Myth: People with intellectual disabilities are always happy.
Fact: Neurodivergent individuals are not always happy. It’s common for them to struggle with regulating their emotions.
When you visit a classroom at Pathways, you’ll often find our students smiling and laughing, but sometimes students struggle with frustration, sadness, or other emotions. In fact, neurodivergent individuals may struggle to regulate their emotions due to poorly developed socialization and coping skills. A delay in emotional development is often associated with intellectual disabilities. Emotional regulation can also be influenced by factors such as an individual’s bodily needs or how they process information. Learning how to regulate emotions is something everyone has to learn how to do whether they are neurotypical or neurodivergent.
At Pathways, we care about the whole well-being of our students and prioritize providing a safe place for students to learn and be themselves. Here are five ways Pathways helps students learn how to regulate their emotions:
- Building Relationships with Other Students and Teachers –At Pathways, students make fast friendships and are given the chance to develop their social skills in a classroom environment. They learn how to handle themselves in group situations and regulate their emotional responses when faced with annoying behavior or disagreements with classmates. These opportunities allow students to practice navigating social situations while managing their emotions, even if they sometimes fail.
- Mentorship Program – Our mentorship program pairs a volunteer mentor with a student and they meet on a weekly basis. Mentors help students with math, reading, and other life skills, but a significant portion of the mentorship program is building relationships and learning how to socialize.
- Social Skills Class – We have a designated class time each week for students to develop their social skills and emotional regulation. During this time, they can concentrate on specific situations and practice handling their emotions in a safe environment.
- Break Rooms- Every classroom has a designated area called the Break Room that allows students to take a break from their activities. These rooms are equipped with various tools to help students process their emotions, especially when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. Some items in these rooms are calming lights, weighted blankets, hammock chairs, stress balls, and more. These are intended to provide students with a safe, comfortable space to work through their emotions.
- A Loving Environment – At Pathways, we prioritize creating a supportive environment and culture for our students and staff to learn how to manage their emotions. We aim to foster an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed and can be themselves. Our approach involves consistently demonstrating Christ’s love to our students and staff, even when they are struggling with their emotions. We want everyone to know they are valued, respected, and loved.
As human beings, we go through different emotions, and managing them properly is crucial. When dealing with a Pathways student or anyone who is neurodivergent, it’s essential to remember that they also experience normal emotions.