Jul 31, 2014

Responding to Each Behavior Function

The Teacher as a Leader Series (Part 8: Responding to Each Behavior Function) discusses ideas to think about when responding to behaviors. This series is downloadable and available for you to present to your school team. It provides a beginning step to analyzing your response to challenging behaviors. We know from the previous post that it is critical that we identify the function and root cause for the behavior. Here is the next step.

After you have identified the function or at least have a good idea of what you think the function of the behavior may be, then it will be time to come up with some solutions to address the target behavior. 
Depending on the function of the behavior, your response will be different.
Each of these suggestions that will be provided are only some of many possible solutions for a Behavior Intervention Plan. Please know that this is only a small portion of what there is to know regarding interventions.
Talk with your team to determine the specific interventions that may work for your specific student.

With any Behavior Intervention Plan, it will be important to inform other staff members in the school and family members about the techniques you will be using, so that they are on the same page.  

Here is a sample of the presentation slides that aim to help participants think about how they are responding to behaviors based on  the function.

 Escape/avoidance behavior:
•Did I put in place Positive Behavior Supports?
•Did I provide a scheduled “escape” before the student engaged in the behavior?
•Did I decrease the difficulty of the activity, then gradually increase the difficulty as the students does better?
•Did I teach the student how to request a break appropriately?
•Did I remember to not stop the activity just because of the behavior?
A slide from the presentation.

The Teacher as a Leader Series (Part 8: Responding to Each Behavior Function) includes handouts that you can give to the individuals you are providing professional development.

Jul 30, 2014

The Teacher as a Leader: Ways to Identify the Function of a Behavior

There are obviously many reasons why people behavior the way they do. Some people have medical and physiological reasons for their behavior, some want to show power and control among other things.  So when it comes to labeling functions for behaviors, you could get many different functions from many different people. Some people label more than 4 functions or reasons for behaviors, but typically, people show a behavior because they usually find one of the following items reinforcing:

·         Escape/Avoidance of a Situation
      (For example: Work, uncomfortable clothes, loud noise, touching water)
       Gaining Attention
      (For example: Attention from the adult, attention from another child)
       Gaining a Tangible Item
      (For example: Getting food, toy, book, or teacher’s materials)
       Sensory Input
      (For example: Mouthing objects, spinning items, or putting hands in ears)

These are some indicators that are typically evidence of one function or another.  This list is not limited to these items only, because students are individuals and have unique circumstances.  Also, we know that sometimes a student’s behavior can have more than one function.
So how do you know?  Well, it is really a matter of observing, taking data and asking yourself and your team a series of questions. These questions are outlined in the Teacher as a Leader for Special Education Teachers (Part 7: Identifying the Function ofa Behavior) Powerpoint presentation. 

As discussed in previous posts in this series, The Teacher as a Leader Series was created as a guide for teachers to help conduct small scale (team meetings) or large scale (group presentations) professional development exercises with the other members of their classroom team or other members of their school team. The series aims to give a starting point for discussion and guidance on topic that will ultimately help to improve the capacity for teaching special learners for the teacher, paraprofessional and 1:1 assistant at the school level, while also improving student outcomes.  An example from the presentation:

Ask yourself these questions as possible indicators of escape/avoidance reinforcement:
•Is the individual engaged in the behavior when a task is presented?
•Does the individual engage in the behavior when a new activity begins?
•Does the individual engage in the behavior when a stimuli they view/perceive as aversive is presented?
•Does the behavior end when the student is allowed to leave the activity?

Questions about various functions are also outlined in the the freebie Autism Support Posters by Autism Classroom.

Jul 29, 2014

The Teacher as a Leader Series (Part 6: Recording Behavior)

The Teacher as a Leader Series Part 6 Recording Behaviors is a presentation that educators can use to discusses how to record behaviors to get a better sense of how often they are occurring.  In order to come up with a good plan for behaviors, you are going to want to ask yourself “What am I dealing with?”

It is important record the behaviors for a number of reasons:
       So that you know what is happening.
       So that you can share your information with others. Administrators like and can understand numbers!
       So that you have facts.  Numbers speak better than opinions.
       So that you can begin to start observing for that specific behavior. 

Recording behaviors can be overwhelming if you let it.  If you have a person with many behaviors, it is helpful to only work on a few behaviors at a time (maybe 1 or 2) in order to be truly effective. To address all at one time will burn you out.  To observe and keep good data, you will need to determine what type of monitoring sheet or data sheet you will need.  Try this link for some ideas:


The Teacher as a Leader Series Part 6 presentation outlines some examples of specific target behaviors and options for collecting data on that behavior (similar to the example in the link.) 

Jul 28, 2014

The Teacher as a Leader Series for Special Education Teachers Part 5: Understanding Behaviors

What do you do to gather information for behaviors? Do you get a chance to conduct a full functional behavior assessment each time? Are you able to observe the individual? Do you also get a chance to ask many questions of the adults working with the child? Or, do you have the time to take a look at any patterns in the child's behavior? One thing we know is that in order to try to find out why the behavior is happening you have to take the time to observe and watch the situation.  As educators, we don't always have the time to do this, but it is essential.

There are a couple of tools that you could use when you're looking to find the reason for a behavior.  You can use data collection or progress monitoring sheets of  various styles.  You can use direct observation. You can use interviews and question adults who work closely with the student, including the parents and caregivers. These methods can prove to provide you with more information than you might think. Of course, when you talk about behaviors in children you have to clarify the issue. Many times people will give out a random quote like “This child has been acting out.”  That doesn't tell us that much.  So, it would be more helpful to say “this child hits and kicks when not given her way.” That description gives us a little bit more information. The Teacher as a Leader Series for Special Education Teachers Part 5: Understanding Behaviors, focuses on trying to understand behaviors and taking a closer look at behaviors. It provides a guide for teachers to conduct small-scale team meetings or large-scale presentations and professional development exercises for other members of their classroom team or in their school district. This presentation is part of a 10 part series for educators.

Jul 26, 2014

Be a Leader at Positive Behavior Supports

We know that one of the major, major challenges teachers of students with special needs experience is in the area of behavior. Many times the behavior can get in the way of the learning. But it doesn't have to.  The best case situation would be to develop a way to stop the behaviors before they get started. To do many things on the front end so that the behaviors never get started. For example a few items from this list may start the process of increasing appropriate behaviors in your students.  

·         Consistent routines for activities 
·         Pre-made and prepared activities 
·         Pre-assigned roles and responsibilities throughout the day for staff members
·         Pre-determined areas for activities (so that students will know where to go)
·         Limited auditory distractions 
·         Limited visual distractions
·         Proximity control
·         Visually label areas of the classroom
·         Make expectations clear by using PCS

Be a leader at teaching co-workers about positive behavior supports. This fourth Teacher as a Leader Series for Special Education Teachers topic helps to explain a few ideas for including positive behavior supports. This editable presentation can be used to provide professional development to your team. This training gives preventative measures that adults could use to try to influence positive behaviors in students.

Jul 25, 2014

Teacher as a Leader Series Part 3 (Autism Characteristics)

You know how they say "If you have met one person with autism, then you have met one person with autism." The sentiment is true.  Every student with autism is unique and brings a different set of joys and challenges. Through it all, you might notice a few similarities, but not many. Now, this is if you are in a classroom with all students with autism for year after year. But what if you are teaching the only child with autism in your building or what if this is your first child and they have autism?  You might not know that some of the things you see them do or hear them say are somewhat characteristic of autism itself.

I always like too see the faces of others as the characteristics are read off in a workshop.  There are lots of head nods, smiles and "yes, ok" as people see the characteristics in their students. Additionally, they see that they are not the only ones. Most times, they just love their students anyway and accepted the characterissics as part of the child's personality.  For example, I might hear "Oh, I thought that was just Johnny."

 Autism Characteristics
The characteristics can be examined deeper using Part 3 of the Teacher as a Leader Series which focuses on Autism Characteristics.  Remember, the Teacher as a Leader Series was created as a guide for teachers to help conduct small scale (team meetings) or large scale (group presentations) professional development exercises with the other members of their classroom team or other members of their school team. The series aims to give a starting point for discussion and guidance on topic that will ultimately help to improve the capacity for teaching special learners for the teacher, paraprofessional and 1:1 assistant at the school level, while also improving student outcomes.

 Teacher as a Leader Series

Jul 24, 2014

Getting on the Same Page With Your Classroom Team

There are some myths Special Educators tell themselves before entering the classroom:
1.   You have to know everything about teaching.
2.   You should know what to do when behaviors occur.
3.   Everyone in the class will get along.
4.   Adults will play fair.
5.   People can read your mind.

The fact is, these are just myths and you do not have to know everything about teaching, but you have to be willing to let people know you're not sure at the moment and you will try to find the answer. Then, be sure to research to find the answer. You don't have to know everything about behaviors either. In fact, most people do not know how to react to certain behaviors. But it's always good to have a calm demeanor and a neutral body tone so that you don't over react. Then learn as much as you can about increasing positive behaviors so that the next time, you can be ready. Try your best to model a calm state for your students and the other staff members while you take care of the situation.

The truth is, everyone in the class may not get along since people have different personalities and different temperaments.  Remember, your job is to educate students and it is not your job to make all of the adults get along. However, it is your job to make sure that the working environment is one that focuses on the students.  So, continuously send that message and make the classroom the best it can be so that students can thrive.  The fourth myth that adults play fair is often the one that keeps many Special Educators up at night. Sometimes other adults will try to stress you out. Try not to let them. Remember again, it is your job to focus on the students. Remind everyone on the team that the job is to educate students and they have to leave their baggage at the door. 

Finally, the last myth is that people can read your mind. I know what you are thinking “They can’t? They don’t know how to run this activity exactly the way I had it planned in my mind?” No. They don’t unless you tell them what you are thinking. You have to make sure that you tell people what it is that needs to happen for the students. This can be done in a number of ways:
1.   You can state it verbally.
2.   You can show them by modeling.
3.   You can write it down so that people can have something to refer to at a later time.

Getting on the same page with other staff members is essential for Special Education classrooms to run effectively. Doing so, may require a number of things. For instance, a checklist for items that the team needs to accomplish, posted schedules that show when your break times will be happening, weekly schedules, written lesson plans, and many debriefings.  Debriefings are helpful since you can sit sit down with the team and talk about what is going on and what plans are going to be put in place to deal with behaviors and communication supports and more. 
 Teacher as a Leader

The Teacher as a Leader Series for Special Education Teachers (Part 2:Getting on the Same Page- Autism Support) examines the topic of adults getting on the same page to support students with autism. It focuses on team building and a few methods to work with your team to try to increase communication in the team.

Jul 23, 2014

Are You Ready to Be a Leader in Your Field?

Are you really ready to be the leader in your building?  Well, by the nature of the job, you already are the instructional leader in the classroom.  But are you ready to take the leap to being a leader in the building or in your school district?  Maybe you need some ideas of how to make this happen.  Here you go.  So how could you use this Teacher as a Leader series?

  •      You could be the leader in your building
  •      Start a monthly group
  •      Meet weekly with your team for professional development
  •      Schedule a training for the general education faculty
  •      Provide information to parents as part of a newsletter from your classroom
  •      Enhance the training with your own samples and your own task examples

 Teacher as a Leader Part 1

This series makes it easy to step into that role by providing handouts and a PowerPoint that is editable.  The Teacher as a Leader Series Part 1: What is Autism? is perfect if you have people in your building or on your classroom team that are new to working with autism.  It is also helpful if you are leading a discussion group centered around this topic.
 The Teacher as a Leader Part 1

Now that you know how to make this happen, let’s think about the why.  First, there are many new people who join the education field each year.  They come from various backgrounds, some of which do not include professional development in working with students with autism.  Second, it helps you to step up your game when you can confidently explain what it is that you do each day.  Third, our students need you to advocate on their behalf.  Finally, it’s fun once you get started.  

Go be the leader you were born to become!

Jul 21, 2014

The Teacher as a Leader Series for Special Education Teachers

So, who is ready for some professional development? Oh wait, is it still summer? Well, one thing we know is that teachers still plan in the summer.  However, as educators, we like to plan at a relaxed pace so that there is not too much stress involved.  When planning, of course you have to plan for your students, but it is also important to plan for the staff members that will be working with you each day to teach the students. The Teacher as a Leader Series for Special Education Teachers is a professional development tool that can be edited to fit the needs of your school or your school district. 

It was created to help teachers be the leaders in their field (Special  Education) within their school building or school district. I know in my first few years of teaching, I would sign up to present mini-trainings for the team members in the building.  Or, I would  bring in the handouts, information from books or websites to share with the team. Now, some of these trainings took place with the 3 members of my classroom team for 20 minutes at a time.  Others, took place with larger groups for longer periods of time. I know there are lots of us like that out there.  Don't be shy. It's okay. We are educators and  we definitely like to share information. 
      What I have found throughout the years is that many teachers have the skills and knowledge and information about teaching children with autism but they may not have the time (due to the nature of the job) to devote to putting together a presentation. Also, many teachers work with a number of adults (both in general education and special education) who may need more information about working with students with autism. This product this series can support efforts of professional development on both a large and small scale.  It will give teachers a starting point to creating the type of PD presentation that they would like to deliver to their colleagues.  

There are 10 professional development trainings in the series. 

Jul 18, 2014

Autism Characteristics - Communication

Although we know that all individuals with autism are unique and not everyone has the same characteristics, we do know that there are some characteristics that are common in some people with autism.  Communication challenges are well noted in people with autism.  Even if the person is able to speak, some of the non-verbal communication and social interaction can be challenging.  Here is a look at a few things you may notice in the area of communication:
  • Use of gestures or pointing, rather than words. (For some people.)
  • Echolalia (repeating words or phrases). For example, the person might say lines from a movie, commercial or book over and over. 
  • Atypical patterns of speech (learning specific phrases) without much variation to the phrase.
  • Limited interest social interaction for some people. 
  • Limited skills in social interaction even when there is a desire to interact.
  • Limited eye contact for some individuals.
  • Trouble with pragmatics and the social cues and social rules that revolve around language.
  • Ritualistic play patterns (spinning, lining objects) in some children who tend to “play” the same way each time.  This may also be seen in children who tend to be very strict about how the play occurs.
  • Limited joint attention to things that others are attending to.  This is a critical skill because learning most often occurs when you are attending to the same thing as others.

Communication skills (which can be in non-verbal ways) and social skills grow with practice and commitment. It is our responsibility to learn how to become a good communication partner and learn what we can about reaching out to our students and family members with autism. 

Jul 17, 2014


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Characteristics of Autism: Strengths

Individuals with autism, like all of us, are unique and have their own strengths and difficulties. As parents and teachers we should strive to place emphasis on the strengths while helping the child through the difficulties. This week, let's look at some of the things we know about the characteristics of people with autism.  Today we start with the strengths as highlighted in the book The 1:1 Assistant's Guidebook: Practical Information for Learning Support Aides Working with Students with Autism.

Jul 15, 2014

Getting Started: What is Autism?

This is the AutismClassroom.com Blog.  It would probably be a good idea to start a blog about teaching students with autism with some information about autism. Folks are still trying to figure out the complexities of individuals with autism and they still do not know what causes autism, but here are a few things we do know. Autism typically appears during the first three years of life. Even if a child is not diagnosed until later in life, when they look back, the symptoms were most likely there. Autism that affects the way an individual thinks and interprets the world around them. 
Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls.  It affects all races, ethnic groups, economic groups  and social classes. 
As the Autism Society of America once put it, "Autism interferes the areas of reasoning, social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have deficiencies in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities. The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. They may exhibit repeated body movements (hand flapping, rocking), unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resist any changes in routines. In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present." (Autism Society of America)
I think it is good to know the about autism so that teachers and parents are informed, but it is also good to begin to develop skills to help bring the individual with autism to their highest potential.