“Can you?”…Can you not?

January 16, 2016 No Comments
Do you ever think about the ways that your language can effect your students’ behavior?  As teachers, of course we want to talk to our kids in a way that is positive and reinforcing.  Who wants to listen to someone barking command in an obnoxious tone?  Not our guys, and frankly, I have seen some not-so-pretty behaviors occur when staff is not so pleasant.
Most of us are guilty of starting a sentence with “can you…?” when talking to our students.  “Can you go check your schedule?”  “Can you put your backpack away?”  We politely make requests of our students, only to be met with an enthusiastic “nope!” and/or the student just ignoring what we said all together.  Part of it is society’s fault.  Women are definitely conditioned to speak in the most docile, unoffensive way as possible.  “Can you?” acts as a nice little cushion when we make requests of others.  Even those of us that don’t sugar coat things are guilty of this from time to time.
Well, can you not do that?  don’t do that.  We all know our guys with autism need concrete.  They hear “can you..?” and think you are giving them a choice when you aren’t.  This is one booboo that is constantly made as educators/paras/therapists that sometimes we don’t always catch as ambiguous language.  Your students are more likely to listen to you if you make requests as concrete as possible.  “Go check your schedule.” “Put your backpack away”.  There, that’s better.
Try it and see what happens.  The difference might surprise you!
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  • Samson's Shoppe January 18, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    I had a conversation with my special ed 8th graders a week or so ago about choice. They were blown away when I told them they always have a choice. I told them they could walk out of school right now. SOme of them being silly got up to go and then I reminded them of consequences and asked what they thought the consequence would be if they left. It was an interesting conversation because they didn't realize until then that they actually do have a choice in everything. My crew was up for the conversation and were able to understand it so, you need to know your class but I love those real life learning moments so much. I am always blown away by them.

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