When a reinforcer works for one kid, but makes another crazy....

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by teachersk, Sep 16, 2010.

  1. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Sep 16, 2010

    OK... here is the dilemma.

    We work on a token system in my classroom. I have faded out most edibles, except for fruit. I love when they eat fruit and more power to them if they want to "earn" it. Ha! :cool:

    So, I used grant money to buy some awesome leisure activities. One of those activities is a HUGE bin of Education Legos. They are the Community Helpers set. It's such a cool box of Legos - there are about 1,000 pcs.

    So, I have one little boy who will do. anything. for. legos. He is sooo motivated by them. He works so hard. He earns his legos. I set the timer for 2 minutes, and he adds on to his little city at his independent area. Timer goes off, he comes back to the table, smiling and so proud of himself.

    Then... I have another kid. Who is equally excited about legos. Except... he has major anxiety over it. He is SO motivated by them, that he can't focus on ANYTHING while he's earning his tokens. He looks over at the bin (I've even hidden it and he looks in the "direction" of it) -- he is breathing heavily, when he earns his tokens he BOLTS to the leisure corner and frantically starts to plow through the bin for his two minutes, and when the timer goes off, we have to PULL him away from the legos. He's gotten better about coming back.... but it's the process of earning them that drives me insane. The kid literally can't breathe or think about what he's doing because he's hyperfocused on Legos.

    So, today I tried saying "Sorry, legos are for when we act calm in school." He just kept saying "Calm? __ is calm. He is calm. He is calm." And then breathing heavily, dipping under my arm and running over to the area, etc. So it's clearly still an issue.... even when he's not earning them.

    And it would be so rough to take them away from my other kid, who is perfect with them and follows all of the rules and this is really the only thing he is motivated by!

    Has anyone ever encountered this? Any ideas?

    We've done visuals (I must be calm to get my legos. I must listen to my teacher.)

    I've also withheld the legos until he's breathing nicely and his eyes aren't bugging out of his head, but sometimes he never stops!!! PLUS I feel bad about withholding something he legitimately earned.. but he just FREAKS about these dang legos.
     
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  3. ZoomZoomZOOM

    ZoomZoomZOOM Devotee

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    Sep 16, 2010

    Dude, two minutes of lego time? That's just enough to tick me off. lol

    You forgot to say how long you've had insane-about-legos-kid. Is he new? If so, you'll have to give him a lot more time. Or maybe he's just like me and can't believe you only allow two minutes of lego time - and HE HAS TO MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY LEGO SECOND - SO HE'S PLANNING IT ALL OUT IN HIS HEAD. ha
     
  4. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Sep 16, 2010

    Haha, it sounds bad, but it's really not!

    The other kids will choose something that goes quick (like an apple slice!)

    They earn their tokens at random intervals throughout the day, so they actually end up missing instructional time, which is why I have to limit their time!

    They earn it throughout the day, though, so you'd be surprised at what they can do in 2 minutes!! (x many times!)

    I will take a picture of my one kid's lego city tomorrow. It is rockin'.

    Obsessed-with-legos kid is not new- he's been here since last April.

    It's almost a new lego obsession? It may be that we have the big new bin of legos...?

    We've always had legos... just not the $200 bin from Education Lego.

    So, it's not really the 2 minute thing, it's the leading up to it - he's breathing heavy, freaking out, staring at me, pointing to the legos, etc.

    It's nuts. I wish I could video it and send it to you - he's sooo obsessed with these legos.

    I made a sign today that says "No legos today." with a no sign over the legos - so tomorrow we will just choose something else to earn. I'll see how that goes. It's unfortunate, because I know he is so highly motivated by them!
    Ha
     
  5. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Sep 16, 2010

    Lol make the most of every lego second. That is so him.

    And if he were rushing DURING lego time, I'd be OK with that. It's the obsession PRE-lego time that drives me nuts.
     
  6. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Sep 16, 2010

    Hmm. In thinking about this.. what do you think would happen if I upped his token system (maybe he has to earn 20 tokens instead of 5) to get 10 minutes of lego time?

    Not sure if that would just be even more time to obsess over them???
     
  7. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Sep 17, 2010

    Well legos ARE fun!

    Maybe having a lego piece in his desk might motivate him to be calmer about lego time
     
  8. mom2mikey

    mom2mikey Cohort

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    Sep 17, 2010

    We have one student who is this "obsessive" with Dr. Suess books!

    We also do timed leisure activities as reinforcers. I'm throwing out a bunch of random ideas. You may have already tried a lot of them.

    Have you tried something like 5 minutes of focused work followed by 2 minutes of lego and then shut the timer off during the work session anytime you see the student not focusing on his work? You may have to start with a shorter amount of focused work and grow to a larger amount as it seems that he needs to learn how to focus even when there is such a tempting distraction.

    How about not using legos as a reinforcer for this student but still allowing him the use of them at some point in the day and working the use of the legos in to his schedule so that he can just use them as a leisure activity and he knows that is the only time of the day that he is going to use them. This is what we do with the student that loves his Dr. Suess. He can have access to them for 15 minutes at the end of the day. We had to use a timer and a visual schedule to teach him this is how it works but he did come to accept it and is now more focused.

    We have also had to reinforce coming back to table nicely with a token or food reinforcer as part of our teaching with those studnets we have to fight to get back to the table.

    How about a social rehersal/story EVERY SINGLE TIME you start a work session about how the system works (explaining what it looks like to focus on work and then have the lego time and how he is expected to behave in each situation).
     
  9. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    Sep 17, 2010

    Oh man, I have a kiddo who gets hyperfocused like that over the weirdest things. It can get frustrating.

    We have a Lego Table, and I allow my students 30 minutes of Free Time at the end of the day. It's on the board as a part of our daily schedule and that helps.
     
  10. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Sep 17, 2010

    Perhaps use legos as manipulatives in Math?
     
  11. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Omg that would be awful. He wouldn't pay attention- he'd be freaking out that the Legos were on the table. Lol.
     
  12. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Sep 19, 2010

    OK - here is what I have come up with for the time being, just in case anyone was wondering....

    I wrote home to his mom to tell her that the legos were just causing EXTREME anxiety in the classroom. Even if he gets them on a non-contingent schedule (behavior doesn't matter, you still get them) - he STILL freaks out until he gets them. Then when it's time to give them back... well you know the deal.

    She wrote back and asked if she should buy the same set (Community Helpers) to have at home. I thought about it and decided this would be a great idea!

    So, I have a "No legos at school today" card that I made with the no sign over the legos. If he does NOT steal the legos (which is his thing - if he can't earn them he steals them and puts them in his pocket) - then I will write to his mom and he can play (free access! woot!) when he gets home each day.

    I think this will work. On the first day we try it (Monday) - I will give him lots of chances (help him put them back if he steals them, remind him he's earning them at home, etc.

    I'll pretty much tell his mom he earned them, even if he steals (as long as he gives them back to me, etc.) because I do want him to know he gets them at home.

    But, having access to them in school is just causing him to get nothing done and freak out about them the whole day. I'm hoping that not having it as an option (NO legos in school today) will ease the anxiety a bit.
     
  13. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    Sep 19, 2010

    That sounds like a great plan! Let us know if it works!
     
  14. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Sep 21, 2010

    Wondering how the lego problem went today... Now I am hyperfocused!
     
  15. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Sep 21, 2010

    Well...
    Day 1 (Yesterday) - went great. "No legos today" was a success! It was like, oh, end of discussion. Perfect!

    Day 2 (Today) - went great again! Until 2:30.
    When he snuck over to the lego corner and stuffed his pockets full of legos, followed by a complete freak out when I discovered what he was doing, followed by an "aggressive attack" on another student who was trying to pick them up off the floor to help me. :)() - which subsequently resulted in restraint of lego-obsessed student.

    Bummer!

    So, tomorrow's plan is to have the legos locked up at all times (and my good little boy who loves them and does well with them will have a key!) Any time my good little boy is playing, my other little (lego) boy will be under my supervision. We had to do this with another reinforcer last year, and it faded out (was no longer awesome to him) and we moved on. Hoping that will happen with this, too!

    I will keep you posted...hoping the lock up is a temporary solution!! Any other ideas are welcome..
     

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