Seeking advice- very challenging student

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Kippers, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Kippers

    Kippers Companion

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    Feb 15, 2014

    I can easily see the reason for her behavior, but I don't yet have a solution.

    Scenario: I teach upper elementary special education for students with mild-moderate disabilities. It has been a challenging class, but I felt I had reached a comfort level, until the addition of this new student. This student is a precocious 9 year old, who until two months ago, was in the general education setting with minimal pull-out support. Academically, she is among my lowest students, functioning four years below grade level in reading. In her general education setting, teachers with 30-plus students often had her work independently on internet-based reading programs because coursework was well beyond her reach.

    Now she's with me. She behaves well in whole class instruction and often shines as a participant. I try to praise all the good I can.

    Small group reading instruction is becoming the death of me. Our class runs on rotations with an aide, and in this arena she fights us to the death. I am well aware of the fact that she is covering up for her very low ability in reading. She is placed in a group that is at her level, and she's expected to participate, with plenty of support. Instead, she is abjectly disrespectful, actively attempting to bully another girl (who is far less mature) in her group, increasing in volume (starting to yell) and outright defiant. I've tried to build self esteem, rewards are built into my system, she's been sent out of the room (she attempts to refuse), and parent (now that I have current phone number) is in contact with me. We've had one behavior meeting and one referral. She missed a class party last week due to behavior. She was sent home the day before after yelling at me, her mother on the phone, and the principal.

    This young lady is essentially being raised by her teen brother as mom works long hours on the swing shift and he's doing his best with the skills he has. She is precocious in her dress and flirtatious with boys. She attempts to isolate and bully weaker peers. When she cooperates, we see immediate growth, but so much energy is being placed into fighting her, that I am losing control of my small groups and classroom as a whole. Many in my room are followers and she is a born leader, and on my weaker days, it can lead to disaster.

    She has realized some genuine academic success and that has helped. From the two months of charting I have in working with her, I believe that, with her cooperation, I could still raise her a grade level in reading by June. I've done my best to be consistent, calm and positive, but this girl is an enormous challenge.

    Her mother shared at a recent meeting that this girl plans to be a stripper as her profession. :dizzy: She's a tough one, but I know she wants to learn, and just doesn't know she can learn yet.

    Advice?
    :help:
     
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  3. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Feb 15, 2014

    The great news is that you've isolated the conditions and likely functions of the behavior, which is a huge first step. It sounds like the main behavioral issues are occurring during small group reading, and that the likely function is escape from academic demands.

    A first suggestion would be to switch up your small group reading format by temporarily removing some of the reading demands, which would hopefully increase positive behavior and help her reassociate small group time with positive consequences. Perhaps this would involve adding new small group structures to your classroom in other subject areas that are less aversive to her. Perhaps it involves "sandwiching" reading instruction in between an initial block of less aversive small group work (e.g., math, social studies).

    What external reinforcement strategies are you using, such as a token economy or point system? I might consider increasing the schedule of reinforcement, at least during small group work, as well as increasing prompting of correct social skills during small group work. Similarly, I might introduce a new set of consequences, or prompt consequences, during small group reading for poor behavior.

    Last, I'd ask if the problems occur throughout the small group time, or there are certain strategies you've discovered that convert behavior, even if only temporarily?
     
  4. Kippers

    Kippers Companion

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    Feb 15, 2014

    Thank you for your response. I do have a classroom currency, but I'm sure the long-term reward is too far off for this young lady. I need to have a daily reward for her at the end of the day, plus a reward for the end of the small group activity. The issue is that EVERYONE will also want a reward, too, and she will not be subtle. She has expressed strong interest in teen fashion magazines.

    I may be slow on the uptake, but I'm struggling to see how I can restructure my small group, especially as the current structure is working really well for the other children. Focus is on building fluency. With her group (my lowest performers), I always model read and group read before there is any individual reading. No members of this group have the focus or maturity to effectively partner read. If I attempt games (sight words), it gives her opportunity to make snide comments to other group members.
    She is also off task when at the independent computer stations (we use a software-based reading intervention program and it is functioning at her level) and she is highly disrespectful to my instructional assistant and the leveled reader station, where she is, to my dismay, essentially copying sentences on comprehension worksheets that my assistant has written for her.
    When she IS willing to really try, and make a genuine effort, we have doubled her reading fluency score within a week.
    My concern is that these behaviors, under my watch, have been increasing and are now spilling out into the rest of the day. I see my role in allowing this to happen, but now I have to undo what has been done.
    My principal said "no one's ever made her really work before so of course she's going to fight you," which is true.
     
  5. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Feb 15, 2014

    Sounds like you're thinking in the right direction - you're increasing the frequency of reinforcement and have identified something she may potentially like. In terms of the fairness issue, I tend to explain to kids that every child has different needs, and use the example of reading or math. I may give, for example, the complaining student a math problem that is too easy, and say that "it wouldn't be fair for me to give this problem to you because it's not what you need to practice. What IS fair is for me to give you things that you need. _____ may need things that you don't, and it's may job as a teacher to make those decisions."

    I might also work with the target child and say that she will have the opportunity to earn rewards during group time, but that announcing the reward to the class may mean that she would lose it. In other words, build in "appropriate acceptance of reward" as part of the skill expectation. If you're afraid that might set her off (removing the reward for inappropriate acceptance), consider an additional (smaller) reward to appropriate acceptance of initial reward.

    All of these things, by the way, can be faded gradually.

    It sounds like I may not have understood the behavioral issues you were describing. I thought she was engaging in inappropriate behavior for the purpose of avoiding reading specifically in small group. But, it sounds like the behaviors are occurring at different times and places, and may have different functions/purposes. For example, it sounds like she only engages in the inappropriate behavior during some activities within the small group format, not all, and I'm wondering if the snide comments are related to task avoidance or to things such as poor social skills, etc. Maybe a further explanation of the exact problem behaviors and their conditions may have been a better first question for me to ask :).
     
  6. Kippers

    Kippers Companion

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    Feb 15, 2014

    [It sounds like I may not have understood the behavioral issues you were describing. I thought she was engaging in inappropriate behavior for the purpose of avoiding reading specifically in small group. But, it sounds like the behaviors are occurring at different times and places, and may have different functions/purposes. For example, it sounds like she only engages in the inappropriate behavior during some activities within the small group format, not all, and I'm wondering if the snide comments are related to task avoidance or to things such as poor social skills, etc. Maybe a further explanation of the exact problem behaviors and their conditions may have been a better first question for me to ask :).[/QUOTE]

    You are being so helpful. Behaviors first started in small group reading and that is where they are at their worst. But now, these behaviors are leaking into the rest of the day and into the rest of the classroom population.

    I teach at a school with very strong socioeconomic need, and in addition to poverty, the needs of my students are many. My students immediately feed off her behaviors and will follow her, partly out of intimidation, partly of out admiration.

    Prior to me, student had a reputation for sexualized behavior (it was noted in her IEP), but very little acting out in the general education setting. She was noted for disobedience/disrespect in the pull-out environment, which resulted in task avoidance and being returned back to class. Mom shared that student was intimidated in the general education setting and never wanted to be called on, for obvious reasons. Student is developing early, wears what could be considered precocious clothing, and enjoys attention from males.

    Student behavior in my self contained room has degraded since she entered two months ago. At first, it started with disrespect to classroom aide, who reported it to me after the fact. Then it increased to refusal to work on the computer reading program (basic phonics for her- instruction most of my students have long surpassed). Then it increased to abject defiance in my small group. (I have 3 20-30 minute reading rotations over 2-hour period). Now student is leading others off the playground during recess to "visit" other teachers, ignoring warnings to wait in line (and taking others with her), and is targeting my two socially weakest students in my classroom (boy and girl- who respond to taunts by crying).

    I have been weak in not giving her immediate consequences from the start (new at this school and did not feel comfortable sending to office) or another classroom. I had no contact with home through letters or phone for the first five weeks. Student genuinely sees no value in academics, and if she finds no value or reward, she has no reason to make an effort. Student participates in a great deal of attention seeking behavior from both peers and adults.

    In whole group instruction, desks are arranged in a u-shaped design with me at the central projector. During this time if student is in taunting mode, she is able to make faces at others no matter how "on" I am with whole class monitoring. During computer stations, her computer is always, always "broken," she logs off every few minutes, and she frequents my reading group, disrupting instruction, to demand to go on her previous favorite reading program that was far more fun but unstructured (and I can't monitor any progress).

    For behavior management, I've created a box chart that tracks every section of every day into about 20-minute increments where we record (and praise) the good and report the bad. It's a terrific tracking tool for multiple reasons though time consuming. If a bad entry is entered, she might loudly attempt to rip it, or argue with me that "my mom doesn't care." I also have a classroom currency to keep the praising up. Prizes are class store and also coupons for favorite things like lunchtime movie, teacher chair all day, extra free computer time, etc.

    Student is also attempting to pit students against each other, creating gossip and starting false rumors. She is very advanced in social manipulation, a skill I'm sure she honed as academics never built and she attempted to hide her academic failure from peers.

    My heart goes out to her- genuinely. She seldom sees her mom due to work schedule and there is no father present. She's spending her days and nights with older teens who are exposing her to older teen lifestyles. None of this gives any reason to suspect abuse or neglect- there is an adult present. She has abjectly failed in reading for five years. Her older brother, at 18, is attempting to be the parent, and he has struggled in school, too. Her previous teacher (earlier this year before change of placement) admitted to me that this student lacked so many skills, she simply couldn't participate in most classroom activities, so she spent the majority of her day online with a reading program that does not teach the basic phonics and word-building skills she lacks.

    Sorry to write so much!
     
  7. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Feb 15, 2014

    The overly sexual nature of her interests DOES indicate possible abuse.
     
  8. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Feb 15, 2014

    Wow, yes - quite a challenge! So, I might start by breaking up behaviors into separate functional classes, or at least groups of behaviors that are more related to academics or social things.

    With the academics, you've mentioned there are certain times she does well - such as whole group instruction and individual instruction. However, independent and small group work are challenging. What about those conditions do you suspect is more challenging for her? Not suggesting this, but what would happen if curricular expectations were dropped even lower so that her error rate approached 0%?

    Do you notice any attentional difficulties? Any other relevant cognitive attributes relevant from the IEP/psych report?

    Socially, it seems the biggest issue has to do with relating to other kids (broadly defined, including multiple perceptual and social skill issues). Do you do any social skills training in class, group discussion, class meetings, etc? Wondering both about specific interventions you're doing, as well as opportunities to add some strategies?

    Also, you may have mentioned this, but this is self-contained all day? How many students? Age range? Number of girls and general group/class dynamics, both as a whole and by gender?

    My turn to apologize for writing so much :)
     
  9. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Feb 15, 2014

    Have you thought of introducing the activity to this student before the small group reading session? If she was more confident in her ability to be successful, she may not have as many behaviours in her small group reading lesson.
     
  10. Kippers

    Kippers Companion

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    Feb 15, 2014

    Thanks again for your responses. About the sexualized behavior- this has been reported and investigated. She's a girl growing up too fast, but I'm on alert as a mandated reporter. It was previously determined that it was a function of mimicking older teen girl cousins and TV, etc.

    My class is self contained all day- 14 students 5 girls, multiple mild to moderate disabilities- age range is approximately 8-11. A few students mainstream for some core subjects where they show strength. Majority of the class is fourth grade. Student was previously in a nearby grade 4 class with 30-plus students. She has a poor attendance record and parent has a poor record of attendance at parent meetings, though she appears to be more involved now.

    I'm thinking hard about mixing up the reading center this week to create a buy-in. We're required to have small groups create a powerpoint as a school-wide project, and I think I may drop my routine this week to do this in small group, putting student in charge of finding images, design, etc. This should create a change in routine, new media skills, and allow her to show strength in a new outlet.

    If I can create any kind of buy-in with her, I believe better behavior will follow.

    We've been doing whole-group social skills lessons and anti-bullying lessons about twice a week in class discussions, social stories, etc. There is a school counselor and student will start soon, but services are sporadic at best and the counselor does not seem to "get" my kids. I've also been hosting same gender social skills lunches for kids twice a week in my room, but I've been so swamped I haven't been leading the activities I originally planned.

    Academically, she's appropriately placed in this program.

    I'm thinking of implementing the final 15 minutes of the day as free choice, to build more buy-in. I'd like to find child-friendly magazines that appeal to her teenage tastes as an option- but she's a non-reader so they need to be picture intensive.
     
  11. EMonkey

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    Feb 15, 2014

    You might also try meeting with the the class and discussing how to deal with other students distractions. Probably some child will say ignore them, you can build on that and have the class come up with an ignore agreement that you can come back to when they start following her lead.
     
  12. AliLand

    AliLand Rookie

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    Feb 16, 2014

    I think the girl is lucky to have found such a caring teacher. A long time ago I had a foster daughter who sounded similar. Actually, I looked after her two brothers and she was technically with her mother but in effect that just meant her mum often picked her up from school and brought her to mine. I tried to read with her every night despite her tantrums- one of her brothers was dyslexic, the other had asbergers and evening together reading time was very important. Luckily, she was in a Catholic school with a strict dress code but her whole nature was overtly sexual. Idont believe there had been any abuse, quite simple the female role models in her life were to blame. What she saw was me, her teachers, friends mothers - working hard, making ends meet etc, while her mother and friends appeared from a kids point of view to have a better life - no work, lots of parties and 'freedom' to do what they wanted. It was no wonder that the girl tryed to copy them!
    I don't actually have any advice, but the one thing which made the job easier for me was her teachers insistence on a strict dress code. Knowing that I'd do my best with her reading, her teacher concentrated on curbing behavior- she had the hard job!
     
  13. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Feb 16, 2014

    Again, sounds like you're really thinking about this the right way and have a grasp on what's going on. To confirm, with academics, you're saying that - in your room - if she were to apply effort, her error rate would be close to 0%?

    Behaviorally, I love the idea about the same-gender social skills groups during lunch. I might even start off with it being less "psychoeducational" (directly teaching social skills) and more on teambuilding/community-building - really trying to facilitate positive relationships between the group. I might also narrow your inclusion down to just 4 girls - the target girl and 3 others, chosen selectively so that they would be likely to form a bond. If you can create a certain dynamic and pattern of interpersonal behavior in that subgroup, you might be able to prompt/reinforcement that behavior with the whole group.

    Also, attentional difficulty or just academic in terms of the independent work?
     

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