The diagnosis of a disability or a special need is only the beginning. After the initial diagnosis, treatment or management occurs. One of the undesirable characteristics or symptoms requiring treatment is often negative or undesirable behaviors. These negative behaviors can disrupt learning and development of both the individual, and all other students in the classroom. Of course, there are many types of disruptive behaviors depending on the individual, but here are some of the more common trouble behaviors that parents, caregivers, and teachers may see.
All of the behaviors mentioned above might seem like common things that children, especially younger children, have trouble with - and that is true to some extent. Children with special needs who exhibit those behaviors may experience them at a higher intensity and with more frequency. They also may not “outgrow” those behaviors as another child might.
An excellent and widely used tool to help improve the unwanted behaviors is a behavior reminder board or behavior chart. These behavior charts are most frequently used on an individual basis with a focus on the specific behaviors that the individual exhibits. Use the behavior chart template below, or create your own using Storyboard That.
Reminder boards are unique to the individual they are made for. Choose a behavior that is currently negatively impacting learning (or the home environment) the most. If the child is able to understand, you can have two targeted behaviors, but that is not as common.
In the example above, the behavior is “Good Listening”. This is one of my personal favorites because it is kind of all encompassing. It is a little more fluid in its meaning, giving the teacher a little discretion based on the student. There are two parts: the board which would be affixed to the desk or posted nearby, and separate reminder tokens. In this example, the individual would receive a sad face token for every time they need a reminder during the activity. If they still have a smiley face at the end of the activity, they receive the reinforcement reward. Instead of tokens, you can also cross out one of the boxes with marker, but this is sometimes viewed more as a punishment rather than a reminder.
Keep the wording positive by encouraging positive behaviors. For example say, “Walking Feet” as opposed to, “No Running”. Utilizing positive language can drastically improve the effectiveness of giving directions, especially with a special needs student. Positive language allows the focus to be on redirecting the negative behavior rather than being punished for it. Here are some of the more common ones:
Use easy to understand symbols. Simpler is better when creating these types of boards. You don’t want them to be a distraction to the child. It is also important that the child gets the point of the board. Keep the symbols basic and consistent. Always use the same symbol each time for a particular item.
Make the reinforcement positive, attainable, and realistic. When creating a reminder board to help combat undesirable behaviors, try using positive reinforcement. Learn what that individual is motivated by, whether it be candy, stickers, or time with a favorite toy or book. The reinforcement also needs to be realistic. If you can’t give the student candy for whatever reason, don’t make it a reinforcement. If there is not time at the end of the activity for the student to go for a quick walk in the hallway or play with a toy, then you may not want to make that an option.
It is also important to make the reinforcement attainable. If there is no way the student will be able to earn it, then you need to reconfigure your reminder board by changing the expectations so that it is attainable. Students need to make real progress towards their goals, or the student (and teacher) may become overly frustrated.
As teachers we spend way too much time creating things, like reminder boards, for them to be used only one time. Laminate it for a longer-lasting storyboard. Laminate the board and then laminate the reminders and reinforcers separately. Attach Velcro on both, allowing you to easily remove the reminders from the board in between activities. I also recommend creating extra reminders, they always seem to disappear.