Hitting, Kicking and Screaming… Now What?

Dr. Angelisa Fynaardt, Associate Administrator

Elementary school teacher holding file

Learn to think like a Behavior Detective!

Hitting, kicking, swearing, throwing chairs and refusing to work are examples of problem behaviors in schools. These occur in general and special education, across locations, and with a wide variety of adults and peers. Is it happening in your classroom?

We have seen an increase of calls and emails about students with problem behaviors, the need for more professional development and on-site support, and contacts from lawyers and advocacy agencies about services for students with challenging behaviors. Great Prairie AEA is here to help you become a “Behavior Detective” and learn more about strategies that you can use in your classroom/school to address behavior problems.

Learn how to think like a Behavior Detective!

We know that we can change students’ demonstration of problem behaviors by impacting what we do before or after a problem behavior occurs. We also know that behavior occurs in a context.   It does not occur in isolation. Behaviors occur in response to what is happening in the context of the situation. It is often helpful to think about “The 5 W’s.” Knowing information about who, what, when, and where of the problem behavior helps us to figure out the why for the behavior. As a behavior detective, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who? Who is interacting with the student when the problem behavior occurs? Who is in the room or location near the student? Make sure to think about both the adults and students surrounding and interacting with the student.
  • What? What is the problem behavior? What does it look like? What description would you give someone else for that person to understand the problem?
  • When? When does the problem behavior occur? Is it at the same time of day or throughout the day? Is it on certain days of the week or month?
  • Where? Where does the problem behavior occur? Is it always in the same location? Does the problem behavior occur in a wide variety of locations?

Once you know this information, you can look for patterns in the 5W’s that can help figure out why a problem behavior occurs. Students are typically trying to get something or get out of something when they act out. So, ask yourself, “Why is the student doing the problem behavior? Is he/she trying to get something like attention from me, attention from other students, access to a preferred activity or access to a desired item? Is he/she trying to get out of academic work or out of the classroom or school?” Once we can pinpoint that information, we can respond by changing the context around the behavior and finding ways to not give the student what he/she wants for problem behaviors, but for appropriate behaviors instead.

Great Prairie AEA offers a number of professional development opportunities throughout the year. Please join us for the Summer Institute – Thinking Functionally About Behavior on June 15 and 16 at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center. The cost is free and you can enjoy two days of learning about responding to problem behaviors. You can also take advantage of another course, “The Behavior Tool Box for Your Classroom,” which is being offered in Burlington and Ottumwa. Last but not least, don’t forget to contact your local AEA special education team for more support or make a referral through them to the Challenging Behavior and Autism Team. We are here to help!

Download a PDF: Behavior SI 2015 Postcard

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