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.

Social and Emotional Learning to Address Behavioral Deficits: 6 strategies for a systematic approach to teaching SEL

By Jennifer Wilkens MA, BCBA

Research supports the view that curricula should be designed to engage students, have the ability to connect to their lives, and positively influence their levels of motivation (Coleman, 2001; Guild, 2001; Hall, 2002; Sizer, 1999; Strong et al., 2001). The most effective social and emotional learning (SEL) requires a collaborative approach that involves everyone from district leadership, to educators, to families working together to ensure students receive the support they need. Creating a culture to implement social emotional learning (SEL) effectively in a strategic and systematic approach that involves all stakeholders is needed. Below are 6 strategies for a systematic approach to teaching SEL:

1. Provide Practice:

•Provide opportunities for the students to practice this skill in a safe environment (e.g. role playing with adults and peers, role playing with toys, role model or action hero as props, use of video modeling).

2. Provide visual cues:

•Create a visual reminder of the behavior you want the student to self-monitor and use reminders.
•Place the visual cue on the student’s desk, and draw his or her attention to it, before you begin the self-monitoring exercise

3. Teach in steps:

•Teach the student to monitor another person’s behavior. For example, you can show the student how to record the number of times a peer makes nicecomments to their peers.
•After the peer makes a kind comment, ask the student whether the target behavior occurred and prompt the student to either record or not record it.
•Provide several practice opportunities and fade prompts by no longer asking the student whether the target behavior occurred.
•When the student can monitor another person’s behavior, teach him or her to monitor his or her own responses for the same activity.
•Provide prompts as needed, until the student can self-monitor independently.
•Teach the student to self-monitor a variety of behaviors. For example, if you are having the student self-monitor an attending behavior, you can ring a bell to remind the students to make a check mark, on the self-monitoring sheet, if they were looking at you when the bell rang.

4. Use Reward Systems:

•Use a reward system to reinforce accurate self-monitoring of a target behavior.
•Provide a reward when the student engages in and self-monitors a target behavior at a predetermined rate.
•Attach rewards to a decrease in no desired behaviors.
•Also, provide better rewards for increased occurrences of the target response.
•The teacher should monitor and check the accuracy of the students’ self-monitoring.

5. Provide Tracking Sheets:

•Provide the students with self-monitoring sheets, to track the number of times they engage in a target behavior. For example, you can provide a sheet with check boxes to track one behavior that you would like them to increase
•Provide a self-monitoring sheet, where the students make tally marks every time they engage in multiple behaviors that you would like them to increase.
•Provide a tracking sheet for the students to monitor both behaviors to increase, and decrease.

 

6. Practice with Peers:

•Have the student practice self-monitoring a target behavior with an adult.
•When the student can self-monitor a behavior independently with an adult, have the student monitor the same behavior in the presence of one or two peers.
•When the student demonstrates the target behavior, prompt him or her to record the response. For example, you can gesture to the check box on the self-monitoring sheet. Fade prompts by no longer gesturing to the check box.
•Provide opportunities for the student to practice this skill in the presence of his or her peers, until he or she can self-monitor independently.

Regression and Recoupment Data Collection and Analysis over Winter Holiday Break

By Patricia Wright

Qualifying students for Extended School Year (ESY) is a multi-faceted process. One of the considerations is regression and recoupment; is the student likely to lose skills and fail to gain those skills within a reasonable time-frame upon return to instruction. The winter break is an ideal time to assess regression and recoupment. Collecting data immediately prior to the break and immediately following the break can demonstrate the student’s performance over a two-week absence of instruction.

For example, the student below showed a significant regression and it took an entire month to recoup to the prior rate of performance. This may be a consideration in determining eligibility for ESY.

Utilizing data-based decision making for ESY eligibility can decrease the challenges created when relying on personal perspectives or opinions. Use Rethink Ed to actively collect data immediately prior and immediately following winter break and see how your students perform.

Teaching Students to Be Their Own Boss: Applying SEL to Optimize Executive Functioning in Your Classroom

By Christina Cipriano, Ph.D. and Susan E. Rivers, PhD

Ready to learn. Natural leader. A role model for peers. A pleasure to have in class. Most likely to succeed.

These statements reflect parents’ wishes for their child’s report card and teachers’ hopes for students in their classrooms. The skills underlying these qualities are learned and can be intentionally taught. Scientists have identified evidence-based skills that promote success in school, work, and life. Children can develop them over time through quality interactions and experiences in their schools, homes, and communities. Teachers and schools can intentionally embed practices that support their development into daily interactions.

That means that every student has the potential!

As educators, we can foster these skills for success by adopting a social and emotional learning lens. By integrating key strategies of SEL competencies, including self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision making, teachers can effectively support student success. By helping students become aware of their thoughts and feelings (self-awareness), they become better able to understand and manage their behaviors (self-management). Having self-awareness and managing behaviors helps students make responsible decisions (e.g., how will this behavior allow me to reach my goal in this situation and long term?). Creating and maintaining supportive relationships also matters for student success and is dependent on skills of social awareness and relationship management. Teachers who help students develop social awareness, guide them in becoming aware others people’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings, understanding other people’s perspectives, and feeling empathy. These skills help students maintain supportive relationships and engage in behaviors like active listening, cooperating, managing conflict, and being kind, considerate, and respectful to others. Students are more likely to excel when they have self and social awareness and when they manage their behaviors effectively and responsibly to meet their personal and relationship goals.

This isn’t just about the students.

Teachers have the opportunity to model these strategies to for their students effectively through direct instruction and global modeling. Teachers need to authentically model regulating their emotions, being aware of their feelings, showing compassion, and understanding that feelings impact learning and decisions. Teachers need to authentically acknowledge their strengths and those of their school community, be cognizant of their biases, and demonstrate resilience in the face of obstacles. Teaching the practices without modeling them consistently is ineffective- students of all ages will see right through you! Teachers can’t simply teach it, they need to be it!

Join our monthly webinar series to learn more about authentically modeling and teaching SEL practices in your classroom.

Teaching Students to Be Their Own Boss: SEL Strategies in the Classroom

By Christina Cipriano, Ph.D. and Susan E. Rivers, PhD

If we want to create a classroom of students who can be self-aware and in control of their emotions and behaviors, we need to direct their attention to their minds, bodies, and behaviors. If we deconstruct the competencies they become feasible to implement in any classroom, and value-added beyond the lessons of Social and Emotional Learning!

Our youngest students need support moving out of egocentrism, a way of thinking and processing their world which dominates and overrides their ability to make accurate appraisals of themselves and others. As children make this transition, it is key to support their learning to accommodate new ways of thinking about themselves and others. Here are some ideas for embedding SEL in your daily interactions and lessons with your youngest students:

•Ask students to talk about their likes and dislikes, and to listen to the likes and dislikes of their peers
•Draw connections between feelings and behavior (when I feel angry, I yell; when I feel sad, I choose to be by myself)
•Show them how thoughts can be used to manage their feelings (when I feel angry, I think about something that calms me or sing a song that will make me calm)
•Help them set short-term goals and support them in achieving success

Older children are increasingly able to recognize their strengths and preferences, and differentiate themselves from their peers (i.e., “I may be the top student in my class at math, but I am never picked first for the soccer team; Sam always is”). They also have a growing capacity to think about thinking (“metacognitive strategies”) to support their learning and memory. Songs, rhymes, acronyms, and word games are productive and generalizable strategies to promote learning and attainment of new knowledge. Harness students’ expanding metacognitive capacities to explore the relationship between their self-regulation and success through a lens of self-awareness.

•Invite students to write, draw, or talk about their strengths and areas they want to grow into strengths
•Support students to regulate in regulating their emotions and behaviors, and practice behavioral control
•Practice goal setting for themselves and their classroom community

Adolescence is hallmarked by both the students’ belief that their experiences are the most extreme, unexpected, exciting, and different than anyone else ever has nor ever will experience (“You can’t possibly understand how my heart is broken right now!!!”) and an overwhelming focus on believing that they are the focus of everyone else’s attention (we call this the imaginary audience phenomena- “everyone is looking at me all the time and cares and critiques everything that I do”). Further complicated by an increased production of hormones, physiological and psychological changes, and increasing demands of school and home, this time period is particularly challenging across all learning domains. Educators can scaffold their students through the storm and stress of adolescence by using SEL strategies as a foundation can to help students get out of their own heads!

•Providing students with generalizable strategies for emotional and behavioral regulations
•Teach students to identify, appraising, and managing stress
•Promote situations to problem solve, set and execute goals, for self and others
•Evaluate what-if scenarios

Cyberbullying and Special Needs Children

By Tranika Jefferson

We live in a world, in which nearly everything is digital. This makes life easier. However, it also causes problems. Previously, bullying had been confined to the school playground, bus, or outside in the neighborhood; however, this deadly phenomenon has filtered its way into the digital world and is known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is described as when someone intentionally uses digital media to threaten, harass, or intimidate someone (Heiman, Olenik-Shemesh & Eden, 2014). This can be done via the internet (e.g., social media, blog post, chat group, etc.), telephone (to include calls and text messages), or videos. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have created more opportunities for cyberbullying to potentially occur.

No longer restricted to school environments or direct physical contact, bullying can now expand from one continent to the other without the individuals involved even personally knowing each other. This allows 24/7 access for individuals to be victims of cyberbullying. No child is exempt from the destruction of cyberbullying and online harassment. Studies have found that children with special needs such as learning disorders, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and Autism Spectrum disorders are more likely to be bullied than their peers (Kowaloski & Fedina, 2011). A possible explanation for this is that children may not fully understand different disabilities. When someone is viewed as “socially awkward,” they are more likely to encounter cyberbullying since they are an “easy” target. Cyberbullying makes it that much easier for children to harm and alter the learning path of those with special needs by threatening, harassing, or intimidating them.

The digital world can help improve the social cognitive skills of children with special needs as well as “offer young people a setting for social support, intimacy and the development of autonomy through self-expression and identify exploration (Good & Fang, 2015).” However, it can also be a harmful place due to cyberbullying. Efforts must be made to address cyberbullying in the general population as well as with children with special needs. Parents, educators, and clinicians are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of these children while still teaching them skills on effectively dealing with virtual harassment or intimidation.

If children with special needs can be taught to deal with the adverse situations imposed upon them virtually, then they can continue to expand their own social skills and communication. In addition, they can increase their independence with the broad utilization that the virtual world offers. This, in turn, may improve their self-confidence, self-concept, and social life.

References

Good, B., & Fang, L. (2015). Promoting Smart and Safe Internet Use Among Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Their Parents. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43(2), 179-188. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10615-015-0519-4

Heiman, T., Olenik-Shemesh, D., & Eden, S. (2014). Cyberbullying involvement among students with ADHD: relation to loneliness, self-efficacy and social support. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 30(1), 15-29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2014.943562

Kowalski, R., & Fedina, C. (2011). Cyber bullying in ADHD and Asperger Syndrome Populations. Research In Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5(3), 1201-1208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2011.01.007

Difficulty Educators Have Addressing Behavior Problems: A Quick Look at a Token Economy

By Tranika Jefferson

Token Economies are great tools for educators since they have both an immediate and delayed component. In a token economy the students’ appropriate behavior is immediately reinforced with tokens. Students can later redeem these tokens for preferred items or activities. The token economy is known to be effective because the tokens symbolize reinforcers that they only get for engaging in desired behaviors (Miltenberger, 2008). They are often used with individual students or large groups of students to increase or maintain appropriate classroom behaviors and decrease inappropriate and disruptive classroom behaviors (Gallagher, 1988; Zirpoli & Melloy, 1993).

Identifying tokens is a major component in setting up a token economy. Tokens should be transferable, durable, and not something the student has easy access to on their own. They range from coins, stars, poker chips, or a stamp on a card. Tokens should be kept age appropriate when possible. For example, a younger student may like stickers of Peppa Pig while an older student may like to use a punch card.

Check out some of Rethink Ed’s motivation boards in My Resources. Here is an awesome example of pizza pieces as tokens on a pizza token board!

It is important to remember that as teachers one of your primary responsibilities is to teach positive and adaptive skills. Therefore, even when using a token economy your goal should be to reinforce and help maintain the appropriate behaviors that your student displays. In Myles, Moran, Ormsbee & Downing (1992, p 164) review of token economies, they cite the following:

“Whenever possible, focus should be placed on teaching appropriate, positive skills rather than attempting to prevent the occurrence of an inappropriate behavior. For example, the behavior students must raise their hands before talking is more positive than students cannot talk out in class.”

Too often, we get caught up in focusing on intervening and providing consequences to the problem behavior. However, children repeat behaviors that work for them and that get reinforced, whether appropriate or inappropriate. A simple way to think about this is emphasizing the desired behavior to eliminate the negative behavior. Keep these things in mind when building your token economy in your classroom!

References

Gallagher, P. A. (1988). Teaching students with behavior disorders (2nd ed.).
Denver, CO: Love.

Miltenberger, R. (2008). Behaviour Modification. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing.

Myles, B., Moran, M., Ormsbee, C., & Downing, J. (1992). Guidelines for Establishing and Maintaining Token Economies. Intervention In School And Clinic, 27(3), 164-169.

Inclusion Benefits All Students

By: Debbie Burney

October is National Bullying Awareness Month, and our most vulnerable population for being the victims of bullying are children with intellectual, developmental, or other disabilities. Every student deserves to thrive in a safe school and classroom that is free from bullying, and schools have an obligation to keep kids safe. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) notes that:

A growing body of literature suggests that the two most notable predictors of the bullying involvement of students with disabilities are lack of social skills and communication skills. Therefore, teachers could incorporate activities in their daily curriculum that reinforce socially appropriate social and communication skills without directly implementing a prescribed anti-bullying program. Link to article

Rethink Ed provides teachers with lessons they can use with their students with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers in general education classrooms. The four domains into which the lessons are categorized are:

  1. Social Communication
  2. Group Participation
  3. Study Skills
  4. Peer Interaction

Join us as we take a deep look into this powerful curriculum from Rethink Ed, and learn how it provides the tools for Special Education teachers to help their students safely integrate into the general education classroom. Watch the Webinar Recording Now: Inclusion Benefits All Students