The PREP Group Presents: Social Emotional Supports

Drs. Miguel & Tomaino presented the following information on social emotional supports as a part of the professional learning webinar series for paraeducators with Supporting Inclusive Practices. Below is a recap of the session.


Can you recall any social-emotional supports in your education? For many the answer is no, or not many. What if we had increased social-emotional supports during school-aged years that taught us how to cope? More coping skills means more positive adjustment and lower suicidal ideations for children and teens, however many adults lack healthy and effective coping and regulatory skills.

When we focus on the social AND emotional aspect of working together on a science, math, literacy activity, we create a BALANCED experience that helps children in all aspects of development. – Ellen Booth Church

For some the term social-emotional can be confusing or foreign, so as we delve into the topic of social-emotional supports we are honing into a few key areas:

Social Supports: Teaching children how to socialize.

Emotional Supports: How they understand, identify and deal with their emotions.

Coping Skills: What they do once they have identified their emotion.

Regulatory Supports: How they regulate their body and/or emotions when coping.

Next, we will go over each area in more depth for the classroom setting.

Social Supports in the Classroom

Strategies for the classroom include:

  • Spontaneous and independent greetings to peers, teachers, etc.
  • Conversation skills: staying on topic, mastering reciprocal exchanges and not being the only one to talk (being rigid and only speaking about what they are interested in).
  • Slipping into a conversation/situation: this includes play, conversations and activities.

When to use:

  • Group instruction (raise hand, engage in curriculum).
  • Recess (keep supports in place at this time).
  • Lunch/Snack
  • Group projects (working together to produce a product or project).
  • When your student doesn’t understand something (teaching self-advocacy).

It is important to know exactly what skills you are targeting for your individual student and then proactively creating opportunities for that purpose.

Emotional Supports in the Classroom

Strategies for the classroom include:

  • Target emotion ID in self and in others. They should be able to label the emotion, sometimes with assistance as needed.
  • Teach the student to identify their emotional state in the moment, use visual supports as needed.
  • Identify, teach and redirect to proven strategies and behaviors that are contextually relevant for each emotion, it is important that this is individualized.

When to use:

  • Before the student becomes escalated or upset, identify and know their precursors.
  • Positive practice throughout the day when the student is calm, at baseline.
  • Modeling when you notice other students or characters in curriculum demonstrate need for emotional support or regulation.

Coping Skills Supports in the Classroom

Strategies for the classroom:

  • Breaks with input needed. What during their break can they engage in to regulate or cope?
  • Tactile tasks like drawing, writing, puzzle, etc..
  • Physical activity such as a walk or bouncing on a ball.

When to use:

  • When the student has difficulty responding appropriately to their emotions.
  • When your student is unable to access educational setting due to their emotional state.

Always remember, without your own coping skills you cannot teach or model coping. If you do not identify your own coping strategies and use them you will not be able to remain calm during escalated situations with your student. Use your own coping skills as an antecedent to stress as much as possible.

Regulatory Supports in the Classroom

Strategies for the classroom:

  • For a student who is under aroused: jumping, bouncing or spinning.
  • For a student who is over aroused: sensory fidgets, heavy work, pulling, squeezing or weighted blanket/vest/lap pad.
  • Follow a sensory diet as prescribed by your Occupational Therapy department.
  • Train your student to implement regulatory supports on their own. If they cannot implement on their own then they are simply following instructions.

When to use:

  • When you need to change the arousal state for success when accessing their curriculum.
  • When the student has social-emotional coping skills in their behavioral repertoire and can start self-regulating.
  • Independent implementation is needed. It is only considered a coping skill when it works to calm them down.
  • Strategies are needed throughout the student’s day regardless of and in order to maintain their emotional state. Be proactive versus reactive.

In order for these skills to be effective and become regular practice, we need to focus on creating opportunities. Here are some suggestions on how to find and also create these learning opportunities.

Social-emotional skills in the context of behavior presents as a challenging behavior (noncompliance, self-injurious behavior, kicking, screaming,, hitting, etc.). Challenging behaviors present a perfect opportunity to practice these coping skills. We can see and feel how these coping skills work and we can reinforce the use of these important skills.

In conclusion, it should be expected that students will make mistakes and misbehave, but as educators we must see these as opportunities to support our students, ourselves and to teach.

We hope that you enjoyed the recap of this very important topic and if you have any questions about this or any other training opportunities from Drs. Miguel and Tomaino, please email us at or