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The SCERTS Model and Your Classroom

The SCERTS Model and Your ClassroomWhen developing an inclusive teaching approach for your classroom, do you struggle with which method to implement? If you’re teaching both neurotypical students and children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), consider the SCERTS Model, which stands for Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support.

This research-based method takes a multidisciplinary approach and outlines individualized strategies to help children develop communication, social and emotional skills. While the SCERTS Model incorporates best practices from well-established ASD approaches (such as TEACCH, Floortime and Social Stories), it differs from traditional approaches by cultivating the capacity of emotional regulation within the student rather than relying on external factors around the student. 

Brief History of the SCERTS Model 

Pioneered by a team of collaborators including Barry Prizant, Ph.D., Amy Wetherby, Ph.D., Emily Rubin and Amy Laurent, the SCERTS Model taps into 25 years of research and clinical/educational practice. These four experts bring combined experience from their work in clinical, university, educational and hospital settings in areas including special education, speech-language pathology, family-centered practice, behavioral and developmental psychology and occupational therapy. 

Now widely used around the world, this approach focuses on the core challenges faced by children with ASD and their families – namely, social communication and emotional regulation. The SCERTS Model uses a cooperative framework that draws a variety of partners together in a team effort. Rather than families, educators and therapists working independently, they work collaboratively and adopt a holistic, person-centered focus.

Appropriate Settings

Appropriate across home, school, community and workplace settings, the SCERTS Model is in line with recommendations by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. The ultimate goal is to foster child-initiated communication in real-world activities across a variety of contexts. In a school setting, for example, this means implementing this method in inclusive classrooms so children with ASD can learn with and from neurotypical students who model good social and language behaviors.

“The goal of SCERTS is being able to put these supports into place and embed them in naturally occurring routines for students or naturally occurring activities to increase their active engagement and their ability to learn,” explained Laurent in an interview posted on Presence Learning.

Benefits ASD Learners and More

Designed for all ages and varying developmental abilities, the SCERTS Model benefits individuals with ASD and those who struggle with communication disorders, developmental disabilities and sensory processing disorders. This model can be used with children, teens and older individuals, making it a long-term, flexible approach that spans the challenges faced by different age groups in a variety of settings.

“This is not just about students with autism, it’s about students who have challenges in other developmental capacities, especially social communication and emotional regulation,” Prizant said in the Q&A interview following his Presence Learning webinar.

Key Elements and Implementation

To provide the necessary framework, this comprehensive model focuses on three critical areas

·         SC: Social Communication – developing skills in communication, emotional expression and relationships

·         ER: Emotional Regulation – controlling emotional highs and lows

·         TS: Transactional Support – providing supports to foster communication and learning 

For maximum effectiveness, an integrated team approach works best. Within this cohesive process, parents, educators and service providers partner together from start to finish, including the initial assessment, goal-setting interventions, progress measurement and transactional supports and techniques. This method embeds these elements in the student’s everyday routines and activities across multiple settings, boosting engagement, interpersonal interactions and learning. 

It’s best to have professionals from different disciplines collaborate in this process, including psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists. In school, this means SCERTS-trained educators such as special education teachers and general education teachers are part of the team. Educators can either seek official SCERTS training or self-study SCERTS Model texts.

When mainstreaming children with ASD into inclusive classrooms, the right strategy pays big dividends for all students. The SCERTS Model offers these dividends in the form of a comprehensive method developed and delivered through a team-based effort that fosters the development of communication, social and emotional abilities in every child.

For information curated for special education professionals and families, visit our Resources page. To learn more about education and training available for educators in this specialty, working both inside and outside the classroom, visit our Careers section.

 

Inclusion vs. Self-Contained Education

In 2014, 2.4 million American public school students were diagnosed with a learning disability, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This number accounts for five percent of our nation’s public school population. Many of these students also have a secondary disability.

Special education teachers work tirelessly addressing these students’ needs. There is no “one size fits all” solution. From teaching methods, to support techniques, to classroom models-special education is a nuanced field.

Evaluation Process and IEP Designation

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), each student with a disability is entitled to a “free and appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, these students have the right to receive necessary adaptations.

In order for a student to receive special education services, he or she must qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Special education teachers, parents, school administrators, general education teachers and counselors all play an important role in the IEP process.

Special Education Classroom Models

The type of special education classroom model to which each school adheres impacts the implementation of these individualized plans. The two primary models are inclusion classrooms and self-contained classrooms.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 95 percent of students with disabilities are served in regular schools and 61.2 percent of those students spend 80 percent or more of their time in a general education classroom. Neither inclusion nor self-contained classrooms perfectly address the needs of special education students. Both models have noteworthy benefits and drawbacks.

Inclusion Classroom

In schools that rely on the inclusion classroom model, students with special needs attend class with their general population peers. In a full inclusion classroom, services are brought to the students. Some inclusion schools use a less absolute model called partial inclusion. Under partial inclusion, students spend a portion of their day in a resource room, working with a special education teacher.

Potential Inclusion Classroom Benefits:

  • Strong peer-to-peer interaction, development of meaningful friendships and increased diversity
  • Special needs students are given greater access to the school’s general curriculum, as special education and general education teachers work in tandem
  • Higher expectations may be placed on special needs students
  • Students are not labeled in a way that could decrease their self worth

Potential Inclusion Classroom Drawbacks:

  • In full inclusion classrooms, general education teachers may receive little input from special education teachers
  • The class’ overall academic achievement testing scores may be affected
  • General education and special education students may be deprived of important individualized attention and assistance
  • It may be difficult for a teacher to adequately address the needs of a classroom comprised entirely of special needs learners
  • Special needs students may only encounter their general education peers at lunchtime and recess
  • Social interaction difficulties could become exacerbated
  • There may not be a path available to return a student to a general education classroom

Blanket inclusion classroom policies are not appropriate for severely disabled students

Self-Contained Classroom

Self-contained special education classrooms are typically smaller in size and are led by a teacher with special education certification. Students in self-contained classrooms also receive special support and intervention in adherence with the terms of their IEP.

Potential Self-Contained Classroom Benefits:

  • Some students require more intensive intervention than can be offered in an inclusion classroom
  • Small class sizes foster individualized attention
  • Self-contained classroom special education teachers are uniquely able to account for individualized learning styles
  • Students form close relationships with one teacher

Potential Self-Contained Classroom Drawbacks

  • It may be difficult for a teacher to adequately address the needs of a classroom comprised entirely of special needs learners
  • Special needs students may only encounter their general education peers at lunchtime and recess
  • Social interaction difficulties could become exacerbated
  • There may not be a path available to return a student to a general education classroom

Do you believe one classroom model is superior? Do you find benefit in a hybrid approach? This topic will be one of the many you will explore in greater depth as you embark on your special education career.