It takes years for an individual to learn behaviors and rely on vices for survival. It therefore stands to reason that it may take years for that individual to ‘unlearn’ those behaviors and rid themselves of counter-productive vices. Well-intentioned educators, and by educators I mean all professionals and paraprofessionals involved in a person’s care, often misinterpret a child’s Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) as a ‘do now’, when in fact the goals of a BIP are meant to be achieved over a period of time. Do not overload yourself or your student; baby steps–one thing at a time.
Step One: Determine which behavior or vice is the most socially unacceptable.
When a child has multiple behavioral IEP/IESP goals that range from:
Student will not rip the hair out of other students’ heads
Student will not suck on the back of her hand
The priorities are fairly obvious. Do not try to address multiple issues simultaneously. Begin with the issue that is most socially reprehensible. Causing harm to one’s self or others is always the first priority.
Step Two: Devise a plan
I am often told by teachers that they cannot find anything that motivates their ‘problem’ student. It’s there; you just have to find it. Motivation may not be material–it may be a gesture, hug, or cumulative towards a larger goal such as moving out of a self-contained classroom.
Be extremely specific and consistent while implementing a plan for your student. Get all staff on board and be sure that everyone uses the same terminology for addressing the student’s positive and negative behaviors. When redirecting the student be sure to state the desired behavior as opposed to the reiterating the negative behavior.
“Stop pulling her hair!”
“Fold your hands, please.”
I know that it sounds overly simple, but it must be repetitive, stern, and consistent. It will not appear effective in the early stages of implementation. The biggest mistake that educators make is abandonment of their plan too early. Remember that a child develops negative behavior over several years and positive behavior may take years to develop as well. Stay the course!! Give each intervention at least six weeks to begin to take effect. That does not mean that the student will be cured in six weeks, rather you should begin to see improvement. Patience is truly the key–don’t give up too soon. Begin to gradually add new plans for other behavior issues. However, if there is no sign of improvement after that passage of time, then it may be wise to adjust the intervention or substitute it with a new plan.
Step three: Put the child in control of their behavior
Be sure that the student can see progress and/or regression. Most negative behavior occurs because the student felt they had no control over their surroundings and never developed compensatory strategies for dealing with their frustrations. Below is a sample of student behaviors that are age appropriate for children in middle elementary grades to self-monitor but can be modified for younger/older children. A progress chart that gives the child a sense of progression towards his/her goals should also be included as a visual reminder of their success.
Step four: Stay the course!
There is no greater joy for a teacher that seeing her/his students gain independence and success. Be stern, consistent, patient and love your students.
This is how I am reaching my goal.
This is why I remain in this classroom.
I spoke quietly.
I used polite language.
I called other people bad names or cursed.
I completed my assigned school work.
I argued and did not complete my school work.
Safe Respect of Body Space
Unsafe/Disrespect for Body Space
I stood at least an arm’s length away from others.
I was too close to other people and I bumped, pushed or made others uncomfortable.
I kept my feet to myself.
I kicked someone.
I kept my hands to myself.
I hit someone.
I controlled my urge to spit.
I spit at someone.
Safe Respect for Classroom Materials
Unsafe/Disrespect for Classroom Materials
I safely returned all materials to where they belonged.
I threw something or used it in a way that made my classmates, me, or my teachers unsafe.
I sat safely in my chair and at my desk. I sat safely at morning meeting.
I unsafely pushed, kicked, or shoved classroom furniture.
I Made Other People Safe
I Made Other People Unsafe
I controlled my temper and comments.
I threatened to harm myself or other people.
I am Reaching my Goal
Things I Need to Improve to Reach my Goal