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?