Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Behavior Intervention Plans for EBD Classrooms

Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) are both incredibly helpful and totally daunting! Here are a few of my favorite strategies in creating plans that are doable and effective.

Collaborative Problem Solving
If you've followed me on social media for any amount of time, this might sound like a broken record. BUT - I seriously love (LOVE) the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) method (Dr. Greene has recently renamed his method Collaborative and Proactive Solutions). It was created by one of my favorite behaviorists (nerd status, I know), Dr. Ross Greene. You can read more about it here (and please do), or watch a really impacting TEDx talk about it here. The heart of CPS is this: Kids Do Well If They Can. Dr. Greene's method shows us that challenging behavior stems from lagging skills rather than children misbehaving because they choose to. A huge part of the approach is the "Plan B", which requires teachers and students to collaborate together when coming up with an alternative to their challenging behaviors. While some of our students require and excessive amount of prompting and assistance through this process, it can be so powerful for students to take ownership and partnership in creating an intervention plan for themselves. I have found that often times, our students really surprise us with their insight. 

Forced Choice Reinforcement Surveys
Reinforcement surveys are VERY useful tools in finding out what activities, types of attention, and items are actually reinforcing for our students. We often see these surveys used for children with intellectual disabilities and autism. This is my favorite survey to use for children who are older and/or have emotional disabilities. 

This survey ends up ranking which order these reinforcers fall for each student: adult approval, competitive approval, peer approval, independent rewards, or consumable rewards. This information can be hugely important in deciding what student privileges, rewards, and breaks can contain to help shape their behavior positively. You can find my favorite reinforcement survey (that I showed above!) here

Get a Team Behind You
Sometimes, us special educators can really feel on an island. We are trying to do EVERYTHING, from data collection to IEP writing to curriculum adapting to inclusion facilitating. When it comes to challenging behavior, you REALLY need another set of eyes. There are so many factors that can come into play when a child exhibits challenging behaviors that you will never be able to see by yourself. Having a second hand (think counselor, social worker, OT, SLP, behavior interventionist... someone!) to take data during times you can't (like when you're facilitating a lesson!) will be incredible useful. You may not even realize that YOU could be a trigger for some of the behaviors (...I say this because it's happened in my classroom!). Don't be afraid to ask for a second hand. 

What are the ways that you support your students with challenging behavior?


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Special Education Teachers - We Aren't Saints!

If you're a special education teacher, I bet you'd be a millionaire if you were paid for every time someone called you a saint, or a hero, or a thousand other well-meaning compliments.

Let me set the scene: You're at a wedding. You start mingling with a few people during cocktail hour, and eventually someone asks, "What do you do for a living?" You start out simple. "I'm a teacher." Of course they get a big smile and say, "Oh that's so nice. What grade?" Then it gets complicated. "Well, I teach special education so I have kindergartners through 3rd graders." Then the obsessive compliments come into play. "Oh my, special education, that's AMAZING. You must be so, so patient. So what types of children are they?" Here we go. "Well, I teach at a residential treatment center for children who are wards of the state and have behavior disorders." I hate and love this part. A mix of "WHAT??! WHY??!!" and "That is GOD'S WORK. YOU ARE A HERO. HERE IS MY WALLET." (Not really, but that is something I could get behind.)

I know this doesn't sound bad. Someone is praising you for your hard work. But I know I don't just speak for myself when I say that somehow these compliments, although well meaning, don't sit well. There are a million reasons us sped teachers feel funny about these praises, and if you are a special educator yourself, you already know what I mean. If you're not, I could see how this might be strange. 

The thing about being a special education teacher is that as challenging and utterly exhausting as it can be, it is beyond fulfilling. I know that I don't get paid "what I should", but I don't even care anymore (IF BETSY DEVOS IS READING THIS, I WILL STILL TAKE A LARGE RAISE. THANKS.). Our students successes, the really big ones and the super tiny meaningful ones, are what keep us coming every day. Their resiliency and perseverance is like a really incredible motivational speech multiple times per day. They are hysterical, sometimes even on purpose. 

So how do you kindly respond to these well meaning people at cocktail hour? I asked a few of my special education teacher friends what their "go-to" responses are.

1.) "I'm just lucky to work with my littles. They are the best people I know, and I'm the blessed one to get the opportunity to work with them." -- Nancy, The Puzzle Classroom 

2.) "It's definitely not a job for everyone, and sitting in a cubicle is not for me. I love that every day is so different, and not only do I get the chance to make a difference in my student's lives, but their families, too!" -- Fiona, Adulting Made Easy

3.) "When you have the calling to do something "out of the box" for your job, you know you're supposed to do it. For me, it was teaching tough kids. It's the only career that feels right." -- Sophie

4.) "I truly love what I do and care for my kids. This job isn't for everyone, but I love making a connection with them! They let me into their world and that's where all the learning happens! They see the world so differently and they are extremely smart in so many different ways. We teach each other in more ways than you can imagine and I enjoy having this privilege!" -- Michelle, Miss Hey Miss

5.) "I love celebrating the small milestones and that helping students expand their communication skills is very inspiring." -- Rose, ABA Speech

6.) "My career choice is truly one of the most selfish choices I've ever made. Kids with special needs loved me and knew the type of person I was before I did. My students have taught me just as much as I have ever taught them. I will never forget some of the moments that students have shown me my own character, determination, and empathy. Teaching kids with special needs is not for everyone but that doesn't make me better in any way just because it is for me." -- Kelsey, Tools for Busy Hands

7.) "My job is more about the positives than the challenges." -- Jenn

8.) "This is just part of why I was put on this planet- to do this job! It is my passion and I wouldn't change it." -- Olivia, Spectacular in Special Ed

9.) "Thank you."-- Lisa

10.) "I learn more and get more out of my students every day than they do from me. I'm very lucky to be apart of something that is so special and life giving to me. That's why I feel really lucky, because I know not everyone has that with their career." -- Yours Truly

What do you think? What are your "go-to" responses?


Sunday, July 9, 2017

First Days of School: Teaching Leadership vs. Bossiness

I first discovered the language of "Leader vs. Boss" when looking up social skills concepts on the topic of bossiness. I found TONS of articles related to the business world on how corporate psychologists work with CEOs and business owners to help foster their skills so they are seen as a LEADER and not a boss. I mean honestly, it makes a difference.

In my classroom I have a crowd of BOSSES. Last school year it drove me CRAZY. The kiddos that had leadership skills were constantly telling their peers what to do or how to behave, rather then being examples of positive behavior. I am so excited to introduce this concept on the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. 

Why the first day? Like I said, this behavior drove me crazy last year. Absolutely nuts. Plus, I am certain that many instances of bossiness created space for problem behaviors to manifest. So really, this needs to be tackled right away. I am ready to teach this skill immediately so we can confidently refer to anchor charts throughout the year to help shape behaviors and remind each student about the expectation of leadership. 

How? I am going to start my lesson by reading the book Bossy Flossy by Paulette Bogan (Below is an Amazon affiliate link if you want to grab the book!). We will create a list of the ways that Flossy showed bossy behavior and how it made others feel. 

Next we are going to talk about why someone might be bossy. They might want to lead, they might know the answer, they may have a lot to say, they may be in a bad mood. From there, I plan to teach my students the word leadership

We will use this Bossy vs. Leader t-chart from my Be a Leader, Not a Boss Activities product on Teachers Pay Teachers. I plan on making a poster sized version to keep up in the class, and have students follow along by also doing their own sort at their desks.

Day 2... I plan to use the discussion cards from the same product to maximize & generalize their learning my using scenarios! These cards would also be great to paste in a notebook and use for journaling. 

I will also have students choose which coloring page they'd like to complete. I personally will have my students hang these on the front of their desks. My students LOVE having their art work hung right on their desk (they get so proud, it's adorable). 

After all is said and done... hang up these anchor chart posters and don't let them go!
These will be perfect to refer to all year long when you see that a student is or is not showing leadership behavior. 

What ways do you teach leadership skills and combat bossiness in your classroom?


Friday, May 26, 2017

7 Days of Behavior Necessities: Day 6, Seating Hacks

Yaaaay Day 6! Seating hacks... I would die without all the accommodations we can provide for our kiddos seats!

One of my favorite hacks is raising a desk as a standing desk. With old school desks you can just as your custodian to raise it up a few notches, and viola! A standing desk. This is so helpful for kids who just don't like sitting. I have a few!

I also love any type of cushion. It gives kids special buy-in to stay in their seat, and of course gives movement and sensory input for our wiggle-worms. These even work in middle school! Don't blow them up all the way, so there is extra room for kids to move. Oh, and beware of scissors and pencils. There's always one kid who takes a pencil and pops the cushion, ruining it for everyone. Wah-wah.

These are two favorites!

I also love bouncy bands. These really need explicit teaching. Students will try to do a million and five weird and distracting things with them. I always let kids start out with being wacky and silly and then begin to share with them the expectations of it. I have found that they really help with students who tend to pace, because they are gaining some movement in their bodies, specifically legs, and they are still seated!

Anything I missed? There are a TON of cool flexible seating options, I just love that these work on ANY standard classroom desk and chair. All of my links are ones I have personally tried and love, and they are Amazon affiliate links :)


Thursday, May 25, 2017

7 Days of Behavioral Necessities: Day 5: Visuals

Is your classroom covered in visuals?! I hope so! And if not, here's a few compelling reasons why mine is, and why it works!

Visuals matter. Many of my students have super slow processing. Giving them verbal directives and prompts can be so overwhelming to them, and visuals really help. I use visuals in social stories and behavior cues to help remind them of what their expectations and options are across the day.

Visuals additionally HUGELY help with expressive communication. All of my students are VERY verbal. None of them require speech therapy for speech, it's mainly for language concerns. So, communication of basic needs is NOT a concern for my current class. But - we cannot discount the need for visuals for our students to communicate! Visuals for sharing emotions have been so imperative for my students who are unable or reluctant to communicate when they are dysregulated. 

I have a few sets in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that may be just what you need to increase your visuals to help your students when they need it most.

This freebie is a great way for students to choose a coping skill that might help them regulate and get back to their baseline. 

This is my best seller! This toolkit includes MANY pre-teaching strategies as well as visuals that greatly help communicate with students when they need visuals most!


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

7 Days of Behavior Necessities: Day 4, Noise Cancelling Headphones

You made it to Day 4! Noise cancelling headphones are an absolute MUST in my special education classroom. While they don't cancel out all sound, they do definitely help with blocking out extra, possibly distracting sound. 

My students, as I've stated in many posts, have really challenging behavior. Now this poses a challenge for each child in their own bodies, but also with their peers. If a peer is having a loud reaction to something, it can often bother/set them off. Having these headphones on hand is so helpful!

These headphones are also so helpful for teaching students to focus! When my class is doing independent work, students are often distracted by any noise going on in the room. My students now know that they can grab these headphones to help block out sound and focus on their work.

One issue we have come across with these headphones? The fact that students will attempt to put them on to drown out my voice! While funny, totally not acceptable. My students now know, after explicit teaching of expectations, that the headphones are used only when they are not involved in instruction (ex: de-escalating, in our de-escalation room) or when they are working independently. I recommend setting this expectation early with these headphones!

Here are a few inexpensive options from Amazon. These are affiliate links!

These do come apart (and are put back together) quite easily - both a perk and a drawback, but something to consider! They're also the most inexpensive I've found. They DO work!

These are much more durable (don't pop apart easily), are very snug, and come in many colors!!

Happy focusing :)


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

7 Days of Behavior Necessities: Day 3, Timer

You made it to day 3! I love timers. They keep me on track, they are great visuals, they are an awesome skill to begin teaching kids, they help with anxiety, and they can eventually be transferred to a student responsibility!

I use timers for EVERYTHING. I make sure they're always visible to the class because many of my students have high anxiety and always want to know how long they have left for free time, before I pass out snack, etc.

Timers have also been really useful for behavior plans. For one of my students, if he can be safe with his language, body, and space for 5 minutes (using a timer!) he adds a puzzle piece to his picture puzzle. If he is not being safe he is asked to pause the timer until he is safe again, when he starts the timer back up. His picture puzzle has 4 pieces, so if he was showing ideal behavior, he could have a 5 minute break every 20 minutes. Now, this kiddo is in a really restrictive setting so we know he really never gets a break every 20 minutes because he has to pause the timer quite a bit :) BUT - giving students ownership over their behavior plans really increases buy-in!!

As for my favorite timers... they must be durable and SIMPLE. Some timers have so many buttons and it is really just not needed for what we use them for in the classroom. Here are a few favorites. These are all Amazon affiliate links!

A large, durable, magnetic timer that you can use for whole class needs:

The time-timer is amazing because it really helps students get a visual for how much time has lapsed and how much time they have left. Better for longer time frames, not great for 1-2 minute intervals.

A small timer that's perfect for individual students. It has a stand and a magnetic back.


What do you use timers for? Don't forget to come back tomorrow for Day 4!

Love, Allie