Special Education Teletherapy – SEL Tools and Tips

What is SEL?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children learn to function effectively in school, work, and life.  

SEL 1On a more individual level, SEL incorporates learning about and managing one’s emotions. It provides the means to develop goals and ways to achieve them. It also involves successful decision-making and managing personal victories and losses.

As it pertains more to community, SEL involves understanding others who have emotions, goals, plans, and challenges too. Therefore, SEL also helps to develop empathy. It also involves building positive relationships. SEL provides an overall foundation for positive, long-term effects on kids, adults, and communities.

The five SEL competencies incorporate these skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making

Why is teaching SEL such an essential component to teach, even in the virtual setting?

Mental illness is rather prevalent among school-aged children, which really shines a light on the importance of teaching SEL. In fact, this has become even more of a prevalent issue as a result of the recent pandemic. Still, SEL is essential for all students. SEL encompasses the knowledge and skills students need to function in the world.


SEL 2All people must be able to set and achieve goals. Not to mention, they must also pursue their own goals while others are doing the same and possibly even competing against them in their pursuit of their own heart’s desire and purpose in life. They must also do so in the context of their own emotions, preferences, and other goals, which can get in the way.

SEL provides the tools for students to prepare them for these kinds of current and future challenges. Yet some educators worry about devoting time to SEL. In an era of standardized testing, teachers tend to focus their limited time and resources on academic gains.

However, teachers need not choose between their students’ academic and social-emotional growth. According to a 2011 study, students whose education included SEL scored 11 points higher on academic achievement tests than those who did not.

Source for SEL info above (what is SEL and why teach it?): https://insightstobehavior.com/blog/7-tips-enhance-social-emotional-learning-virtual-classroom/

What are some ways to incorporate Social Emotional Learning during teletherapy and in the virtual classroom during instruction?

  1. Talk About Managing Emotions

Managing emotions is an important skill that children and teenagers need to practice continuously. This skill can be woven into discussions about literature. Focus on the reaction of one of the characters in the story to create a talking point about how the character successfully managed emotions or failed to do so.

  1. Work on Problem Solving

When students come to you with a problem or challenge, don't try to solve it immediately. Instead, encourage your students to brainstorm to find a solution. Before helping them, request that they spend several minutes trying to solve it themselves. You will be surprised at how often they rise to the challenge and do exactly that. SEL 3

  1. Encourage Reflection

Don’t just jump to the next task. After the children have completed their work, give time and encouragement to reflect on what they have done. This crucial SEL skill has wide application across the entire curriculum, whether it be reading, writing, math, or any other subject.

  1. Integrate Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been shown to help people calm down and relax. This tool can be especially useful before an exam when children are naturally uptight and stressed. Many children don’t understand how to calm themselves and need guidance. Mindfulness, together with breathing strategies, can alter the child’s experience of stressful situations.


  1. Designate a “Calming Down Area”

Such an area is not for every child but, for those who need it, such a “sanctuary” can be a lifesaver. Have the child make an area near his or her workspace as a natural place to relax with a bean bag, some fidgets, books that promote relaxation, and anything else you can think of that will help the child to calm down. When calm is achieved, the child can return to his or her activity.

  1. Encourage Acts of Kindness

Don’t hesitate to encourage the children to perform random acts of kindness. Create a special virtual jar where the students can place notes they have written about other students who have done something helpful. Find some time at the end of the week to read the notes aloud to encourage everyone to participate. Click here to download a virtual kindness jar.

  1. Discuss Empathy

Empathy is perhaps the most important social-emotional skill for children to learn. It is the necessary foundation for children to respond in socially compassionate and appropriate ways. Discussions can either be free-standing, woven into class instruction or into the discussion of literature.

  1. Teach How to Disagree Respectfully

Disagreement is inevitable and isn’t necessarily bad. However, learning how to disagree respectfully without insulting or hurting another is an essential skill needed for a lifetime. Encourage discussions and debates where children are taught to actively listen to one another with whom they disagree and show them how to express their opinions respectfully.

  1. Do a Lot of Role-Playing

Many times, we are unable to truly understand another’s position or perspective until we are in their shoes. It is beneficial for children to role-play potentially uncomfortable situations, to understand the feelings of another and become empathetic.

  1. Make Time for Talking

Be sure to provide plenty of opportunities for children to talk. These times need to be both structured and unstructured. Children need that time to share ideas and solve problems. “Talk Time” will help the children build their self-confidence and understanding of others, as well as express their own feelings.

Source for Information above (10 ways to incorporate SEL Learning): https://globalteletherapy.com/how-to-integrate-social-emotional-learning/


What are some additional online resources?

SocialThinking.com - The Social Thinking website has lots of good information, including free webinars and research articles, in addition to their programs for purchase.

CarolGraySocialStories.com - Carol Gray is known for developing the evidence-based practice of social stories. Her website is a useful tool to understand what social stories are for, as well as how to create and use them.

Jillkuzma.wordpress.com - This is a great blog and website for a wide range of therapy ideas and free downloads for social and emotional skills. Find things easily with the types of social skills being broken up into different sections.

Everydayspeech.com - Everyday Speech is a membership site for social skills materials. It includes social skills videos, worksheets, and apps created by an SLP. You are able to preview the libraries of content before purchasing a membership.

Source for above: https://allisonfors.com/teletherapy-social-skills/


Author: Laurie Kauzlaric, M.Ed., M.S., CCC-SLP/L
Illustrations by: Peter Shih, B.F.A., Digital Art

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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