Why we must support SEL for At-Risk Students

By Christina Cipriano, Ph.D.

Spotlight on the uninformed educator. Maybe you know one?

Who still believes in the assumption that schooling has next to nothing to do with emotions and the greater educational and social climate. Someone who is unaware of the mounting evidence from neuroscience and education that validate the role of social and emotional learning (SEL) in high quality classrooms. SEL is the key: high quality classrooms are in support of, rather than dismissal of, student emotional health. SEL is more than the foundation for student’s learning in the classroom; SEL is the brush that paints the picture of what quality instruction and learning look like.

The areas of our brain that process and regulate our emotions are inextricably tied to areas of the brain responsible for our learning and cognition. This means that when a student is angry, upset or anxious, their brain focuses its energy on how they are feeling while they are trying to attend to what they are learning. Such emotions, when unsupported and unregulated, can decrease a student’s attention to the learning processes – the ability to meaningfully attend underscores human information processing and all learning! These temporary interruptions in attention diminish a student’s ability to listen, understand, and engage in learning meaningfully alongside their peers and teachers.

But what if these interruptions happen more often than not? Some students chronically struggle with their affective responses and regulation. Underperforming students, including students with special education needs as well as students who are low-achieving, are at increased risk of emotions that can override their attention.  Unfortunately,  focusing on just academics, since their scores are low, won’t address these needs. Many students struggling in school, need support to address their social emotional health. Students with special education needs, such as those with diagnoses of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD) and Learning Disabilities (LD) can experience prolonged disruption to performance in school by their symptoms. When students are struggling and school performance is poor, they are more likely to find school and learning as a source of anxiety, manifesting in diminished self-efficacy, motivation, engagement, and connectedness with school.

Think about it. When confronted with a challenge, it may feel natural to shy away and disengage. Neurologically, tasks that are difficult, complex, and new, actually require more of our active attention to complete- it is impossible to meaningfully encode, store, and retrieve new information if you have not properly attended to it from the beginning! When learning new information, nerve impulses will sometimes travel longer and more complex pathways to make meaning of the information. This longer time requires active attention- just like the first time you ate with a fork, or rode a bike. With practice and experience, these impulses speed up and become automatic, freeing up more of our attention for more learning! However, if we are continuously overwhelmed while learning, the energy to learn and attend meaningfully can be exhausting, anxiety inducing, and demotivating.

As a result, when students are struggling and find school difficult they are less likely to pay attention even before we account for the role of their emotional processing. Unfortunately, the same students who need to attend more are also most likely to struggle with reduced attention and processing skills from the start. SEL programming specifically designed with these students in mind can help increase student availability to learn and support closing the achievement gap.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in the Classroom

By Stephanie Whitley, MEd-BCBA

What is PBIS?

Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) is a schoolwide discipline system for creating positive school environments through the use of proactive strategies that define, teach and reinforce appropriate behaviors. PBIS is based on the principles of applied behavior analysis and is a proactive approach to establishing supports that:

•Improve the social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success
•Makes challenging behavior less effective, efficient and relevant.

PBIS is the only approach addressing behavior that was mentioned in the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is interchangeable with School-wide Positive Behavior Supports.

What does PBIS look like?

PBIS focuses on a comprehensive system of positive behavior supports for all students in a school and is implemented in all areas of the school, including classroom and non-classroom settings (e.g. cafeteria, bus, restrooms, etc.).

PBIS is a tiered system of supports to improve the daily lifestyle of all by reducing the effectiveness of challenging behavior and making desired behavior more functional. Tier 1 supports are universal supports that are taught and reinforced with the whole student population. Tier 2 supports are targeted supports for students that need further explanation and reinforcement of desired behaviors. Tier 3 supports are supports provided at an individual level. This is for students that need tailored instruction and reinforcement to meet their personal learning needs.

 

How is PBIS implemented?

To establish the universal/Tier 1 supports, a campus committee is formed of administrators, general education teachers and special education teachers. The list of activities below are established:

1. A theme is chosen to help students and staff easily remember the rules. This theme either ties into the school mascot (e.g. PAW rules for Wildcats or Bulldogs) or follows the three “Be’s” (Be safe, Be responsible, Be respectful).

2. Each area of the school or community in which students frequent are identified. This includes cafeteria, gym, hallways, playground, buses, etc.

3. The thematic guidelines/rules are then applied to each identified area. For example, being responsible in the hallway is walking directly to and from your destination.

4. Visuals of all identified guidelines are created and posted in the locations identified.

5. A reinforcement system is established. This includes tokens to be used for when students are engaging in the desired behavior and a way for the students to redeem their tokens. For example, the Wildcats may create “Cat Cash” as a token of reinforcement. A school using the three “Be’s” may use “Honey Money.” The students are then able to use their tokens to purchase items in the school store or treasure box. Items can include school supplies, toys, homework passes, extra restroom passes and even gift cards.

6. At the beginning of the school year and right after each long break, such as winter break, students are provided instructions on each guideline in each area of the school/community. Instruction includes examples and non-examples of the expected behavior. For example, students are shown what it looks like to be responsible in the hallway (walking directly to and from destination), and what it looks like to NOT be responsible in the hallway (running or stopping to look in each window of classrooms as walking to and from destination).

7. Teachers and staff members are encouraged to look for students engaging in the appropriately identified behavior and to recognize those students by providing a token and naming the specific reason the student is receiving the token.

8. The students accumulate and redeem their tokens for a secondary reinforcer.

Modifications and Accommodations

Some students may need modifications or accommodations to fully participate in the PBS system. Students identified for Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports should be a small group of the total school’s population that need:

•More frequent reminders of the expectations
•More frequent reinforcement and/or ability to turn in their tokens more frequently for the secondary reinforcer
•Primary reinforcers paired with the token
•An individual chart to track their token economy
•A separate “store” of reinforcers that are based on the student’s individual preferences

The school-wide and Tier 2 and 3 supports should be reviewed regularly. Data should be collected to evaluate the effectiveness of the PBS program and plan. This data should be in the form of office referrals, the number of students accessing the reinforcement system, the students’ and staff’s ability to recite expectations and examples of those expectations, as well as, the number of students that are able to fade from more intensive supports to lesser intensive supports. As all data is collected, the PBIS committee should review and make necessary changes to ensure the effectiveness of the plan.

Spotlight Educator of the Month: Mrs. Annika Morris

Position: Special Education Teacher
School District: Amarillo ISD (Texas)

Annika Morris is a Special Education Teacher at Amarillo ISD. Amarillo ISD is a large district in Amarillo, Texas and has over 33,000 students and 2,200 teachers! Mrs. Morris works with students with disabilities and their parents to ensure needs are met in the classroom and the students are

Rethink Ed Resources & Lessons

prepared for life beyond school. She has been using Rethink Ed in her classroom for two years.

Rethink Ed has helped Mrs. Morris, her paraprofessionals, and students grow and succeed in the classroom. By utilizing lessons from the lesson library and quick-start data library, Mrs. Morris can create individualized lesson plans and goals. The data sheets and printed lesson plans (in one easy location) help her and the

Mrs. Morris and her team of educators!

paraprofessionals in her classroom to work together. Entering data and detailed notes in the Rethink Ed app allows for increased collaboration.

Together, Mrs. Morris and her paraprofessionals review the data and determine if the student is generalizing the skills with another teacher in another setting and can visualize how quickly the student can respond. Because the data sheets are easy to read and use, both the teachers and paraprofessionals can efficiently document when working with students.
One of her favorite outcomes of using Rethink Ed is that it has resulted in

less questions from the paraprofessionals about what they should work on and how they should document what they do. The paraprofessionals feel more successful and in turn are students are more successful!

Mrs. Morris is excited and ready to meet her 2018 Classroom goals using Rethink Ed!

Put You Back on Your To-do list: SEL Informed Self-Care for Educators

By Christina Cipriano, Ph.D. & Tia N. Barnes, Ph.D.

More tasks on your to-do list than hours in the day? Than days left in your week? Than months left in your school year?

If you are in education, odds are your self-care is on the bottom of your to-do list (if it’s even there at all)!

Why? People who pursue helping professions (like teaching, nursing, and human services) also tend to have personality types that compel them to put the needs and demands of others before their own. Helping professionals seek to comfort, appease, please, and secure the well-being and livelihoods of others, and generally demonstrate a tendency towards compassion, giving, and selflessness. Helping professions by nature are accompanied by work conditions riddled in high stress and continuously evolving demands in the service of others. These character traits and work conditions can leave the well-intentioned helping professional thriving in their work while simultaneously overextended in time and resources to take care of themselves once all the work is said and done.

Research from the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) movement identifies self-care as critical to stress reduction, classroom management, and overall teacher health and well-being. Self-care is engaging in activities or practices that help you limit or reduce stress. Self-care activities or practices can fit into seven categories: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, relational, and/or promote a sense of safety and security. There is no universal Band-Aid for self-care, the key is identifying activities that minimize your stress and promote your health and well-being.

Try these five steps to put you back on your to-do list:

  1. Step 1. Evaluate Your Self-Care:
    • Make a list of everything you do- the whole day- each and every activity. Think about a typical workday during the week from the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep. Review the schedule and determine both whether you like each activity and who the activity is for- do you enjoy the activity and are you engaging in the activity for yourself or others? Then take a moment to calculate the number of hours in a day that you actually enjoy. The number of hours you enjoy in a day that are for you? Warning: This may be a disappointing number!
  2. Step 2. Consider the Possibilities
    • Next, take a moment to think about some activities that you could add into the work day (these do not have to take place on a particular day; create a list of possibilities of activities you can add into your day to increase your enjoyment and lower your stress).
    • Since we want to not cause additional stress with self-care, narrow your list to 2-3 activities that you want to incorporate more regularly and write them down.
    • Be modest in your goal to promote realistic change in your self-care practices.
  3. Step 3. Identify Your Barriers
    • Think about the barriers that impact your ability to engage in self-care currently. Generate a list of barriers- there is never enough time, money, energy, or resources! These are likely the excuses we give for why we can’t take care of ourselves right now, or ever!
  4. Step 4. Rethink it
    • Switch your thinking from dead-end barriers to brainstorming problem-solving ideas to remove those barriers. No time or money to get to the gym? Watch a free workout video at home after hours. No time to explore a hobby? Piggyback on activities your spouse or friends enjoy.
    • Generate a list of activities you can put on your list to overcome barriers to self-care.
  5. Step 5. Just do it!
    • Now take the time to put you into action.
    • Be modest and realistic- even the smallest action is starting to invest in you. The reality is, you can always find room for you if you think hard enough. Try registering for a weekly class, scheduling recurring appointments, have a standing dinner date with friends on your calendar, follow an active online social network, listen to a favorite song, get dressed up for a dinner in with a partner, a five minute mindfulness pause in the car before entering work, pack your lunch, call family members on a drive, say what you are thankful for at dinner… the list can go on as long as your creative energy will let it!

It is not selfish to take care of yourself- you can’t serve from an empty vessel. Like they say on the airplane before takeoff, secure your safety vest before helping others. Don’t cross you off your to-do list- invest in you to enable you to get it all done.

Family Engagement & Preparing for School Breaks: School Vacation Projects to Extend Learning

By Tranika Jefferson

When school is out, many students lose knowledge and skills, particularly in mathematics and reading, contributing to the achievement gap (McCombs et al., 2011). Unfortunately, low-income students are at a higher risk of school vacation learning loss than their peers (McCombs et al., 2011). It is vital that students continue learning throughout the entire year. Especially, students with disabilities given that they may have difficulty transitioning from the regular school year to vacation.

There are lots of ways to keep students learning! The perfect time for students to discover that learning is fun and not always based on instruction from a teacher is when students are outside of the classroom.

One way to help students learn during school vacation is to plan a school vacation project! Any project that you plan, may help a student generalize knowledge and skills learned during the school year in a variety of different situations and settings. These projects create learning opportunities for students to maintain knowledge and skills all vacation long.

4 examples of school vacation learning projects:

Write in a journal or notebook. Students can write about family adventures, short stories, or build on a full story from start to finish throughout the break.

Plan what books you child will read. This can be initiated at the beginning of the break by selecting a variety of preferred books that will be read throughout the vacation.

Have an old-fashioned lemonade stand! Let’s not forget about the multiple skills it takes in making and running a lemonade stand. The student will be required to create and write a poster, read, measure and follow a recipe to make lemonade, count money, and add and subtract to issue the correct amount of change.

Most importantly, keep it fun and be creative! For example, the student can make different patterns and shapes from common items around the house (straws, sticks, beads, etc.) and label or match them to identical objects.

School vacation projects can be done anytime and anywhere, therefore parents involvement in their child’s out of school learning is crucial to the child’s success. It is important to remember that parents are their child’s #1 educator.

Most schools, especially schools attended by low-income children are set up to teach at the mass scale, not individually. In addition, unless the child is attending summer school, schools play a limited role in summer learning of students. “Children are in their families and neighborhoods year-round, but they are in school episodically” (Alexander, Entwisle & Olson, 2007). Ultimately, parents are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that their children are learning all the time. Therefore, parents need to provide opportunity and reinforcement of their child’s appropriate behavior, whether in school or out of school.

References
Alexander, K., Entwisle, D., & Olson, L. (2007). Summer learning and its implications: Insights from the Beginning School Study. New Directions For Youth Development, 2007(114), 11-32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/yd.210

McCombs, J., Schwartz, H., Bodilly, S., Mcinnis, B., Lichter, D., Cross, A., & Augustine, C. (2011). Making summer count. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND.

Spotlight Educator of the Month: Ms. Charline Rivera

Spotlight Educator of the Month: Ms. Charline Rivera, Pre-Kindergarten PreSchool Disabled (PSD) Autism Educator
School:
McKinley School in the Newark Public School District (New Jersey)

Ms. Rivera in her classroom at McKinley School, NJ!

Charline Rivera is a Pre-Kindergarten PreSchool Disabled (PSD) Autism Educator at McKinley School in Newark, NJ. McKinley School is a part of Newark Public School District and its special education program is one of the largest in the district. Ms. Rivera uses Rethink Ed in her classroom and is very excited to see that her students have progressed using the platform over the past year and a half.

At McKinley School, Rethink Ed is a vital part of keeping track of several types of data. From pre-academic and academic data to behavioral supports, Rethink provides a variety of real time reports and supports, to assist educators in tailoring instructions for the individual child.  Ms. Rivera works with Autism educators, therapists, resource teachers, and paraprofessionals to use Rethink to its fullest potential. One of her favorite aspects of the platform is the Rethink Ed app which allows her to track data anywhere. Whether it’s during an extra-curricular activity, a school trip, on the playground, and/or in the classroom setting, data is collected and tracked throughout the academic school day. As a result, educators, case managers, and administrators can collect, view, and assess real time data. This data is then used to tailor lessons and tasks that meets the needs of the students and helps them achieve and master goals. By using this program, educators can collaborate and provide the same continuous support and targeted instruction to the individual student, regardless of whether the student is in a special activity class, therapy, or in a different classroom.

Ms. Rivera and her team of educators!

Rethink is a proven, essential tool for Ms. Rivera and her team. She credits their success to the online behavioral supports and training videos. These professional development and training series assist her team and truly help her students succeed. Rethink, “creates a platform area where everything is accessible and available not only for the student to succeed in their goal, but for the educator to carry out the lesson successfully and purposefully.” Over the past year, Ms. Rivera has seen a visible and analytical improvement in one of her students. Using Rethink, she was able to able to collect ABC data and frequencies. By using the data and graphs, they were able to identify the pattern and the antecedent to many of the student’s situations. The platform, specifically the behavioral supports provided to assist the student, helped them to create a behavioral plan that fit his needs. Ms. Rivera is proud to say that “a year later, with the help of Rethink data and supports, the student has decreased self-injurious behaviors. Since the decrease in these challenging behaviors, he has been awarded Student of the Month, Perfect Attendance, and has achieved and surpassed many of his pre-academic goals to a level higher his current grade level.” With the Rethink program, Ms. Rivera and her team can assist the students to overcome many challenging behaviors.

Ms. Rivera is excited to continue to use the Rethink Ed platform and watch her students’ continued success!

Stressed Out? SEL Tips to Manage Stress before it Manages You

By Christina Cipriano, Ph.D.

Teacher attrition costs the United States roughly $2.2 billion dollars annually; an estimated half a million teachers either move or leave the profession each year.

Why? Because they are stressed out. In fact, in a report by the American Federation of Teachers put out last month, educators in the US aren’t just more stressed out than ever before, teachers are stressed out more than the average employee working outside of education. Hostile work conditions with colleagues, high pressure demands of high stakes testing, diminished autonomy, and inadequate planning time are cited as key reasons why this generation of teachers’ psychosocial health is on the decline and they are leaving the profession.

How can we expect our students to want to learn if their teacher’s don’t want to be there?

Stress is our body’s way of responding to events that threaten or challenge us. When we encounter stress, our bodies react by redirecting blood flow to our muscles, increasing our blood pressure and heart rate, and elevating our adrenaline circulation and cortisol levels. What makes matters worse, prolonged stress can lead to diminished physical and mental well-being, increasing your likelihood of illness and life dissatisfaction, circumstances which ironically increase your likelihood of being stressed! Research teaches us that individuals are more likely to feel stress when experiencing negative emotions, navigating uncontrollable, unpredictable, ambiguous situations, and when confronted with simultaneous task demands.

Contemporary teaching is by definition, therefore, a stressful endeavor!

What if there was a way to reduce teacher stress, while also improve behavioral and academic outcomes for students school-wide? There is, it’s called SEL, and there is mounting empirical evidence to support the claim that SEL provides teachers with the strategies, culture, and collaboration they need in their school day to reduce their stress and optimize their teaching.

So you have too many demands on your plate? You can’t possibly get all you grades and evaluations in on time? What are you going to do about it? Think again- there’s always a way to dissolve the threat by making that stress a challenge to overcome!

SEL teaches us to turn a threat or stressful situation into a challenge. Appraising the cause of your stress as a challenge works to reduce your stress by changing how your brain is processing the event. When we phrase a threat as a challenge, this reappraisal opens up pathways for increased neural connectivity and message sending to promote your effective problem solving to meet the challenge. It’s not simply will power, its science!

I’ll show my principal that I can get this done by tomorrow well. It will take up my time this evening but my other demands are not as time sensitive and I can show myself that I can push myself to achieve when I put my mind to it! The reality is that when we switch our mindset to view a stress as a problem we can solve we promote the achievement of solving the problem!

Note that not all stress is bad. Research suggests that we have an optimal range of stress which is productive, rather than detrimental, to our health, well-being, and happiness. Some stress is actually healthy for promoting our productivity and happiness. How? We need that adrenaline and cortisol release to drive our productive behaviors and our satisfaction with experiences.

The SEL evidence-base provides insights into how to manage stress before it manages you. Lookout for our continued posts and resources as we gear up to launch the Rethink SEL Program for the 2018-19 school year!

5 Holiday Fun Activities for the Whole Family to Enjoy

By: Maria Wilcox, MA, BCBA

The holiday season is a special time of year filled with celebrations, seasonal activities, social gatherings, and of course a break in the school calendar! However, it can also be overwhelming and stressful for those with disabilities due to the disruption in routine, sensory overwhelm, and unfamiliarity.

Do not let this prohibit your family from participating in activities that are appropriate, special, and memory-making for them. Here are some simple ideas in which the whole family can participate.

1. Enjoy a sensory friendly movie
Many theatre chains offer movie times that are sensory and family friendly. The lights are not dimmed, the volume is lowered, and attendees can get up, move around, talk, or even sing-a-long!

Theatre not your thing? Have a family movie night with popcorn, snacks, and a family favorite film. Some favorites are Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Polar Express.

2. Visit your local public library
Libraries often host a variety of holiday themed activities for children of all ages. They are quieter environments for children who may be easily overwhelmed. Things like story hour, Lego clubs, daytime movies, puppet shows, or even just going to look at books in the children’s section are great ways to get out of the house and do something fun as a family.

3. Pick and choose what you attend
Invited to a large holiday gathering? Many families opt out of large parties and events because of past experiences or unfamiliarity and unpredictability. Instead, you could invite a small group to your home so that your child has a safe place and familiar environment should she/he become overwhelmed.

4. Decorate cookie, do an easy craft, or play outside
Sometimes being home with family during the holidays is enough. As lives grow increasingly busier, simple activities with those closest to you can be the most special.

Buying cookies and decorating them festively, making a winter themed craft, or building a snowman can be great ways for siblings to interact and keep stress levels low in a familiar environment.

5. Visit your local zoo or a new museum
Zoo’s often have holiday lights and decorations for the season. They are less crowded and very family friendly early in the day. There are often photo opportunities and interactive activities for children of all abilities.

Museums also have great hours for families to visit and have many activities that are engaging and target lots of different ages and abilities. Train museums, local history museums, and living history museums are all great options for families to gather together for structured fun.

The holidays are a special time to spend with loved ones, friends, and family. By keeping expectations realistic, planning simple and fun activities the season can be enjoyable and memorable for the entire family! Happy Holidays!

Misconceptions Revealed! Everything you need to know about the Extended School Year

Extended School Year (ESY) is an extension of special education and related services that are provided to students beyond the normal school year. ESY in the United States is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) federal law.

Here are 4 common misconceptions about ESY:

ESY only occurs during the summer: False!

ESY services are provided when school is not typically in session. That’s often during the summer, but for some students it can also be during other extended breaks, such winter vacation. ESY services can even be an extension of the student’s normal school day, such as a special tutoring program.

Students automatically qualify for ESY if they have an IEP: Not Everywhere!

ESY is not guaranteed for all students who have IEPs. The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act lets each state or school district set its own rules for eligibility, and so each IEP team will determine the need for these supports annually. To be eligible for ESY services, the student must have evidenced/documented substantial regression and recoupment issues during the previous IEP year and/or there is evidence of emerging skills which are often referred to as “breakthrough” skills.

ESY focuses on academics: Not Always!

ESY services are not necessarily a continuation of the same instructional program and related services the student receives during the normal school year as prescribed by the IEP. IEP teams have flexibility in determining what ESY services might be needed. For example, ESY services may take the form of teachers and parents working together by providing materials for home use with progress monitored by the teacher, supports needed just in occupational therapy, social skills/social emotional learning supports, or support in multiple areas that may or may not include academics.

ESY’s priority is to teach new skills: Practice, Practice, Practice!

ESY services are designed to support an eligible student to maintain the academic, social/behavioral, communication, or other skills that they have learned as part of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 accommodation plan. The priority for ESY programs are generally not to teach new skills but to practice maintaining previously acquired or learned skills. This is a great time to ensure all that learning that occurred throughout the year remains as the student moves into their next grade.

Parent Engagement When Addressing Challenging Behavior

By Christine Penington, MA, BCBA

Parent engagement in addressing challenging behavior across a variety of settings (e.g., school settings, community settings, in the home) is a critical component of meaningful, lasting, positive behavior change for learners. When parents and teachers collaborate on the development and implementation of positive behavior support strategies across the home and school settings students will benefit from the clear and consistent expectations. Parents can remain engaged in developing effective positive behavior support strategies for their children by collaborating with school team members during the assessment, development, and implementation of behavior support strategies across home and school settings.

1. Assessment: Evaluate and Complete the Picture

The first step is to identify “why” the challenging behavior is occurring. Is the child engaging in problem behavior to get attention, to get out of a task, or to gain access to a desired item or activity?

In a function-based behavior intervention plan, why a behavior is occurring is referred to as the function of the behavior. Parents often have valuable information to contribute when the function of the behavior is being assessed. For example, maybe there have been recent changes in medication that may be effecting behavior. Perhaps there has been a significant change at home such as a grandparent moving in or a favorite family member moving out. Also, Parents can provide information on if the challenging behavior is happening in the home setting, what it looks like if it is happening at home, and if there are a pattern of events that take place to evoke the challenging behavior. Parent engagement during the assessment portion of behavior intervention planning can yield a more complete picture of why the challenging behavior is occurring.

2. Antecedent Strategies:

Step 2 is to develop a comprehensive function-based intervention plan with strategies for addressing the challenging behavior. Antecedent strategies are interventions that are implemented before the occurrence of the challenging behavior. These are strategies that increase the likelihood that appropriate behavior will occur. Examples of antecedent strategies include using visual supports, visual schedules, and setting clear expectations, providing choice, and providing scheduled access to breaks or attention from preferred people.

Antecedent strategies can often be powerful agents of behavior change and decrease the likelihood that problem behavior will occur. If an antecedent strategy is working well at home, this information can be shared with school team members, so a similar strategy can be implemented (the reverse is also true). Having similar proactive supports in place will help provide consistent rules and expectations for our student’s.

Teaching appropriate communication is also an important component of an effective behavior intervention plan. Functional communication training is the practice of replacing challenging behavior with functional and appropriate communication. For example, if a student is engaging in challenging behavior to get out of a task, a functionally equivalent and appropriate response is to ask for a break. For non-vocal learners, or learners with an emerging vocal repertoire, it is important for parents and school team members to discuss appropriate communication methods to support the learner in all environments. For example, if parents are already using a picture exchange communication system at home it is important to share this information with school team members and vice versa.

3. Consequence Strategies:

Step 3 is to develop a consequence strategy. While antecedent strategies can be highly effective at decreasing or eliminating problem behavior, a comprehensive behavior plan will also include consequence strategies. Consequence strategies, specify how the team will respond if the challenging behavior occurs and alternatively if the desired, appropriate behavior occurs. These consequence strategies are also based on the function of the behavior, or “why” the behavior is occurring. For example, if the assessment shows a child is engaging in challenging behavior to get out of a task, the consequence strategy for challenging behavior may be to follow through with the task. In this case the challenging behavior is not reinforced.

A comprehensive behavior support plan also specifies how team members will respond if the child engages in the appropriate, desired behavior. For example, if a student has a history of engaging in whining to get out of doing homework and instead of whining the student engages in the desired behavior (homework completion), it is important to reinforce the appropriate, desired behavior. Parent-teacher communication is important for developing and implementing effective reinforcement strategies. It is important to ask: Are there highly preferred items or activities the child engages in at home? Could these items or activities be utilized as part of the reinforcement system at school? If a specific type of reinforcement system is being utilized in the school setting such as a point system or a token board, can parents implement a similar system in the home setting? Sharing information on effective reinforcers, reinforcement systems, and reinforcement materials (e.g., token boards) can help promote consistency in expectations across settings.

4. Planning for Success: The last step

Planning for success is key for implementing positive behavior support strategies across settings. In the school setting there are multiple team members working together to address student needs with access to behavior support materials and resources. In the home setting there are often competing demands for parent’s time and attention and behavior resources and materials may be limited. Given the realities of implementing behavior strategies across these different settings it is important for teachers and parents to discuss realistic supports and strategies that can be put into place and maintained across settings.

For example, parents and teachers should discuss: If visual supports are suggested as a proactive support for a learner, what type of visual supports will be beneficial at home and where will parents access these materials? If scheduled access to attention is suggested as a proactive strategy who will provide attention to the child, at what intervals will attention be provided, and what supports are in place to remind parents to provide this attention (e.g., a vibrating timer)? What type of appropriate communication method is being used to replace the challenging behavior? What does the challenging behavior look like at home and how will parents respond when the behavior occurs? What time of reinforcement system is in place for appropriate behaviors?

By anticipating barriers to consistent implementation of behavior supports at home, how those barriers will be addressed, and what specific supports and strategies will be put into place parents can effectively plan for success when addressing challenging behavior across various settings.