Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's going on, anyway?

I am teaching my favorite class fall quarter and we are at the point where my students really "get it"! The class is "Teaching Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders". My students are all graduate students in special education, school counseling and school psychology. The goal of the course is to develop skills in my students to support K-12 students who have difficulty in school due to behaviors caused by mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, others), conduct or oppositional defiance disorder, attention deficit disorder, and perhaps a general lack of understanding and skills in behaviors that support positive school experiences. Assessment is the first step in this process. What, where, when and how much? The behaviors are not the fault of the child or adolescent. There is a function for the behavior. It is so fun, awesome and inspiring to see my students not only look at the environment and what they can do to support the young person but to learn the skills to advocate for the child/adolescent in their school! Very simply put and without all the research behind the process here is what they are learning:

1. What's the problem? (Child A (let's call her Shonna) puts her head down during the entire class and doesn't talk. Child B (let's call him Matt) disrupts class by talking out and bothering others, "I don't GET IT! I can't DO IT!!")

2. When, where and how often? (Shonna: First two hours of the day. Matt: During math class right before lunch. During social studies at the end of the day.)

3. What is the function of the behavior(s)? What does the student get or get out of with the behavior? (Shonna doesn't have to interact with other students or the teacher. Matt doesn't have to do math or social studies and gets attention from teacher and peers- negative attention but attention never-the-less. Questions to ask: Is the child hungry? Tired? On medications? Does she/he have the skills to do the assigned work? What's going on at home?)

4. How can the environment be changed and/or the consequences of the behavior? (Teacher meets with Shonna individually prior to the class. Make sure that Shonna has had breakfast. Explain the assignments (give specific work prior to group work); give snacks if necessary, put in small, supportive peer group. Check in often with a touch on her shoulder and thumbs up/ thumbs down. Give Shonna "token" to place on desk when she needs teacher assistance. Give positive reinforcement for looking at peers, speaking to group. Check to see if this should be private or public. Some kids don't see public praise as a reinforcer!
Assess Matt to determine his skills in math and social studies. How does Matt do during other periods? If okay then look at environmental factors. Tired? Hungry? Over-stimulated? Medications? Make sure that Matt has an assignment that allows him to be successful. Build assignments to optimal level so Matt is successful but still challenged. Develop a self-monitoring plan for Matt. Have Matt keep track of successful on task behavior and provide appropriate and natural rewards. Even 6 year olds can do this!!)

5. Review data and evaluate effectiveness of interventions. Change as necessary. Communicate with parents and all other teachers involved. Keep working!

Okay, so now you have 4 weeks of a graduate course in one short blog. I love, love LOVE working with "difficult kids" because they are beautiful, challenging and awesome children/adolescents who need someone to step up and support them in their desire to be successful. It is wonderfully rewarding to figure it out with the child and the parents and develop an intervention plan that leads to success! Thoughts?

1 comment:

Claire-Louise said...

Wow, fantastic blog. I'm a parent to a child with Aspergers in the UK. I wished we had more teachers like you. My son is on the blink of permanent exclusion. His had so many fixed term exclusions and missed out on all kinds of educational activities, it just breaks my heart.

Great blog and love following u on networkedblogs