Do you have students with behaviors???!!! The word, behavior, can include a number of things. From hiding under a desk, to shouting and throwing objects in your classroom. Determining the function, or reason, for a behavior is often the job of your School Psychologist, like my self. But, let me tell you a secret…It’s really not rocket science. It’s observations and a little knowledge of the reasons why a child might be exhibiting those behaviors.
Let me also start out by saying that children do not want to have these behaviors. It’s true. Your student who throws chairs does not do it because it makes him happy. Children only develop behaviors over time when they learn that they can get a need met when they exhibit them.
It’s just like when a baby cries when it is hungry. The baby probably cried and then was given its milk several times during it’s first few days before it learned that crying will result in what it needs…food. Behavior works the same way. The child needs something, and will exhibit behaviors until it learns which behavior will get his or her need met.
Here are 5 reasons (or needs) that can help explain why a child might be exhibiting behavioral challenges in your classroom:
1) They Have a Difficulty Communicating
There are a variety of types of communication deficits that children may have. When communication deficits are significantly delayed, the child is often diagnosed with Autism. But communication deficits can have a wide range of levels of severity. Often the more delayed the communication ability, the more likely a child will demonstrate behaviors in order to communicate his or her thoughts or needs.
I’ve found that hitting and other aggressive behaviors are a learned response for children that cannot communicate with vocabulary that they are in pain, afraid, worried, unhappy, or do not want to do something. These children have learned that if they yell, scream, hit, etc., they will often get out of the task, activity, or social situation that they do not want to do.
For these children, improving their ability to communicate, even if by picture cards, their behaviors will decrease over time. The secret to improving their behaviors is to reward the student (stickers, token chart, etc.) when they “use their words” (or picture card) to express themselves. For students with significant communication delays, providing Speech and Language services is also a must. These services are part of what will support them will learning vocabulary and other communication skills.
2) They Have an Unidentified Disability
This is a wide net of reasoning behind behaviors. However, students with unidentified disability tend to have behavioral concerns. These types of students may include with significant hyperactivity that have trouble staying seating, attending to instruction, or starting assignments. They may also include students with learning difficulties, who are always talking or start distracting others when its time for Math.
When a student has a disability, they are often exhibiting behaviors for one of two reasons. The first reason is to avoid tasks that are difficult and may be deflating their self-esteem. The other is to
. For example, students with ADHD may need movement breaks, seating away from visual distractions, or specialized seating, such as a T-stool, wiggle seat, or standing desk. Students with Autism may need sensory items, a weighted vest, or communication device.
3) The Academic Work is Too High
This may apply to a student with a disability or a student who is just behind academically in one or more area. Students are more behind these days, post COVID. I’ve talked to many of my teachers who are frustrated with how “low” their students are.
I’ve also had to work extensively with a teacher who previously taught Special Education Students in 1st through 3rd grade and is now teaching an SDC TK and Kinder class. This teacher kept complaining of how many of her students have “behaviors” in her classroom (yelling, throwing things, eloping, etc.). When I came to observe, however, she was having her students hold pencils, Copy SENTENCES, and sit at tables for up to 30 minutes! These tasks were neither academically age-level appropriate or developmentally appropriate for her students, which was leading to her own emotional difficulties as her students were increasing their behaviors in rebellion.
When evaluating reasons why students have behaviors, consider whether the tasks, instruction, and even the structure of your schedule are developmentally appropriate for your student or students. If this may be the root cause of behaviors, then you may need to adjust to meet your students where they are at.
4) They have Poor Self-Regulation
These students may have either difficulty regulating their impulsivity or their emotions. Students with poor impulse control may be disruptive constantly with their voice, bodies, or all of thee above. Just last week I can to get a student for counseling and he was literally jumping on the tables in the classroom when I walked in. This student is also continually touching others, yelling, and talking back to his teacher. This student has poor self-regulation.
Other students may have poor emotional-regulation. This may be related to low self-esteem, home or personal factors, or related to their Autism disability. For students with poor emotional regulation, this may look like poor anger control, over-reactions to typical situations, crying, eloping from the classroom, or physical violence.
Both of these types of students benefit from providing counseling services, whether at school or outside of school. They need instruction on how to use calming strategies, coping strategies, positive self-talk, empathy, social skills… and the list goes on. These students also can benefit from implementing personalized behavior and/or rewards charts. In addition, I will often provide them with a social story or classroom tool for helping them to regulate their emotions.
Here are some of the tools and social stories that I use below and are available in my store on Teachers pay Teachers. Click on the tool for the link to purchase if they sound like they would be helpful for you or your student.
5) They have a Need for Attention
These students are exhibiting behaviors that scream, “Look at me!” There are a few reasons why children engage in Attention-seeking behaviors. One may be a lack of attention at home. This may happen if the parents work a lot, are going through a divorce, or their is another cause for instability in the home environment.
Another reasons for attention-seeking behaviors is a lack of social skills. These students are constantly engaged in peer attention seeking behaviors, such as touching peers, acting silly or inappropriate, or calling peers names. While these behaviors invoke negative attention from peers most likely, it is the only way that the child may know how to get their peers’ attention at all. These students benefit from being provided Social Emotional Learning (SEL) or even Small Group counseling that focuses on building Social Skills. If this sounds like your student or students, then providing SEL for your classroom may be in order. Other options are a “lunch bunch”, game club, or counseling with your school counselor or psychologist.
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