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    Monday, May 13, 2024

    Implementing Function-Based Behavior Interventions in the Special Education Classroom

    In my classroom and in my role as an autism & low-incidence disability coach, few days go by when I am not trying to decipher student behavior. After working with hundreds of students and thousands of educational professionals, I have developed a 5-step system for behavioral intervention that has worked really well. In today's post, I will walk you through each step to help you with solving problem behaviors that may be impacting student success in your classroom. 

    Step 1: Determine the Function of the Behavior

    It is essential to know what motivates a student’s behavior in order to implement function-based interventions to address the same function. If the intervention doesn’t meet the same need as the function, then it will not be effective.

    There are 4 main functions of behavior. 

    1. Sensory: Sensory-motivated behavior does not depend on others and may occur when the student is alone and without any demands being placed on them. Some examples could be humming, chair tipping, or hand flapping. Sensory-motivated behaviors are sometimes referred to as "automatically-motivated" behaviors because the reinforcement is automatic and doesn't rely on others. 
    2. Escape: Escape-motivated behavior results in avoiding or postponing aversive or unpreferred activities. A student may elope to escape a sensory overwhelming environment or they may start throwing lesson materials in an attempt to get staff to terminate task demands. 
    3. Attention: Attention-motivated behavior results in immediate attention from others such as a peer laughing when a student makes funny noises or a paraprofessional giving a big emotional reaction when pushed. 
    4. Tangible: Tangibly-motivated behaviors result in access to preferred items or activities. For example, a student may climb shelving to gain access to a favorite musical toy or they may steal food from a classmate who still has some of their snack left. Tangibly-motivated behavior is sometimes referred to as "access-motivated" behavior because it allows the student access to what they want. 
    When determining the behavioral function, if 3 or more functions are within 1-3 points of each other or all of the scores are relatively high, then the function of the behavior is determined to be communication because the student is using the behavior to communicate a variety of functions or needs. 

    These scores can be determined using a behavioral assessment. I have several favorites that are all FREE! After reading about each option below, click on the links to be directed to options for each tool. 

    • Motivation Assessment Scale (MAS): this is a quick 16-question survey that is user-friendly and focuses on a single behavior. It is my "go-to" because it is so easy to use and can be done quickly during a team meeting or I can give it to various members of the team and average the scores to get multiple perspectives on the same behavior. 
    • Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): this is the most comprehensive option when done well. I emphasize done well because too often I see FBAs completed just to fulfill a paperwork requirement, completed by an outside agency that truly doesn't know the student, or completed and never visited again. What a waste! A good FBA requires a team effort and lots of mindful data collection and analysis. For this reason it can be pretty time-consuming which can make it more challenging to get done. 
    Once the assessment is completed, the function with the highest total score (relative ranking of 1) is the primary function of the behavior. If there is a tie or if there is another function within 1-3 points of the primary function, then this is considered the secondary function.

    Step 2: Choose a function-based behavioral intervention

    Once the function has been determined, select an intervention that will meet the same motivation. Interventions may change the way staff responds to the behavior and/or may teach the individual more appropriate ways of getting their needs met. Function-based interventions should be implemented with fidelity across all staff members and environments. Plan to implement this intervention for a minimum of 4 weeks. 

    A foundation of my Function-Based Behavior Intervention Cheat Sheets and Implementation Plan is the cheat sheets themselves which take 25 different behaviors and provides behavior intervention ideas for each of the functions of behavior for quick reference.

    Step 3: Design the Behavior Plan
    What do you want the student to do instead of engaging in the problem behavior that will meet the same function? It is important to determine a replacement behavior that says what the student will do NOT doing something or refraining from the problem behavior is not a replacement behavior. The replacement behavior needs to be functionally-equivalent to the problem behavior in order for it to be effective.

    Once you choose a replacement behavior, there are 5 steps you can follow to effectively teach the behavior. This framework can be used when developing a student's Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).

    1. Direct Instruction: The replacement behavior needs to be explicitly taught to the student so that they understand the expectation and begin to see the benefit or how the behavior may be equally or more effective in meeting the desired function.

    2. Practice: In a structured setting, set up opportunities for the student to practice the skill. Then, as appropriate, proactively schedule opportunities for the student to practice the skill in the context of their typical daily routine to promote generalization.

    3. Priming: Prime the student to remind them of the replacement behavior especially before times or events that have been previously challenging. Determine consistent verbal and/or visual cues that can be used across all team members.

    4. Prompting: In the moment when the student is engaging in problem behaviors and/or needs a reminder, prompt the student to use the replacement behavior. Determine consistent verbal and/or visual cues that can be used across all team members.

    5. Reinforce: The replacement behavior itself should be highly reinforcing because it should meet the same function of the problem behavior. It is critical for all team members to immediately acknowledge and honor the use of the replacement behavior so that the student knows it is equally or more effective than the behavior. Additional praise or reinforcement for using the replacement behavior can also be beneficial.

    Step 4: Collect Behavior Data
    It is important to monitor the student’s behavior to determine the effectiveness of the function-based intervention so that you can make data-driven decisions about continuing or adjusting the intervention. My Function-Based Behavior Intervention Cheat Sheets and Implementation Plan includes 4 different data collection sheet options to ensure all team members are using the same data collection method for increased fidelity.

    1. Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (A-B-C) Checklist: Records antecedent/events (A) that immediately precede the target behavior (B), and the consequences/ events (C) that happen immediately following the behavior. I love this checklist version because it is MUCH more time-effective than anecdotal notes. 

    2. Scatterplot: Records when a behavior occurs at ant time within an interval of time (typically 10-15 minutes)

    3. Frequency Data: Records the number of occurrences of the target behavior

    4. Duration Data: Records the amount of time in which a behavior occurs

    Take data for a minimum of 4 weeks once the function-based intervention is introduced to have enough data to analyze for effectiveness. 

    Step 5: Analyze Behavior Data
    Review the collected data to determine the level of progress based on the data patterns. Below are some general guidelines:
    • Mastery
      • The target behavior(s) have been extinguished
      • The target behavior(s) have been greatly reduced to a level that is no longer significant
    • Adequate Progress
      • The target behavior data is steadily decreasing
      • The replacement behavior data is steadily increasing
    • Slow Progress
      • The target behavior data is decreasing but the rate is slow
      • The target behavior data has plateaued
      • The replacement behavior data is increasing slowly
    • Inconsistent Progress
      • The target behavior data is not consistently decreasing
      • The replacement behavior data is not consistently increasing
    • No Progress
      • The data trend has remained consistent with initial tracking for either the target behavior (remains high) or the replacement behavior (remains low)
      • The target behavior data is increasing

    Make data-driven decisions about the effectiveness of the function-based intervention using the available data.

    For easy reference, more in-depth explanations, and the cheat sheets mentioned above. Head over to my TPT store to grab my Function-Based Behavior Intervention Cheat Sheets and Implementation Plan.

    Friday, February 16, 2024

    Teaching About Feelings in the Special Education Classroom

    After all the talk about what students love during Valentine's Day activities, I always found a natural next step in my thematic units was to focus on feelings and emotions. 

    Check out some of my favorite Emotions activities:

    ELA Ideas

    • I first introduce feelings vocabulary. We use a variety of visuals including photos, icons, and even emojis. 
    • Next, we practice sorting emotions based on the vocabulary we've learned. These cut and paste worksheets are also included in my Feelings Thematic Unit

    • Then, we read stories to discuss each emotion in context. I love The Way I Feel by Janan Cain because it covers so many robust feeling words. I use the communication board from my Feelings Thematic Unit for students to participate.

    • Another favorite feelings story is When Sophie Gets Angry-- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. I love this story for introducing the concept of coping strategies to my students. 

    I love this story so much that I created an entire Picture Book Communication and Comprehension Supports resource which you can check out in my TPT store. It includes vocabulary, sentence building boards, AAC, comprehension questions, sequencing, and fill-in-the blank activities. Plus IEP goal ideas and progress monitoring sheets!


    Social Group Ideas

    • We practice our feelings vocabulary words by playing a game of charades where each student makes a silly emoji face and sees if their friends can guess them ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿ˜ฑ



    • We also practice our vocabulary with a variety of games including BINGO and this great board game board. 

    I use this universal game board from my Feeling Thematic Unit to practice a variety of skills depending on the needs of my students including: number, letter, or sound ID, reading sight words, answering math facts, or practicing other IEP goal skills in addition to our emotions vocabulary!


    • We also follow up our unit on When Sophie Gets Angry by talking about our own emotions, what causes them, and coping strategies for what we call BIG emotions. I created a book template for my students to use as a resource when they are having big feelings. It aligns loosely with The Zones of Regulation. This template is included as one of the 12 cross-curricular activities in my Feelings Thematic Unit.

    • This is also a good time to introduce our classroom Big Feelings Tools. I use the A Little Peaceful Spot book from the A Little Spot of Emotion by Diane Alber. After reading the story, I use a slide deck to introduce our Big Feeling Tools and model each tool and we discuss the expectations. 

    Our big feelings tools for moving our bodies include a Color Match Station which is a velcro board poster where students get vestibular input from bending down to get an Ellison cutout and then match it to the poster and a Heavy Work Station in which students match covered textbooks to corresponding colored Xs in the hallway.

    Our big feelings tools for resting our bodies include a Picture Reading Poster from S'cool Moves, a Calming Kit with small fidgets, and my Special Interest Deep Breathing Posters.

    Math Ideas

    • With so many different emotion icons, it can be a great opportunity to practice graphing. I have done this in a variety of ways. When we have more time, I have students sort and graph emoji erasers like these from Amazon:


    One year, my OT pushed in for a group and we actually had students make a collage with emoji stickers and then count and graph each emoji they used. These stickers were another great Amazon find. 

    For both the erasers and stickers, Amazon has a TON of options so you can certainly choose what variety works best for your students. 

    Admittedly, there have been years where I have needed to simplify the assignment so I pre-made a worksheet with various emotions for students to create. Of course you can find this in my Feelings Thematic Unit ๐Ÿ˜‰!

    • These erasers and stickers are also a great way to practice basic counting for students who aren't quite ready for graphing yet. I also made a fun emoji counting worksheet.

    Cooking Ideas

    • During our cooking time, my students loved making cooking activities with different faces such as waffles, rice cakes, or english muffin pizzas. 

    Interested in these activities and more? Why not bundle and save! 

    What is your favorite activity to teach feelings in your classroom? Which of these activities are you excited to try? 

    Monday, January 15, 2024

    Teaching About Animals in the Special Education Classroom

    Animals are a common special interest in my classroom so I have taken full advantage over the years of using animals to teach a variety of skills. 

    For my TPT store, I divided all of my animal activities into thematic units by narrowing down the topic including: 

    We had so much fun exploring books and videos about different animal habitats! I also incorporated learning about living and non-living animals. 

    ๐Ÿฆ‰ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿฎ Visual Recipes for Crunchy Birds Nests and Sea Turtle Snacks

    ๐Ÿˆ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)


    ๐Ÿป Reading Communication Board for Pond Circle, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and Welcome Home, Bear


    ๐Ÿ Living vs. Non-Living Sort


    ๐Ÿฆ† Pet Habitats Base 10 Task Cards


    ๐Ÿฆ€ Crab Shape Matching


    ๐Ÿง Habitat Sorting Activity

    I admit that some of the higher-level biology standards like animal habitats, food chains, and animal traits were a bit tricky for me to teach in my elementary self-contained special education classroom. It was important to me to address these standards while also making the content accessible to my students.

    ๐Ÿชถ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿชถ Visual Recipes for Animal Mix 

    ๐Ÿชถ Weekend Reports for home communication (2) 

    ๐Ÿชถ Reading Communication Board for I'm Going to Eat You and Who Am I?

    ๐Ÿชถ Animal Traits Sort

    ๐Ÿชถ Skip Counting by 10s Sequencing

    ๐Ÿชถ Comparing Sets Cut and Paste Worksheet

    ๐Ÿชถ Food Chain Sequencing

    ๐Ÿชถ Animal Yoga 

    ๐Ÿชถ Animal BINGO 

    The zoo theme is definitely a favorite for my students! 

    ๐Ÿฆ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards
    ๐Ÿฆ Visual Recipes for Lion Crackers and Animal Face Pizzas

    ๐Ÿฆ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)


    ๐Ÿฆ Reading Communication Board for Dear Zoo and The View at the Zoo


    ๐Ÿฆ Zoo Board Game


    ๐Ÿฆ Zoo Cage Animal Cookie Counting Task Cards


    ๐Ÿฆ Lion Shape Matching


    ๐Ÿฆ Comparing Sets Cut and Paste Worksheet


    ๐Ÿฆ Dear Zoo Class Book Writing Activity

    We have several farms in our region so it was always fun to plan a farm field trip as a culminating activity for this fun thematic unit!

    ๐Ÿฎ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿฎ Visual Recipes for Pigs in a Blanket and Haystacks

    ๐Ÿฎ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)

    ๐Ÿฎ Reading Communication Board for The Big Red Barn and Mrs. Wishy Washy's Farm

    ๐Ÿฎ Egg Additon Sentences

    ๐Ÿฎ Piggy Bank Coin Counting


    ๐Ÿฎ Farm Following Directions Cut and Paste Activity

    ๐Ÿฎ Farm BINGO

    ๐Ÿฎ Farm Animal Charades

    This is another favorite unit for my students. We love watching live feeds at the National Aquarium and even watching Finding Nemo!

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Visual Recipes for Tortilla Crab Sandwich, Peanut Butter Banana Fish Toast, Sand Dollar Cookies

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Reading Communication Board for Way Down Deep on the Deep Blue Sea

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Goldfish Cracker Counting Task Cards

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Ocean Counting Worksheet

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Fill-in-the-Blank Ocean Writing

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Ocean Bingo

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Vocabulary Fishing

    One of the most relatable habitats for my students was the forest because we have the metroparks and several wooded areas close to our school. Students loved going into the forest to look for the thematic vocabulary... especially the animals!

    ๐Ÿป Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿป Visual Recipes for Pine Cone Bird Feeders and Brown Bear French Toast

    ๐Ÿป Weekend Reports for home communication (2)

    ๐Ÿป Reading Communication Board for Bear Wants More and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

    ๐Ÿป Bear Wants More Sequencing

    ๐Ÿป Bear Wants More True vs. False Game

    ๐Ÿป Base 10 Forest Animal Habitat Matching Task Cards

    ๐Ÿป Hiding Foxes Subtraction Worksheet

    ๐Ÿป Forest Animal Memory

    Across these thematic units, I have created over 70 different activities for reading, math, cooking, science, communication, games, writing, and more! Here are some of the common features you can find across all of my thematic units:

    Every single activity has a corresponding lesson plan with ideas for implementing the activity for different group sizes and differentiation tips for accommodating or extending each lesson.  

    Also included in each unit there are reading communication boards for popular picture books (12 books total across all 6 units), but I decided to dive deeper into two of my favorites,  and  and created comprehensive Picture Book Communication and Comprehension resources which have picture-supported supports, progress monitoring, and IEP goals for a variety of elementary communication and comprehension skills!

    Just like my thematic units, every single activity in my picture book units has a corresponding lesson plan with ideas for implementing the activity for different group sizes and differentiation tips for accommodating or extending each lesson.  

    I also included IEP goal ideas that can be used across picture book units and are easily monitored with the included progress monitoring data sheets. 

    Don't worry, if your students love animals too and you can't decide which unit to start with, you can find everything bundled and save some money too! You can get the  or the  too!

    Still not sure? See what other customers have said... 

    I hope these resources help you in your classroom as much as they helped me in mine!