Many teachers have used “First ___, then ____” statements in planning lessons for teaching with their students with autism. For example:
First complete the math problem, then you can use the iPad.
First match the objects, then you can listen to music.
As adults, we also use “First ___, then ____” statements in our everyday lives. For example:
First exercise, then you can get on
First finish your work project, then
you can watch your favorite TV show.
Essentially, this method of using “First ___, then ____” statements is a behavioral analytic strategy called the Premack principle. The Premack principle was originated in David Premack’s (1965) research with animals and is defined as “A principle that states that making the opportunity to engage in a high probability behavior contingent on the occurrence of a low frequency behavior will function as reinforcement for the low frequency behavior” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007, p. 271).
The Premack principle can be used to increase desired behaviors by allowing engagement of a preferred or liked activity contingent on them displaying the disliked or not preferred behavior. For a student that spends much more time playing with toy cars than learning site words, a contingency based on the Premack principle might be, “When you state your site words (low frequency behavior), you can play with your toy cars (high probability behavior).”
A child with autism may engage in certain preferred behaviors in high frequency such as:
Therefore, they may disengage in behaviors and activities that may be asked of them. Teachers can be successful in motivating students with autism to attempt tasks that were previously less preferred or difficult if they plan their instruction to follow a disliked activity with a liked activity as the Premack principle states.
few tips to successfully use the Premack principle are:
Find a “then” (high probability behavior/activity) that is reinforcing for the student. If the high probability behavior/activity does not increase the low-frequency behavior, then find a “then” that does.
Always and immediately (as soon as possible) provide the “then” (high probability behavior/activity). The high probability behavior/activity will be reinforcement for the low probability behavior only if it is followed after the low probability behavior.
Tranika Jefferson is a Board Certified Behavior and Licensed Behavior Analyst who holds an advanced degree in Juvenile Forensic Justice. Tranika is a Professional Services Consultant with Rethink Ed. She delivers on-site and virtual training and coaching/mentoring sessions on Rethink’s web-based platform to teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, and district leadership. She is also a doctoral candidate in Applied Behavior Analysis.
In my role as Director of Student Services, I recently observed in a classroom where a student, we’ll call him Lewis, demonstrated minimal eye contact, response (verbal or physical), or social interaction. Upon Lewis’s arrival to the classroom, I observed the educator working with him provide a number of visual, physical, and verbal prompts to guide his morning routine. The educator also performed a number of sensory activities with the student. As the morning progressed, Lewis transitioned to the snack table and remained in his seat for the duration of snack time. I then observed him verbally respond to the educator— the first verbalization of the morning!I
I am embarrassed to say I had at first assumed the student was non-verbal because I hadn’t witnessed any verbal communication during the arrival activities. I realized the implication of my initial assumption that the student did not yet have verbal language. Gut punch!
The experience was a reminder of how easily we, as educators, return to what we think we know. There is a natural desire in all of us to categorize and label; this is often how we make sense of the world. We take from what are often limited exposures or observations to form our schema. But, there are dangers in assumptions, particularly when any of those assumptions create conscious or unconscious limitations for our students and lead to environments where our students may not feel they belong.
All students want and deserve to feel a sense of belonging in the classroom. To truly create a sense of belonging, students need to be seen. In an effort to create opportunities for belonging, educators must take time to get to know student strengths, interests, and preferences in a meaningful way. The more educators can build on student strengths, create student engagement, and hold high expectations for all learners the more students will feel a sense of belonging. To do so, educators might utilize the following:
Student interest inventories or strengths-based assessments
Time to observe students in their environments, paying attention to communication, play, and overall interactions.
Identify Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence (ABC) when students are performing well. Specifically, what about the environment created the behavior you wanted to see, and what about the immediate action after the behavior reinforced it?
Increase opportunities for connections (i.e. morning meeting, free or structured play, etc)
Explore students’ interests in lesson plans
Create multiple ways for students to express ideas
Identify and provide avenues and opportunities to meet potential sensory needs
It is vital that educators constantly reflect upon their own assumptions. McCollum (2016) identifies a simple yet effective notion, that of “presum[ing] intellect.” If we assume all students have high capacity and intelligence for learning, we change the assumption that comes with a label. We shift from deficit thinking, to strengths-based thinking. We own that it’s on us as educators to create the environments where all our students can flourish.
Dr. Sara Totten is currently the Director of Student Services for the DeForest Area School District, a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin. She earned her doctorate in educational leadership at Edgewood College in Madison studying principal perspectives of disproportionate placement of African American students in special education programs.
Sara is currently the interim president-elect and has previously served the Social and Awards and Legislative representative roles on the Wisconsin Council for Administrators of Special Services. She also serves on the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance (SAA) and participated on the research and development committee to revise the SAA Evidence-Based Agenda this past year. In addition to her role as director, Sara has taught a number of courses for Lakeland University’s Master Counseling program.
The issue and importance of equality has been a common fixture in the American vernacular for the past sixty plus years. As a whole, working towards equality for all people, regardless of unalterable characteristics, is a valid and worthy pursuit. For special education, however, equality falls short of what is needed and desired for children with disabilities – both legally and morally. As a community of people passionate about serving these children, we need to move from a paradigm focused on equality and one that works toward equity.
Why equity? Why now?
People often confuse the two terms as synonyms, when in fact they are both quite different things with very different intended outcomes. Both equality and equity aim to ensure basic fairness. With equality, the end goal is simple fairness – everyone has the same starting point and is treated exactly the same. With equity, however, the presumption is that not all people begin from the same place – so each person is given what they need to be successful, based on their unique abilities and needs.
It makes sense that equality would have been the focus over the past four decades given the Supreme Court’s establishment of the Rowley standard of 1982, which enshrined the term ‘de minimis’ education in reference to what was required from school districts serving students with disabilities. In Rowley the Court ruled that the law’s intent was not to enable students with disabilities to achieve their full potentials, but rather to give them equal and sufficient access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Ever since this decision, too many schools simply complied with paperwork requirements and provided cookie-cutter services which were anything but truly individualized. The presence alone of a disability did not mandate special education services.
However, the very nature of special education is that no child is starting from the same place. With the Supreme Court’s unanimous 8-0,Endrew F. decision (2017) on the books and a new standard established which requires schools to demonstrate ‘meaningful progress’ and ‘appropriately ambitious’ goals for students with disabilities, it is time we move from focusing on equality to truly one of ensuring equity.
Here are eight
tips schools can put into place to ensure equity is a driving force and desired
outcome for all children receiving special education services.
take an active role in the individualized education program (IEP) process, and
a leadership role within the school relative to special education. The
principal is one of the key culture determinants in the school environment and can
communicate volumes to the school community by demonstrating an active interest
in special education. Principals play an
enormous role in the authorization of resources and supports in the public
school environment and need to exercise their full authority to ensure every
child receives every resource necessary to truly be successful and grow. Although IEP meetings are comprised of many members,
the principal always retains a special role of significance and has a unique
ability to impact the education of each child in the building. A principal can move a school from equality
to equity by ensuring the proper resources and services are available for each
Develop Truly Individualized and Quality IEP’s
The IEP is the
heart of the special education enterprise and ensures the legal and educational
rights of every child. Educators must
put quality time, thought, and care into the development of each child’s
IEP. The quality of the IEP
document is in direct correlation to the quality of the education and services
being provided to a child. For reasons of convenience and efficiency,
some schools condone the copy and pasting of content, services, and goals from
one IEP to the next. This approach not only violates the law, but
significantly reduces the quality of the final product. Remember, the present
level of academic achievement (PLAAFP) must drive the IEP and be aligned to the
goals. At a minimum, ensuring the PLAAFP and the goals are aligned will
go a long way to ensuring a quality program.
Without a strong, personalized IEP that is uniquely crafted for a child
based on her needs, it is extremely difficult to ever truly create educational
Use Online and Blended Learning Options
disability or setting, if a child has significant academic deficits,
personalized learning can and will help. Whether before school, during an
intervention period, during small group instruction, or in an after-school
tutorial, all students with deficits can benefit greatly from truly
personalized learning with diagnostic assessment elements. In order to
catch up with their own-age peers, students with disabilities often need more
supports and intervention approaches. We
need to move beyond only considering the curriculum provided as one-size-fits
all, and begin to customize and extend learning for those that truly need it. One
way to achieve this is by taking advantage of the growth of educational
technologies that enable us to provide truly personalized learning
Let Data Drive Instruction and Intervention
The heart of special education is rooted in the cyclical process of assess, intervene, instruct, and re-assess. If we are to truly provide children with equity in education, we must engage in proactive, high-leverage, research-based best practices and avoid reactionary, ‘de minimis’ practices that fall short of maximizing a child’s true learning capacity. Today there is certainly no lack of data available to assist us in this endeavor. The boom in the EdTech industry has created solutions that allow schools to garner copious amounts of student data. Whether academic or behavioral, tracking performance, evaluating the effectiveness of interventions, making adjustments, and differentiating instruction are made easier by diagnostic learning tools that allow schools to make data-driven instructional decisions.
Thorough and Individualized Lesson Planning
Lesson planning is no fun – but every great teacher does it – and does it well. Preparation is the key to success in special education, and whether a resource, inclusion, or functional skills classroom, it is imperative that the teacher plans individualized instruction for each child. All too often we provide a one-size-fits-all lesson – even within special education. We need to remember our instructional cycle and apply it individually and with great forethought. Ensuring equal access and equality of instruction that teaches one learning objective to the whole is meeting the bottom floor of expectation. Truly pouring over instructional data, planning creative activities, differentiating instruction based on need and performance, providing formative re-direction and scaffolding, and enthusiastically engaging each child in the learning process is a major component of providing educational equity.
Establish High Standards for Each Child
Just because a child has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t be pushed or reach great achievements. All too often, we candle or pacify students when they begin to struggle. It is okay for a child with a disability to struggle and work their way through a problem. Children normally rise only as high as we ask. Although this sounds like a soft recommendation, there is plenty of hard science in education that underscores the importance of high expectations and teaching children to have a growth mindset. A part of ensuring equity, is ensuring a positive belief in oneself and one’s abilities. We must go beyond just academic instruction and consider the whole child. For a child to truly receive educational equity, she must understand she is capable and worthy of high achievement.
Motivation and Enthusiasm
over-emphasize the power of enthusiasm and positive thinking with
children. All students thrive with positive feedback and encouraging
words. No matter how difficult a child or situation may be or become,
stay positive and enthusiastic. The power of positivity has no
limitations in the special education world. Re-set yourself every morning
and come into the school and classroom with an outwardly positive and
enthusiastic demeanor. So often, we
focus myopically on the academic needs of children with disabilities. The education of the whole child demands that
we help to inspire and motivate children to live, learn, and achieve at their
Moving a field from a mindset of equality toward one of true equity is not easy, nor will it happen overnight. That said, significant strides forward can be achieved by following some or all of the tips I outlined above.
We are truly at a turning point in the history of special education. The Endrew F. decision serves as a line of demarcation and a determining factor as we move forward. It is time for all educators to move away from terms such as ‘de minimis’ education, compliance, and equality and towards a present and future that includes the vernacular of maximization, personalization, and equity.
No field in the child services industry has ever been more successful at advocating for and achieving change than special education. In the 1970’s the field of special education came together as one to enact one of the largest and most impactful legislative changes for children in the history of America – the creation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Today, it is once again time for change. The gauntlet has been thrown down, and it is time for the field of special education to collectively step forward.
Want to learn more? Join us for the next webinar in our Special Education Expert Webinar Series: Beyond Compliance: Ensuring Individual Success in Special Education. This free webinar will be presented by Dr. Kurt Hulett on March 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm EST. Participants will explore best practices in special education and discover what educators can do to ensure every child is receiving a well-crafted, appropriately ambitious, and reasonably implemented educational program. Register now.
Find out out about our comprehensive, evidence-based solutions for Special Education at www.rethinked.com.
Summer 2018 has been a busy few months for Rethink Ed! We are excited to share some of our latest updates!
We’ve updated the look and feel of the Rethink Ed platform!
– Administrators: We’ve created a way for you to easily access an instant snapshot of overall teacher usage and student performance so you can achieve accountability and transparency across the district.
– Educators: We’ve simplified data collection, added an incident tracking feature, and created a way for you to easily search and find lessons!
*We will have guided tours and trainings available to assist you and your staff. If you have any additional questions about the new Rethink Ed UI or want more information on Rethink Ed register for our upcoming webinar: 5 Rethink Ed Platform Updates You’ll Want to Try
2. We’ve partnered with ERB, Educational Records Bureau, to launch Rethink SEL, a groundbreaking SEL Solution with Embedded Assessment to improve culture and climate in schools. It is the first comprehensive social and emotional learning solution that includes an integrated assessment, on-demand professional development, and a multi-tiered curriculum for all learners. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2rcicKo
3. We’ve teamed up with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, to pioneer the first SEL Superintendent Convening, Educating the Total Child through Social Emotional Learning, in Chicago, Oct. 19-20. During this event, school system leaders will convene in Chicago and discuss the needs of the whole child–including social and emotional development. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2MzsLAC
4. We’ve developed a Social and Emotional Learning Administrator Toolkit.
“Rethink is an SEL PK-12 program solution to schools and the only company that I believe has figured out social emotional learning.” -Joseph Erardi, Jr. PhD (Former Superintendent, Newton, CT)
We are excited to share with you a preview of our SEL Administer Tool Kit presented by the former Newtown School Superintendent, Dr. Joseph Erardi. Watch and learn how SEL can help educators and school leaders manage crisis and support Social Emotional Learning.
Follow us on LinkedIn for more up to date Rethink Ed News!
Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, refers to interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies that underscore the way we understand, use, and manage emotions to learn. Emotions drive how we think, pay attention, make decisions, manage our time, and countless other processes that impact how students and teachers show up in the classroom.
The Rethink Ed SEL for ALL Learners platform is a school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program for enhancing the psychosocial health and well-being of teachers and students while creating an optimal learning environment that promotes academic, social, and personal effectiveness. Psychosocial health and well-being refers to the knowledge and skills needed to promote mental health, emotion regulation, and prosocial behaviors—knowledge and skills that are necessary for optimal development.
Educators, parents, and legislators acknowledge the need for schools to address the social and emotional needs of students in order to provide a rich learning environment. In fact, a systematic process for promoting SEL is the common element among schools that report an increase in academic achievement, improved relationship quality between teachers and students, and a decrease in problem behaviors.
Ideal SEL curricula are those that address the full spectrum of children’s needs by cultivating a caring, supportive, and empowering learning environments that foster the development of all learners in the school. Rethink Ed SEL was designed specifically to meet these criteria.
Rethink Ed understands the importance of quality assessments in delivering effective instruction. To assist with summative evaluation, Rethink Ed has integrated the VB MAPP (Verbal Behavioral Milestones and Placement Program) into the Rethink Ed platform. This integration allows educators to complete the VB MAPP within Rethink Ed, store data in one location, and allow seamless matriculation across grade levels. Lastly, VB MAPP is fully aligned to the Rethink Ed curriculum.
VB MAPP is important for educators because it provides a baseline level of performance, a direction for intervention, a system for tracking skill acquisition, a tool for outcome measures and other language research projects, and a framework for curriculum planning. Rethink is very excited to offer this feature for 2018! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!
Teachers become teachers because they are motivated to help children learn! Every teacher can tell you that they have plenty of opportunity to hone their craft and improve their practice. For some it is learning new content to teach, for others it is developing better classroom management support, for many it is learning the new rapidly developing techniques and technologies.
However, every educator can also tell stories of the useless professional learning sessions they sat through that weren’t related to their scope of practice. Recent research shows that current professional learning practices in schools are time consuming, not budget friendly, and are ineffective. Teachers want to learn and schools are providing professional learning opportunities, the process needs to shift into effectiveness.
Here are 7 Strategies, provided by the Learning Policy Institute, to make professional learning effective and meaningful. Quality Professional Learning:
Is content focused: PD that focuses on teaching strategies associated with specific curriculum content supports teacher learning within teachers’ classroom contexts. This element includes an intentional focus on discipline-specific curriculum development and pedagogies in areas such as mathematics, science, or literacy.
Incorporates active learning: Active learning engages teachers directly in designing and trying out teaching strategies, providing them an opportunity to engage in the same style of learning they are designing for their students. Such PD uses authentic artifacts, interactive activities, and other strategies to provide deeply embedded, highly contextualized professional learning. This approach moves away from traditional learning models and environments that are lecture based and have no direct connection to teachers’ classrooms and students.
Supports collaboration: High-quality PD creates space for teachers to share ideas and collaborate in their learning, often in job-embedded contexts. By working collaboratively, teachers can create communities that positively change the culture and instruction of their entire grade level, department, school and/or district.
Uses models of effective practice: Curricular models and modeling of instruction provide teachers with a clear vision of what best practices look like. Teachers may view models that include lesson plans, unit plans, sample student work, observations of peer teachers, and video or written cases of teaching.
Provides coaching and expert support: Coaching and expert support involve the sharing of expertise about content and evidence-based practices, focused directly on teachers’ individual needs.
Offers feedback and reflection: High-quality professional learning frequently provides built-in time for teachers to think about, receive input on, and make changes to their practice by facilitating reflection and soliciting feedback. Feedback and reflection both help teachers to thoughtfully move toward the expert visions of practice.
Is of sustained duration: Effective PD provides teachers with adequate time to learn, practice, implement, and reflect upon new strategies that facilitate changes in their practice
Do a little self-check and ask yourself: Does your professional learning incorporate all of these practices? What could you do to move the needle on your professional learning? Every teacher wants to get better, and these strategies can make that happen!
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.
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 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.