Ideas for addressing behaviors that have been allowed to go on for years?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by sarypotter, Aug 13, 2008.

  1. sarypotter

    sarypotter Comrade

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    Aug 13, 2008

    Like I've said, oh, two or three dozen times on these boards lately (can you tell I'm nervous?!), this year will be the first time I've taught high school. I'm a little worried about working with kids who have been allowed to "get away with" certain behaviors for 10+ years without intervention. How hard will it be to modify these behaviors?

    For example, I learned of one student's inappropriate behavior on a community outing at the end of last year during the few weeks I was in this classroom as a para. The student, who was always very mellow and whom I had never known to display aggressive behaviors (in retrospect, perhaps because very few demands were ever placed on him in the classroom), started pointing at the sodas and vocalizing. I told him we were there to buy only what was on our list, which was the same answer I heard the teacher give several other students during the trip.

    But when I denied this student the soda, he began to vocalize louder and started jumping up and down, getting very upset. He lunged toward me as if to head-butt, but swerved at the last minute. He repeated this several times and did not respond to my verbal redirection. (Keep in mind this gentleman is about six feet tall and weighs, oh, 250 lbs., so I was getting a little nervous as he escalated.) I looked to his teacher, hoping she would clue me in as to her behavior plan for this student, since I had previously been unaware that this student exhibited these types of behaviors.

    You know what her plan was?

    You guessed it. She bought him the soda.

    I want to help this student get the most out of the few years of public education he has left. I don't want him to leave school thinking that he can intimidate his peers and caregivers into giving him his way, because life doesn't work like that, and job sites certainly don't, either. But I'm a little lost as to where to begin in addressing this behavior. One of my first steps in developing a plan to address any behavior is to identify powerful reinforcers, but this mellow young man seems content just to wander the classroom; he rarely engages with external reinforcers.

    Does anyone have suggestions on where to start?
     
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  3. southgaguy

    southgaguy Rookie

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    Aug 13, 2008

    PAPER TRAIL PAPER TRAIL!!!
    My mother was in the same boat as you. You need to get an FBA done on the student: Functional Behavior Plan then follow it up with a BIP: Behavior Intervention Plan. This is why....
    Do not back down! You have to stand firm no matter the consequences. My mother got punched her 2nd year....but with the paper trail and the FBA the student received far more than in school suspension. There has to be RULES AND BOUNDARIES. Her students finally gave up after awhile b/c they knew there WOULD BE CONSEQUENCES. That is why a paper trail is soooo important. Now it might take months or even a year or years to modify the behavior but don't give up. That's what's wrong with the students now....somebody else already gave up on them. Show you care....but use the old adage - Say what you mean and MEAN what you say. It worked for my mom and she's been teaching 15 years now. But do not ignore the problem.
     
  4. southgaguy

    southgaguy Rookie

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    Aug 13, 2008

    and if u like i will give you her e-mail(thru pvt msg of course)
    i'm sure she'd be glad to help you since she was faced with the same problem
     
  5. sarypotter

    sarypotter Comrade

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    Aug 13, 2008

    Thanks for the input, and yes, I would love to talk to your mother too if she's been there and she wouldn't mind!

    I think it's going to take a lot of time to define the behaviors in need of intervention, because they are sporadic and specific to different situations. I do have a sinking feeling, though, that as I start placing more demands on the kids, I might see more aggressive behaviors. Hopefully I will do a thorough enough job identifying and appropriately using reinforcers that the kids will be motivated to rise to the gradually-increasing work load.

    The verbal students in this class are already used to doing a lot of work, but the nonverbal students seem to have been mostly allowed to have down time -- a little laundry folding here, a little vocational work box time there -- but nothing they couldn't do in their sleep. I don't mean to talk badly about the last teacher; I think she was simply at a loss as to what to do with these kids. She was a reading specialist and was much more comfortable teaching the verbal kids. I come from an autism background and I cringe at these kids just being left to "wander."

    Thanks for the help!
     
  6. Ghost

    Ghost Habitué

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    Aug 13, 2008

    Aack, I have that problem a lot too. If you say you are going to do something, make sure you DO IT! Just one time of being wishy-washy and they'll run over you.

    I've worked with many "non-verbal" students and I'll tell you that I have never ever ever had a student who didn't leave my room without being able to say at least 2 words if not more. Even the kids who are selective mutes are talking by the end of the year. I expect them to speak and I treat them as if they are speaking and I will take an approximation at all attempts. The other thing I think you should know is that behavior is communication. Let's see...at high school, they are ready to do many work tasks. Sort coins, use a coin sorter to roll coins, put together utensils (fork, spoon, napkin, knife), practice opening locks with keys or combinations, sort/wash/fold laundry, identify/sort safe people from dangerous people, same for healthy and junk food, public and private behaviors, etc. If you haven't checked it out www.tasksgalore.com is a wonderful resource--there is also a teacher who makes these tasks and sells them on ebay for a really reasonable cost (it's either the kits or the cd for you to create them). Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox. (I hate the label non-verbal.) :sorry:
     
  7. sarypotter

    sarypotter Comrade

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    Aug 13, 2008

    The problem I'm worried about, though, isn't that I dont' know what to do. I don't know everything to do, of course -- I wish I did!! -- but I know to follow through with my expectations and I know to accept attempts at communication and shape from there. I also believe that all students can learn to communicate (although not all students will communicate verbally, and that's fine -- signs, pictures, gesture, whatever works). I also know to keep them on task, and I have a pretty good idea at least of some appropriate tasks to start with.

    The problem is, no one else in these students' lives have done these things, or at least not for a long time. I've just never worked with students of this age when this type of situation was going on. My middle-schoolers had been students of an ABA school their entire lives, so they were accustomed to high expectations. These guys have been allowed to just sort of sit and do nothing for a loooong time, and that's about to change!
     
  8. Teach96

    Teach96 Comrade

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    Aug 13, 2008

    I always tell my paras not to ask a question they don't want an answer to. Don't say do you want to do math now? You say it's math time.

    Stick to your words. Write up a Behavior Plan, get your paras on board and the parents. You've got to correct this now.

    __________
    my blog...www.lifeskilllessons.com/blog
     
  9. inhisgrip20

    inhisgrip20 Comrade

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    Aug 13, 2008

    Hey Sary, I know exactly where you're coming from. I student taught at a high school where it was obvious the students had just been allowed to skate through their entire school career and not have many, if any, demands placed on them. That's one of the reasons I love teaching elementary so much because I feel like I can get them off to a great start and hopefully make things a little easier on the middle and high school teachers that come after me. It always seemed so hopeless by the time they got to highschool.

    BUT, as you well know, it is NOT hopeless. You can, with the right strategies, which you seem to be very familiar with, change their behaviors. We had one student (large guy, almost 6 foot tall, almost 300 pounds) who would sit down in the middle of the hallway or lunchroom or wherever we were and cry like a baby and refuse to get up. He would strip down naked (and he was quick!) The teacher (it was her first year) was determined to change this behavior. She set up a reinforcement plan and started rewarding him for appropriate behavior at very short increments. It was frustrating and difficult at first. But she stuck with it and trained her parapro (who pretty much thought this teacher was a nut for even bothering to, heaven forbid, TEACH this kid). Slowly but surely the behavior got better. It was still happening but less often and not as long of episodes. She eventually got him to wipe a table during vocational training in the lunchroom (a huge step for him as he had been refusing to do ANYTHING and would bust out crying if you even looked at him wrong). I wish I could've stuck around to see the outcome, but sadly my semester ended. We definitely saw progress though. Definitely!

    I think if you go in the first day, starting fresh, with a great attitude, a solid plan of action, and consistency, you will see results. It will be a nice change for these students, actually doing something productive with their time. I'm sure they won't see it this way at first, but once they catch on that they are working for a purpose, a "reward" of sorts, I think you'll see a new class born. It'll be exciting to watch their growth over the year and to see the amazement of your parapros! lol I wish you the best of luck. You are going to do FABULOUS! I can tell just by reading your posts here. I wish I could come observe you teach. :)
     
  10. Rockys_Mom

    Rockys_Mom Rookie

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    Aug 13, 2008

    I had a student similar, but instead of being nonverbal by choice, he was deaf, came to me as a 14 year old and had NO communication skills what so ever. The previous district did the best they could, but he spent a lot of time in a sensory room or "water play." I did the best I could being a new year teacher, but my resources were limited. After being told "no we can't afford an interpreter," this student managed to attack my child in a wheelchair twice and then injured me to the point of needing physical therapy when I got between them to stop a 3rd injury to the student(lovely first teaching experience huh?).

    Well guess what? Becuase I had caused enough of a stink, talked to adminstration, KEPT A PAPER TRAIL and then finally the injury they "miraculously" found me an interpreter. NOW the student had someone who could help teach him to communicate and there was a drastic change. Now, why this long ramble. . .basically to hopefully help you see it's not the end of the tunnel just because they're high school students.

    What I've seen done in the past, and I"m hoping to incorporate with one of my young ladies this year who also has major temper tantrums is similar to your token reward economy. It's called an "I am Working For" chart. We used a small clipboard with board maker pictures across the top of choices. The student chose the reinforcer for "free" time. We had a strip of velcro across the top that said "I am working for" and then the boardmaker pic. On the bottom we had 1, 2, or 3 (depending on the childs level) velcro squares or circles. As the student demonstrated the target behavior (quiet hands, quiet mouth, on task, whatever YOU decide to reinforce) for a certain length of time (again, depending on the students level). They earned a penny. Once they earned the alloted amount they "paid" the teacher/para and they earned the free activity. Then we began again with a new reinforcer choice of their choosing. After they showed mastery, we moved it up; more time in between, more pennies, etc. to lengthen the period between reinforcements.

    So, if you know you're going into the grocery store and you want the student to complete his task, maybe pull out that super special reinforcer of a soda. Then next week. . .maybe not.

    Now, I'm not sure any of that made sense because my brain is shutting down for the evening. If it doesn't, let me know and I'll attempt to clarifiy it some more.
     
  11. JerseyGirlinAZ

    JerseyGirlinAZ Rookie

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    Aug 14, 2008

    I had the SAME kind of problem last year AND I worked at a special needs school specifically designed for EBD students.

    I had an 18-year-old, non-verbal autistic student who, whenever he saw a soda, brownie or cupcake, wanted it ... and right then. He just couldn't wait. We would ALWAYS try to keep these things out of sight, but it wasn't always possible.

    He would become extremely aggressive if he didn't get what he wanted. We had alternative rooms in each classroom where a student could go to calm down or to relax if he became a danger to others. We had to put him in there. Once there, he banged his head against the wall so hard that the whole school heard it. (We have mats all around the walls, but still.)

    Since this was a behavioral school, we had a behavior team that would come and help intervene when issues got out of hand. This particular time, they came up and asked us what the problem was. We explained. Their solution? Give him the brownie. Their rationale was that he wasn't going to calm down until he got it, so pick your battles.

    I was less than pleased. I understand that he was violent and a risk to everyone there, but what does that teach him? He can throw a fit and get whatever he wants. Errrr.

    There need to be consequences to actions, even if you're special.
     
  12. sarypotter

    sarypotter Comrade

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    Aug 14, 2008

    Thank you all so much for the advice and the encouragement! I guess I was looking for reassurance that intervening was the right thing, even though I know it is -- because the para and the former teacher don't agree. They feel that if the student doesn't exhibit aggressive or disruptive behaviors on a daily basis, why should we rock the boat. I am trying to explain that it's irresponsible to walk on eggshells with a student to prevent disruption when you know the world can't and won't walk on the same eggshells for the rest of the student's life. It's not fair to the student.

    Thanks for the help!
     
  13. Teach96

    Teach96 Comrade

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    Aug 14, 2008

    This is the key to start off with rewarding the appropriate behavior before the wrong behavior can happen and do it often at first then longer periods of time, and then eventually inconsistent chunks of time (this way s/he doesn't know when the rewards will happen)

    I do this with our class tangible (money that they use to exchange for prizes in the classroom). Everyone gets $ at the beginning for everything and anything. Then it's less often and eventually it's sporadic. I can use it as positive punishment and positive reward.

    ________________
    my blog...www.lifeskilllessons.com/blog
     
  14. Teach96

    Teach96 Comrade

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    Aug 14, 2008

    That's just not acceptable enough. Good for you for stepping up and helping him to become a productive citizen!:2up:

    _________
    my blog...www.lifeskilllessons.com/blog
     

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