top of page

Empowering Students Through Special Education: A Deep Dive into Relationship-building

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Reflecting on Relationships and Student Success

In the quiet serenity of my classroom, I fondly recall a candid conversation with a former student of mine, now gainfully employed, who was navigating the challenges of adult life. It was during one of her many visits that she opened up about the highs and lows of managing work, responsibilities, and daily mood swings at her job.

The Joy and Challenges of Transitioning from School to Work

Despite the regular friendly drop-ins she made to my classroom, this was the first time we had ventured into a deep conversation about life after high school. I eagerly engaged her, exploring her journey since high school and the obstacles she faced.

The Metrics of Success in Special Education

As a special education teacher, my relationships with my former students is a personal gauge of success. The harsh reality for many students with disabilities is that they face grimmer prospects than their general education peers, often struggling with employment and stable relationships in adulthood. This stark reality underscores the importance and urgency of my role as their educator.

Honoring Student Voices

To cultivate strong relationships with my students, I prioritize and honor their voices. Recognizing their individual worth and engaging them in their interests allows me to become an influential figure in their lives. While academic content is vital, my role as a special education teacher provides me the unique opportunity to focus on building relationships, goal-setting, and connecting students with valuable resources, rather than strictly concentrating on rote learning and content acquisition.

A Classroom That Reflects Its Students

I implement various approaches to honor the student's voice, including displaying their artwork, celebrating their achievements, and allowing them to share their hobbies and interests. To amplify their involvement, I design the structure of the classroom based on their feedback, ensuring it's a place that mirrors their identities, accomplishments, and passions.

Celebrating Remarkable Results

The outcome of this student-centered approach has been astounding: increased attendance, an abundance of course completion certificates adorning the walls, and the sheer joy of students and their families. The testament to this success also comes from parents who have seen their children bloom since graduating from our program.

Building Trust, Encouraging Growth

The ultimate aim of my work is to form transformative relationships with my students, fostering a sense of trust that allows us to collaborate towards building their future. This process requires consistency, patience, and a genuine appreciation for each child's individuality.

Preparing Students for the Future

In my last interaction with my former student, we delved into discussions about her employer's tuition reimbursement program and other benefits. Although the concept of retirement seemed far-fetched to her, we made a pact to revisit it in our future interactions.

Explore Executive Function Coaching

Life after high school is a complex maze and as educators, we need to equip our students with the right skills to navigate this journey. Enhancing executive functioning skills in students can greatly impact their ability to manage time, stay organized, plan and prioritize, and stay focused on tasks.

To learn more about how to incorporate executive function coaching into your educational practices and make a lasting difference in your students' lives, get in touch with us today.

About the author

Sean G. McCormick founded Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered. He trains educators, parents, and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges through his courses in the Executive Function Coaching Academy.


Executive Functions, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, Executive Functions, Inc. will earn a commission.


About 👋

EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

bottom of page