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Behavioral, Emotional, & Life Skills

Students who require intensive intervention often have emotional, behavioral, and life skill challenges that impact their ability to be successful in school and in their community. Getting along with others, paying attention, following directions, making responsible decisions, and managing emotions are challenges for many students who require intensive intervention. These challenges may be linked to difficulties with executive functioning, communication, and academic learning. Schools are increasingly using behavioral, emotional, and life skills instruction and intervention to provide students with a well-rounded education. However, many programs do not place an explicit focus on students with high-intensity needs.

What are Behavioral, Emotional, and Life Skills?

Behavioral Skills are interpersonal, self-regulatory, and task-related behaviors that connect to successful performance in education and workplace settings. Effective behavioral skills help individuals succeed through effective interactions, stress management, and persistent effort.

Emotional Skills refer to the ability to recognize, express, and regulate one’s own emotions. Emotional skills aid in self-control, recognizing personal needs, asserting personal boundaries, building successful relationships, and taking care of personal well-being. Recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions also helps one to recognize the emotions of other people, which is integral to developing empathy and how we interact with others.

Life Skills refer to adaptive and positive behaviors, knowledge, attitudes, and skills that enable an individual to effectively deal with the demands and challenges of life. Life skills equip individuals with the emotional, social and intellectual tools needed to
achieve success in life – on a personal level, an interpersonal level, and within their community and work places.

There are a variety of approaches to teaching behavioral, emotional, and life skills in schools. Effective behavioral, emotional, and life skills programs are evidence-based and include activities that deliberately and explicitly teach prosocial behavior, coping strategies, emotional regulation, and problem solving skills. Implementing programs that address behavioral, emotional, and life skills with fidelity can result in improved social competence, behavior, and academic achievement for students.

Enhancing the Behavioral, Emotional, and Life Skill Competencies
of Students with Intensive Needs

Successful implementation of a multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS) may help schools more effectively deliver behavioral, emotional, and life skills programs and practices to all students. MTSS is a framework designed to facilitate and sustain the use of evidence-based practices, including those targeting students’ behavioral, emotional, and life skills. MTSS systems and processes focus on screening, progress monitoring, data-based decision making, and a continuum of supports, which can be applied to behavioral, emotional, and life skills and help schools enhance implementation of these programs and practices. 

Within MTSS, behavioral, emotional, and life skills instructional practices are generally considered a universal or Tier 1 approach to support all students. This instruction is part of a school’s Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) framework to address student behavioral, emotional, and life skills needs as part of MTSS. Tier 1 instruction in behavioral, emotional, and life skills may benefit students with intensive needs by positively impacting the classroom climate and school, thereby enhancing the interactions and relationships students with emotional and behavioral difficulties have with teachers and peers. In addition, emotional, behavioral, and life skill development can be provided through targeted (Tier 2) or intensive (Tier 3) interventions, or integrated into other academic or behavioral interventions in Tiers 3 and 3. 

An infographic titled Behavioral, Emotional, and Life Skills Programming and Intervention. The infographic is 3 different sized triangles stacked and overlapped vertically to demonstrate the 3 tiers of a Multi-Tiered system of Support. The first triangle on the bottom is labeled 1: Universal, the second is labeled 2: Targeted, and the third triangle on top is labeled 3: Intensive. All three triangles have the words Academics and behavior written on the side edge. The stacked triangles sit on a rectangle labeled Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. The rectangle includes the text Core instruction in behavioral, emotional, and life skills on the left; Targeted behavioral, emotional , and life skills in the middle; and Intensive behavioral, emotional, and life skills on the right.

Schools and educators should consider the needs of students as they plan and implement programs, practices, and interventions for behavioral, emotional, and life skills across the tiers. It is essential to implement more intensive and explicit instruction and supports in these areas for students who require intensive intervention and in each emotional and behavioral competency in which the student demonstrates intensive needs.