an essential learning tool for helping children complete daily routines (morning, day, & night), understand & control their feelings and improve their waiting skills (taking turns and not interrupting).

No matter what tools are used, it's important to find a way to make the classroom a safe place for all students, so everyone can learn.  We'd love to know what you've used to make classroom Safe Zones, share a comment with us!


Heather H also has a pile of heavy lap pillows with various fabrics. 

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