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The Behavior Code

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students

Wendy Olson

on 10 January 2013

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Transcript of The Behavior Code

A fantastic resource to support
at-risk elementary students: For more information on applying these and other strategies to build resiliency with at-risk students, check out my website: http://www.tvdsb.ca/webpages/wolson
<-- Stop initial activity
eg: verbal cues Cognitive Shift
eg: visual schedule Start Next Activity
eg: give specific cues Downtime
eg: focused & on-task 4 components of a
Transition Intervention Jessica Minehan, co-author
of The Behavior Code The Behavior Code YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheBehaviorCode
-where the authors discuss specific interventions to challenging behavior The book concentrates on strategies for the elementary grades targeting classroom interventions for students with: anxiety-related, oppositional, withdrawn, and sexualized behaviors. Instead of reacting to overt student behaviors, the authors' denote strategies to hone in on the triggers leading to the presenting behaviors, and highlight how teachers can reduce their frequency and intensity by reinforcing more proactive, productive ways to change the problem behaviors over time. This long-term behavior change has four steps:

• to manage the antecedents (the 'triggers', or what occurs in the environment immediately prior to the behavior)
• to reinforce the desired behavior ('catch the student doing something positive')
• to teach a replacement behavior (one that is attainable, less disruptive, and ideally something that the student has identified as something they can do)
• to teach the underdeveloped skill / skills that are at the root of a child’s inability to behave appropriately (eg: self-regulation, impulsivity, or other mitigating factors) The FAIR Plan has four elements:

• F - functional hypothesis of behavior where teachers document behaviors and make an informed hypothesis about what the student is communication through his behavior.
• A - accommodations that need to be in place to help the student function better (scaffolding)
• I - interactive strategies that will promote desired behavior (leading to greater independence).
• R - response strategies that may be considered if prevention efforts fail. The goal is to break the behavior code and shape the child’s environment to allow them to develop the necessary tools to thrive (very similar to Ross Greene's ALSUP - unsolved problems).
The fundamental belief is that students will behave if he/she can.
If the student is displaying problematic, maladaptive behavior, it is a symptom of an underdeveloped skill.
When students blow up or act out, it is a sign that they are stuck and the task/request exceeds their ability to cope with the situation.
Some may be oversensitive to stress and have an overactive fight-or-flight response. Others may lack basic social skills that are needed to navigate an interaction with a peer, or the self-regulation to withstand an anxiety-producing task. Misbehavior Is a Symptom of an Underlying Cause Behavior is Communication
The students' behavior might look bizarre or disruptive, but their actions are purposeful and are their attempt to solve a problem.
It is critical to step back and try to decipher what the student is trying to communicate and what the function (or intent) of the behavior is.
With practice, teachers can learn to stop and "listen" to the message the behavior is conveying, break the behavior code, and respond in more productive ways.
Behavior is never random. Rather, it is a response from other people that fuels the inappropriate behavior.
Whining may work to get a teacher's attention, as does swearing. If a student repeatedly has tantrums and then gets to leave a classroom, she has learned that tantrums further her desire to escape.
Teachers need to figure out what the student is getting from inappropriate behavior, in order to find different ways to respond so as not to inadvertently reinforce the behavior. Behavior has function Behavior occurs in patterns After trying many unsuccessful strategies to quell the inappropriate behaviour, the teacher's next step is to investigate in a systematic way. The key to breaking the behavior code is to look for patterns.
eg: based on time of day (she always yawns in the morning before snack), activity (he always asks to go to the hall when math starts), people (she participates more in class when Mrs. Olson is there), externalizing factors (he gets anxious before being picked up from school) and many other factors. Once the pattern is discovered, the function or intent of the behavior will often reveal itself.
Every behavior also has bookends: the environmental variables that occur prior to the unwanted behavior (the antecedents) and the response of the teacher and peers after the behavior (consequences).

When trying to understand behavior, teachers need to notice these bookends.
These are what fuel the behavior and allows it to persist. But behavior can be changed ... it just takes time If we understand the function of the student's behavior and target their underdeveloped skills directly, improvements will be observed sooner.
If the student has been demonstrating an inappropriate behavior for years and lacks the necessary skills, it may take longer to see even the smallest of changes.
The more intensely the student is taught the underdeveloped skills and the more the environment is changed to encourage appropriate behavior, the faster the student's behavior is likely to change.
With the most challenging students, remember that even the smallest improvements will make a difference. Label their progress and encourage them more! A Framework for Lasting Change Understanding what drives behavior helps provide a clear framework for intervention that the authors call the FAIR Plan.

The goal of the FAIR Plan is to change inappropriate behavior to appropriate behavior for the long term, rather than simply "managing the behavior".

The authors provide distinctions of intervention that are tailored to various mental health diagnoses, but also recognize that there may be some overlap in strategies to modify the behaviour. Lost At School - Dr. Ross Greene ISBN-10: 141 657 2260

Collaborative Problem Solving is the approach that combines the minds of kids and adults to identify strategies to improve behaviour. Adults teach the cognitive skills that the students lack to help them solve the problems that precipitate their challenging/maladaptive behaviour. The ALSUP is used by TVDSB in targeting challenging behaviours. Engaging in CPS is highly promoted by our school board to help extinguish unwanted behaviour.
More info: http://www.livesinthebalance.org/ Another resource to help support Challenging Students: F A I R This is a sample of my report (Essential Elements Individual Student Plan, for Section 23 classrooms) which is shared prior to reintegration back to a student's home school. This student's areas of strengths and challenges are labeled; preventative measures and responses are identified. To order the book, go to:
-Amazon.ca (approx $30.00)
-Harvard Education Press - enter promo code BCAP12 get 20% off
<-- To preview the book, you do need an Amazon account:
   Go to the book page: http://www.amazon.com/Behavior-Code-Practical-Understanding-Challenging/dp/1612501362
   Scroll down to the customer reviews section and click on the "Create your own review" button
   Sign into your Amazon account, if you haven't already
   Click "Yes", you are over 13, pick a star rating, enter a title, and write your review
   Click "Preview your review", check for typos, then click "Publish your review" Use your mouse scroll to zoom in closer to read the PDF documents.
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