Communication Empowers Students with Special Needs
YouHue is simple and quickly becomes part of classroom life. A student opens the app, selects the emotion she is feeling, and describes why she is feeling that emotion. Then, that log is saved into a database that the school can access. The exercise guides students to express themselves appropriately, and we believe self-expression empowers students to get what they need to be successful.
When students find their voice, it actually gives time and energy back to the classroom teacher by reducing classroom behavioral issues and helping connect better with students. When students can express themselves appropriately and effectively, they are able to ask for what they need and modulate their behavior to achieve their goals.
EXAMPLE: SPECIAL NEEDS IN PHILADELPHIA
AN EASY WAY FOR HER ALREADY OVERBURDENED TEACHERS TO CARRY THAT FOCUS INTO EVERY CLASSROOM.
One of our very first YouHue-enabled schools had recently spent years on at-risk and low-performance lists, fighting budget constraints and resource limitations. With a new principal, came a new focus on culture. She saw poor behavior and weak academic performance as a symptom of something deeper, something in the emotions of her students.
She set a powerful example of reaching out to her students, letting them know that she heard them, really understood them, and that they could trust her to lead them. By expressing this acceptance and care, she was able to get students to buy into her vision for their future. The school’s performance improved dramatically not only in academics and graduation rates, but in every measure of student behavior and engagement.
This amazing principal heard about YouHue from a colleague and saw an opportunity to strengthen the ability of each of her teachers to deliver mental wellness education into their classrooms. From our first call, she expressed her unyielding prioritization of student emotional health. What she needed now was an easy way for her already overburdened teachers to carry that focus into every classroom.
BRINGING YOUHUE INTO THE CLASSROOMS
We started with just three donated iPads, and YouHue was brought to life in their three highest needs classrooms of special needs students. The program would start simply, each student would log his or her feeling of the moment in YouHue when she or he arrived to the classroom each morning. Also, teachers would encourage the students to log their self-expression in YouHue as needed — perhaps when a student is upset, withdrawn, overwhelmed, frustrated, or overexcited.
The students would mainly complete these logs by themselves, but occasionally with the assistance of the teacher or a support staff member.
THREE MONTHS LATER
“IT HAS IMPROVED [THE STUDENT] AND HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW IT. HE JUST THINKS HE’S PICKING UP AN IPAD AND TELLING IT HOW HE FEELS. HE DOESN’T REALIZE IT’S AN OUTLET.”
Three months later, these teachers were reporting significant behavior change in some of their most challenging students. In fact, these students were the first to start showing results. Teachers described the new capabilities of their students and tone in their classroom:
“YouHue gives [the student] a way to filter how he’s feeling. Sometimes he doesn’t want to talk, and so he uses YouHue. ‘Ok, go talk to YouHue,’ I’ll say. And he goes, he does the exercise, he rethinks how to handle things, and filter himself. He’ll then say to me, ‘Ok, I’m a little calm, but I still need to go to the Calm Down Area.’ He’s able to modulate his behavior much better than he was at the beginning of the year.”
“It’s to the point where [the student] knows when he needs it. He’ll say some days, ‘I need YouHue.’”
“[My student] wants to learn now.”
“[My student] talks to [YouHue] as a friend, then comes back to [the real world] and that helps him get through.”
“[My student’s] outbursts have decreased.”
“[YouHue] got [the student] to become more comfortable talking to me.”
“Talking with me and YouHue helping turn him around and he wants to learn now.”
“I normally use YouHue when [the students] come in in the morning. It is part of our morning routine as we go through morning message and review homework.”
“[My student’s] confidence level is increasing.”
“It used to be, give [the student] any task and he would be like, ‘I can’t do it, I don’t want to do it,’ and he would put this whole big front on. YouHue helped him because it’s made him realize he can use his voice, helped him realize he can do things. He’ll say he’s frustrated and I’ll tell him, ‘You can do it!’ and now he realizes he can. ‘I can!’ he says.”
“When we started the program, we talked about feelings — what they are. Then we went through each of the YouHue emotion pictures to get them thinking about what each one meant.”
“I remind them to just go on and, ‘Say how you feel.’”
“One of my students is nonverbal, so the emotion pictures help.”
“Sometimes if a student is upset, I’ll suggest she goes on and uses YouHue.”
“When we have interpersonal communication or when we talk about communication in lessons, the students understand a bit more because they’re getting into the emotions already through YouHue.”
“[One of the students] is so excited about it each morning he helps make sure all the other students do their morning log, as well.”
“It’s easier for my students to communicate about their feelings. They are more receptive. They talk a bit more about how they are feeling, and are more open.”
CHANGE CAN BE SIMPLE
All of this from a passionate principal, some amazing overburdened teachers, and a few donated iPads. In just three months, these classrooms made significant demonstrable advancements in the social and emotional skills of their special needs students. It is no longer expensive or time-consuming to support the mental wellness of students.
YouHue changes classroom life by changing classroom culture, which starts with helping students express themselves appropriately and meaningfully. When you change classroom life, you change student performance, which changes lives. All it takes is making mental wellness a priority, and a little help from YouHue.