Blog #183~Back to School Behavior Problems
It’s common to see behavior problems occur as school starts back up, for a child with special needs. These behaviors can be caused by changes in staff, social network, or transitioning to a new classroom or school. My son Nick is 23 years old, and has Down syndrome and autism. I’ve seen my share of behavior problems and regression at the start of a new school year. This week, I want to focus on what you can do as a parent to work with the school, when these behavior problems occur.
There are three things that you can do, to help with behavior problems as school starts back up. These include looking at the school environment, determine root causes, and doing an assessment with the school team and behavior specialist. Keep in mind, that behavior can be a form of communication. This is especially true for a child with limited verbal language skills. It may be necessary to look at what form of communication method (such as sign language, pictures, augmentative alternative communication device) is being used, and whether this is effective. Let’s take a closer look at these three areas…….
1.Look at the School Environment:
The first thing to consider is securing your child’s environment. Work with the support teacher, to create a social story with pictures of the classroom, gym, lunchroom, library and any other area that might be utilized in the building. This social story should also include pictures of all staff, that will be working with your child.
A social story will be the blueprint for the new school year. It shows the rooms in the building that your child will be in. This will help with transitioning. The pictures of individual staff and teachers, allow your child to see who they will be in contact with, and aid in social networking. Predictability, structure, visuals and other supports, all help to make transitions easier as the new school year begins.
2.Determine the Root Causes of the Behaviors:
If the problematic behaviors continue both at school and trickle in to home life for more than a few weeks, be sure to rule out any changes in health. If medical issues do not seem to be the cause, here are some things to do both at home and with the school:
*Keep a log of the behaviors your child is struggling with, including the time of day and what was the setting and event that occurred before the behavior.
*Check with the teacher first, sharing the home log, and ask if there are any behaviors or regression happening at school. Brainstorm on possible solutions together.
3.Do an Assessment with the School Team and Behavior Specialist:
If your child continues to struggle with behaviors, the school can help with assessing the problem. This assessment that can be requested is called a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA). The school staff will collect data, that will help to identify what the root cause of the problem behaviors are. A few examples of causes might be, to seek attention, boredom, getting out of a task, over stimulation or under stimulation (sensory seeking) and feeling sick or tired.
*The ABC’s of FBA:
A=Antecedent (What occurred before the behavior, and in what setting)
B=Behavior (What occurred during the behavior)
C=Consequence (What occurred after the behavior)
Once the Functional Behavior Analysis has been done, the school team and autism behavior specialist can create a Behavior Support Plan (BSP). Successful behavior support plans use proactive strategies. They also focus on positive reinforcement for good behaviors, by building in supports, and rewards for these efforts. In addition, accommodations can be written in the plan for the child. For instance, if a child has trouble with loud hallways during passing periods, the team can write in for the child to transition 5-10 minutes before, while the halls are quiet. Another support, would be to include noise cancelling headphones for loud environments such as passing periods, lunchroom and assemblies in the gym. Visual supports in the classroom, also help to keep a child on task and working for a reward:
The FBA will determine the underlying behavior problems, and the Behavior Support Plant (BSP) creates a plan that is tailored to your child’s needs. Once you identify what is triggering them, you can put supports in place. For instance, when my son is upset, he will pinch himself. In his behavior plan, the staff knows that this is a sign of distress. The staff will offer the “Take a break icon” where he can go take a walk or go to a relaxing sensory area. In essence, this is cutting things off a the pass, before things escalate to a meltdown.
Starting a new school year, with changes in staff, classrooms and/or buildings can be tough for a child with special needs. It’s common to see problem behaviors occur. Predictability, structure, visuals and supports all help to provide a firm foundation as your child heads back to school. Having these in place will lessen anxiety, which will help to reduce problematic behaviors. If the behaviors become to difficult to handle, the school team can help by doing an assessment with a FBA which will drive the behavior plan to set up a successful school year for your child.
That’s what is in my noggin this week.
Follow Nick on Facebook & Pinterest @Down Sydrome With A Slice Of Autism, on Instagram #nickdsautism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall