Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Day and some behavior

Well, I got my wish from this month's Currently for a snow day! Though we were predicted to get an inch an hour and over a foot of snow overnight, I always operate under the "I'll believe it when I see it" philosophy...and even then, our district never closes. But I got the call around 4:30 this morning so I got to shut off the alarm! What a treat - I have needed a little break and it came at the perfect time.

I have been meaning to share a personal behavior system I use with one of my kiddos with severe behavior issues (self-abuse and violence towards others, to be vague and non-specific about it).

As a whole-class behavior system, we use the clip chart and ticket system I put together this summer. It's working really well for most of my students. They are also learning how to evaluate their own behavior using a "thumbs up, thumbs down, or just okay" hand sign. I ask them about their behavior/participation level throughout the day at predetermined times and they give me the hand signal and can have their clip moved up or down accordingly...they are doing pretty well with understanding expectations and being honest about how they are following those expectations when asked!

If anyone would like a better explanation of our thumbs up/thumbs down system, how it works with the clip chart/tickets, and how I've been teaching self-evaluation to kids with severe/multiple impairments, let me know and I'd be glad to elaborate.

For my kiddo I mentioned above with the severe behaviors, he does follow the whole-class system, but he also needs something additional. He has several different things he is highly motivated by, as well as a few things we have discovered that help him get control of his behavior, so I created this little chart for him that goes with him throughout the day:
Each morning, he chooses something to work for - a small treat or privilege he can earn at the end of the day. He also decides on something that he can ask for throughout the day to help him control his behavior.

This day he chose a cup of flavored water as his treat at the end of the day (other options he may choose from are a bike ride, a visit with our principal who he loves, or a story on CD). He said time with the weighted blanket would help him (other "help" options for him are time in a strap wedge, a hand massage with lavender oil, or some time alone). He can ask for the "help" item three different times throughout the day. He starts with three of the weighted blanket icons on his chart and we remove one each time he asks for help so he can see how many he has left.

The six smiling face icons stay uncovered at the beginning of the day. We add a red "X" icon over one each time his behavior gets out of control. If he ends the day with at least one smiling face, he has earned the treat.

I am loving this for a few reasons:
-He is in control of the choices. He had input when we created the chart, as far as what options he wanted to be available to him (we did get veto power! no, he is not allowed to work for an entire movie!), and it's entirely up to him what he chooses, both for the treat and the help item, each day. This freedom has ended up being really motivating to him.
-It's completely editable. If we find six "strikes" are too few or too many, it'd be easy to take away or add some. Likewise with the number of "helps" he gets each day. Or, if he becomes motivated by another treat, that can go into the mix...or if we discover another option that really helps calm him, we can add that, too.
-It's small and portable so it goes with him everywhere. He can always see it, and it's easy for staff to implement. We keep the icons in a small, clear pencil pouch and that also goes with us everywhere.
-It's relatively low-key to implement, and not distracting to the other students. If he gets out of control, we can just quietly tell him "I need to add an X to your chart," and quickly do so and move on. (Obviously if there is a violent behavior it needs to be addressed more explicitly to keep him or others safe - he is in a wheelchair so with this student it is fairly simple, most times, to move him to a safe distance from other people if needed.) We actually don't have to say anything most times. He definitely understands what that red X means and knows he has to get his behavior under control if he doesn't want more.

This would be super easy to customize for other students; I just have not had to as of yet. I created the chart in Boardmaker, but it would be just as easy to use real photos, words, etc. according to the needs of the particular student.


  1. I love your behavior idea! I have a non-verbal student who is very violent towards himself and others. We have tried something like this and it doesn't work. This week we are trying a calm down/ sensory center to see if it will work. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Whitney - I'm sorry it took this long to reply to your comment! My student who we use this with is verbal and quite high functioning cognitively, but we still came at this system after a lot of trial and still doesn't work perfectly all the time!

      I think a calm down/sensory center is a fabulous idea. My student's choices for his "help" options are mainly sensory-based, as we have found these are what help him the most, too!

      The types of sensory aids you provide your student in his center really depend on the type of sensory input he needs. For my student, deep pressure type input is the kind that is most calming to him. For similar kiddos:
      -Weighted blankets are fabulous! This is what he chooses the most. You could also do similar things like weighted vests, weighted lap mats, etc.
      -Manual deep pressure - I stand behind my student and press down firmly but evenly on his shoulders for several seconds at a time. Alternately, he enjoys firm (but not too hard!) pressure on his temples - think about if you have a headache and press on your temples to relieve the pain. Kind of like that.
      -Joint compressions - if you've been trained in these, I've found them to really work well with a lot of kiddos.
      -Swaddling. Really, like you would a baby. Burrito-roll them up in a blanket. Just make sure they can get out themselves (for liability reasons, of course).
      -Massage. We do hand and arm massages with my student. We use an all-natural lavender oil another student's mom makes when we massage. Lavender is a naturally soothing scent and it just feels nice, too! You could also use lotion, of course.

      Other non-deep pressure ideas for a sensory center might be:

      -Low lighting - if you can get it away from the rest of the classroom, even better. Some room dividers to partition off the area, cover the flourescent light directly above the area with fabric (if allowed), or turn off the light completely and use table or floor lamps instead for a softer/more calming area.
      -Calming music.
      -Different seating - beanbags, mats, rocking chairs...
      -"Fidgets" to hold
      -Visual sensory input in the form of lava lamps, fiber-optic things, etc.

      Maybe your student needs active input, instead - then I'd suggest adding a mini trampoline, yoga/exercise ball to bounce on, etc. A swing if that's a possibility in the area!

      I'd love to hear what you come up with and if it helps your student!


  2. I love your visual behavior chart. What a great idea. :) I like that it is velcro and reusable from week to week. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    Sugar and Spice

  3. I absolutely love this plan! I have a few students who could use something like this. Thank you for sharing!

    Lesson plans & Lattes


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