Rider faculty receives grant to help public school students regulate emotions
By Kaitlyn McCormick
Professor Diane Casale-Giannola and assistant professor Lauren Delisio ‘00 from Rider’s College of Education and Human Services received a $13,000 grant from Janssen Pharmaceuticals that will be used to help public school students in the surrounding area.
With this funding, three classrooms from both Mercer County Special Services School District (MCSSSD) and Robbinsville High School — six total — will be able to set up a sensory space called “calm corners” for students who may have trouble regulating their emotions due to various disorders.
“Kids with the disabilities that we are focusing on in this grant, which are autism, ADHD and bipolar syndrome are really having a hard time because of the pandemic,” Delisio said. “Knowing that they were going to be back full time in person, in classrooms face-to-face, we wanted to provide them with something that’s going to help them regulate their emotions or deal with anxiety or trauma … relative to the pandemic.”
These corners will have tools and materials for self regulation, such as various seating choices, weighted objects like vests and blankets, as well as fidget toys for students to utilize.
Casale-Gianola and Delisio will be doing a research project in tandem with these “calm corners” that will hopefully benefit not only their instruction, but other teachers and professors as well. They will be holding professional development sessions as well as collecting data and feedback from the study.
Delisio explained that these sessions will be on “trauma-informed instruction, teaching emotional self-regulation and executive functioning … and then at the end with their feedback, we are going to be collecting data … to see whether or not these components have helped decrease any unwanted, anxiety or trauma kinds of behaviors.”
“We’re going to create five to six lessons, so kind of like a unit, that teachers can use in the future on trauma-informed instruction and teaching self-regulation. … Dr. Giannola and I are both very big on using our own research to inform our own practice. So ideally, we’ll learn something from this as well and then be able to apply it into our classes,” Delisio said.
Casale-Giannola and Delisio will be writing a publication on their work and are hopeful to present at the Teacher Education Division conference for the Council for Exceptional Children that takes place in various locations every November.
Both professors will also be conducting at least three site visits at each school to talk with teachers and staff.
Rider’s education programs have strong ties to both MCSSSD and Robbinsville High School, and this is only one example. College of Education and Human Services Dean Jason Barr explained the strength of these community partnerships.
Barr said, “This is just another aspect of building our partners in the community building that goodwill. We placed a lot of our special education students at Mercer County Special Services, and a lot of our student teachers go to Robbinsville. In fact, several administrators and principals at Robbinsville have gone through our program, and so it just kind of continues this cycle of us working with them, them working with us, and all for the betterment of the K-12 student experience.”