Leveraging Social Emotional Learning Programs in Speech Language Pathology

By Melissa Clark | Originally published in the June/July 2020 issue of AC&E/Equity & Access

Like many speech language pathologists, I used to scour the Internet, wading through websites and links in search of social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum materials for my students with special needs. I had some favorite websites, but the navigation was difficult. I’d click on multiple links, never really knowing if I’d find the right skill that I was looking for. For example, one link might send me to Pinterest. Once there, I’d navigate through multiple items or to a blog that I’d have to read through. It was pretty time-consuming.

In 2016, I found an Everyday Speech video about “Compromising” on YouTube. I liked the visuals and the bubbles that appeared over the characters’ heads (since I was already talking with my students about ‘talking bubbles’ and ‘thinking bubbles.’) I also liked the video modeling and how we could see appropriately-aged characters dealing with real-life situations.


Here at New Horizons Regional Education Centers, we work with students who can’t be serviced by their own school systems due to complex communication needs and behavior disorders. I work with all grade levels, and have been using a social emotional learning program for about three years now. Here’s why:

1. It simplified my life

I use the platform with our elementary school and middle school students, plus a couple of high school students. Knowing each of their goals, I can just open the program and pick the appropriate curriculum or learning experience on the spot. Sometimes I’ll just go through and preview a couple of options, just to make sure.

Overall, it’s very easy to use, my students love it, and they’re very engaged with it. That really helps to streamline things in my classroom and simplifies the teaching experience.

2. I can teach real-life situations

I loved the very first video that I ever watched—that free clip on how to compromise. I really like how you can see the whole process of the facial expressions on the students, who are in real-life situations and interacting with one another. Through video modeling, my own students can then act out, imitate, and/or tell about a time that they had a similar experience in their own lives. That makes it really simple to extract those scenarios and help students apply them in their own lives.

3. It’s a great student engagement tool

The platform works in a 1:1 situation, in small groups, or when I’m working with entire classrooms. For example, I’ve gone into some pretty chaotic classrooms, where the kids were refusing to engage with a structured activity, or where something is going on that they want to be a part of. I load up the program, pick a lesson at the spur of the moment, the videos pop up, and the classroom calms down and gets engaged. This means that I don’t have to pull students out one-on-one to teach them— particularly if they don’t want to leave their peers. They can all enjoy and benefit from the games and activities as a group.

4. Students get real-life lessons

Kids are engaged when they see individuals their own age doing something, and the video modeling helps them make a personal connection to the concepts we’re discussing. We do a lot of work with perspective-taking and empathy.

Having a variety of ways to show a concept — with the videos and emojis and snapshots with different expressions — is engaging and useful for real-life situations.

5. I’m connecting personally with my students

As a speech language pathologist, I want to be able to make personal connections with all of my students. For example, I have one student who’s been working with the platform’s thinking and talking bubbles for a while and he’s very familiar with those concepts. We’ve reached a point where I can say to him, “Oh, can you keep that in your thought bubble?” or ask, “Should that be a thought bubble or a talking bubble?” He knows exactly what I’m talking about. So not only do we use the platform for structured activities, but I can also bring up those concepts when he needs to use them in the moment.

The SEL program also does an excellent job of adding new materials on a regular basis, which makes it easy to find things that come up in my students’ lives. It’s a huge time saver, and I’ve been very impressed with it.

Melissa Clark is a Speech Language Pathologist at New Horizons Regional Education Centers.

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

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