Does Your Child Have A Positive Behavior Plan?

Does your child struggle with behaviors that others may not understand? Is your child constantly being punished?

All IEPs allocate a portion to discuss behavior plans that may be needed for a student. More often than not, many of the strategies are progressively punitive. This means that the first step is moving from green to red, the the next consequence will result in removing a portion of the day that the student finds enjoyable, and so on. While a small group of students may find this effective, there is very little research that punitive actions will replace bad behavior.

Here are tips to consider if your child’s behavior is impacting their education.

  • What is the function of the behavior? Many behavioralist would argue that all behaviors have an antecedent. This means that behaviors (good or bad) are done for a reason. In and ideal situation, if the antecedents are addressed, the behaviors should no longer be present. Consider having an Functional Behavior Analysis done to help identify the function of the behavior. These assessments can be done by a behavioralist and can be paid for by the school district. The observation component will be done in various settings.
  • Is the behavior a result of the child’s disability? Many factors should be considered when making this determination. Do not wait until the behavior has become an issue and the student is now being considered for school-wide consequences. This can be considered during an FBA and sharing information about the disability that impacts your child’s behavior can be helpful. This is when a good relationship with the CST helps. Don’t be afraid to provide additional research to parents, teachers, and case managers. No one can possibly read every piece of research that is available. Having discussions prior to a manifestation determination meetings can be very impactful.
  • Is your child ever rewarded for doing what is right? More and more schools are moving towards Multi-teired Systems of Supports (MTSS). One of the models is Positive Behavior Supports in Schools (PBSIS). This program should be done on a school-wide level and then additional supports should be provided to students, classified or not, to help them find strategies for replacing negative behavior with positive. Many schools use a token reward system where students are provided with a ticket when they are “caught” following the school rules. This reinforces positive choices.
  • Be consistent! One of the major struggles with parents and teachers is to find balance between everyday unavoidable occurrences and structure. If the behavior was wrong yesterday, it is wrong today, and it will be wrong tomorrow. Work with a behavioralist to determine the best method of building continuity between home and school.
  • Teach your expectations. Teaching expected behavior is often over looked, especially as children become older. It is assumed that they should know appropriate behavior. Teachers, school staff, and family members should teach and model appropriate behaviors in a variety of environments.

To help your child, communication is invaluable. Sharing inform about your child and how their disability impacts their behavior will help to avoid unnecessary punitive consequences. Focus on your child’s strengths and reinforce when they exhibit appropriate behavior.

Remember that a child’s worth is not determined through their behavior. Identify the behavior as good or bad, if necessary, but never the child.

Sometimes Recess is a Child’s Most Difficult Class

While many people remember recess being their favorite class period, it can often result in unmanageable chaos for children. Even a simple game of tag can result in non-verbalized rules and social skills that can be difficult to navigate. The whole concept of tag is for one child to chase another at a fast pace and then suddenly slow their speed and touch another child in a manner that will not harm other players. While doing all of that, they must also pay attention to physical hazards, children, and the reaction of others. The game of tag is the 90’s version of a merry go round. You know, the spinning top that encourages children to sit on the end and hold on for dear life!

Establish Clear Expectations 

If your child or a group of students are struggling during recess there are many options to alleviate the challenges. The first, most important step, is to establish clear expectations. Not only should they be spoken and written, but role playing can be very effective. Model and teach the children how to appropriately play with one another using the space and equipment available. This can be done during class time and before open play.

Available Staff

The second step is to ensure ample staff are available to support student learning. Staff should be open to playing with the children to model appropriate behavior and ongoing encouragement. All staff should have the same expectations and understand how to manage student behaviors. Clear procedures for when students need to be removed to reflect on their behavior should also be planned.

Positive Behavior Supports 

The third step is to incorporate positive reinforcements. Positive reinforcements should be used to reinforce appropriate behavior. Positive Behavior Supports in Schools is a program supported on the NJ Department of Education and is available on the state website. PBSIS is used in schools throughout the country to offer discipline solutions using a positive approach.Tickets, tokens, or a simple smile and kind word can sometimes be enough to build a relationship with a child. Once that relationship is established, the easier it will be to build a support system.

I often see students that struggle assigned 1:1 aides to support during unstructured time. While there is always a time and place for aides, 1:1 aides can create an unnatural environment for young children to bond and maneuver social skills. More often, I find that the child and the 1:1 aide are sitting or playing together rather than the student integrating with their peers. If a 1:1 aide is used, consider when and how fading the support could be beneficial.