How To Be a Resource Specialist.
It's featured in Rachel Lynette's Blog!
Special Needs Behavior Management
Behavior management is tricky, and special needs behavior management is even trickier! Consider all types of special education eligibility areas- Autism, Speech and Language, Emotional Disturbance, Other Health Impaired(which could include ADHD)- to name a few, and all the behaviors that could come with them! Special needs behaviors can also be observed in children without IEP's: the child with undiagnosed ADHD, or oppositional characteristics. Take into account the fact that these students have had behavior issues throughout their school history, and many negative experiences probably exist in their young memories.
As a veteran special education teacher, I am still trying to fine-tune my own behavior management skills, but I do think there are some important factors to consider. We can have a specific mindset when facilitating great behavior, and it should include a few things: empathy, kindness, openness, firmness, and honesty. No kid wants to be in trouble all the time! No child wants to be without friends! Our students crave boundaries and consistency. You really have to try to get into each child's head, whether the are initially likeable or not. They are kids!
I have a few tricks and tools that I use in my own resource classroom, and in other classrooms. My informal behavior systems tend to be no-frills. For my primary special education students, I use a simple point system and a treasure box. It really depends on how you deliver that system, and training other staff to do the same. When I re-stock my school treasure box, I gather the little ones on the rug, and ooh and ah over each Hotwheels car, or Wonder Woman coloring book! When they earn a point, I use specific praise: "Great job getting ready to read independently," for the child who isn't quite sitting and reading, but I know will be there soon! It is critical that paras are using the same enthusiasm and consistency. For my intermediate students, who have often known me for 3-4 years, I am strict but fun; random rewards, and a handful of goldfish crackers go a long way.
I communicate frequently with parents, and I meet them where they are most comfortable. This may be at pick-up time, by email, phone, or sometimes at their home. Some children need that daily communication, and I find that a simple chart in a journal going back and forth each day, can increase positive behaviors.
Many students need to take breaks. With students who have autism, ADHD, and mental health issues, learning to take a non-punitive break works wonders. Classroom teachers and parents need to be involved with the plan. A quiet break space can be made in the classroom with pillows, books, and fidgets. Teach and practice taking breaks with the student.
In my manual, How To Be a Resource Specialist, I have a section on essential behavior strategies, which I feel are important. You will find many solid behavior systems in the teaching world and through inservice trainings, but these are skills that will help drive the specific system you choose. Here is an excerpt from my 35 years-plus of learning how to manage special needs behavior!
Managing Special Needs BehaviorAs special educators, our behavior management techniques are a little different from managing a whole-group general ed. classroom. I would say that80% of my students have behavioral issues, although not all of them are dis-ruptive and aggressive. Imagine the quirky, socially awkward child with attention issues, or the child who quietly shuts down and fades into the back-
ground. Of course, much of our expertise is focused on the child with aggression, and/or hyperactivity who disrupts theirs and other students’ learning. Following are some essential areas to focus on when managing smallgroups and individuals with special needs.
As the special education teacher, we have to make a concentrated effort to connect with each child. Find out each child’s interests, talents, favorite sport or pastime. Spend a few minutes of one-on- one time with each child weekly. Meet their parents, hang out with them on the playground, and watch them in PE class.
Everybody is good at something. Find out what it is in every child that you work with, and capitalize on it. If soccer is a passion and strength for a child with a reading disability, check out soccer books. If your student with autism loves to do crafts, buy some craft supplies, keep them in a box, and let her invite a friend for Lunch Bunch.
Create an environment in your resource room which is structured, soothing, and promotes positive social interaction. Furnish the room with bean bag chairs and big pillows, as well as comfy little chairs, and break areas. Break the students into small groups as much as possible. Have fidgets available, and plants to water. Don't make the walls to cluttery.
•Fun but Firm
It is easy for our students to misbehave, and each group is going to be different. Let the silly jokes and happiness flow, but be prepared to rein the group in the second it gets too loud, or hands are not kept to themselves. I prefer switching the lights off with a simple, “Eyes on me,” but you might like
using a chime, or clapping pattern.
•Reward and Praise
Specific verbal praise is highly effective. “Shahid, you are such a fraction expert, or Monica, your body is so calm!” This verbal praise must be sincere, specific, and constant. Add your group and individual behavior systems.
It is not always easy, but try to ignore all negative behavior, while complimenting the great behavior that you want to see. If a student is avoiding a writing project by tapping their pencil, ripping paper, and whispering to table partners, compliment the people sitting around her, reinforce the kids who are working correctly, and catch that non-compliant child doing something right! “Asher, you are holding you pencil and you look like you are ready to work!”
•Breaks and Space
We need to take frequent class breaks, by either changing stations, moving from desks to the rug, changing from computer work to manipulatives, or getting drinks. Individual children also need to take breaks. An anxious child may need to go for a walk with the paraeducator. A wiggly child may need jobs like emptying the recycle bin or watering the plants. An angry child may need
to sit in a bean bag and read a book or squeeze clay.
•Listen and Talk
When the time is right, and the child has calmed down, don’t shame or punish, if at all possible. Yes, a logical consequence is necessary for the child who yells an expletive and hurts another child. But, as much as possible, talk to the child who throws a chair at you, and find out what will work next time they are feeling agitated. Enlist the support of the school counselor and other IEP team
members to create a plan for the child to learn and be supported. Remember that many misbehaving children are craving any kind of attention, including negative attention. Make a plan by collaborating with experts (this includes parents!) to find replacement behavior that works.
Bio: I have worked as a special educator on the central coast of California for more than 35 years, with K-12 experience, as a program specialist, and as a resource specialist at a small diverse school for the last 20 years. I adore working in my community and having had the chance to cheer at soccer games for my own 4 kids as well as my students. My husband is my biggest cheerleader, and encouraged my to start this TPT journey about 3 years ago when I was recovering from a gnarly bladder cancer/chemotherapy experience. At that time, creating TPT products was therapeutic, and helped me look forward to my glorious future as an educator!
Photo: High School graduation last June with my two youngest(adopted from Kazakhstan, and my first grandchild). My older children are teachers, and daughter-in-law is a speech pathologist. She and my son have the TPT store Joe and Allie Teach.