Steps You Can Take to Modify Behaviors and Prevent SPED Referrals

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

girls sassy

Last time I wrote an article about behavior and special education. Needless referrals to special education services are a reality in schools throughout the country. Teachers reach a certain boiling point with children who act out in their classrooms and all steps to modify their behavior have been taken.

Rather than just talk about it, I thought I’d gather some resources for you, material you can use to help you decide if a behavior is past the point of no return for you, and a special education referral is warranted. I’ll also share some solutions that may work for you.

You’ve used up your classroom tricks and devices to bring a student into your classroom community. The behavior persists; in fact, it is accelerating and troubles you to the point where you need to pull in some people who might be able to help.

This is the place to start. Ask your principal or department head to come in to your classroom and observe the dynamic that has developed in your classroom because of one or two students and their errant behaviors. Ask that they stay for an entire class session or at least an hour. Ask them to be truly honest about what they are seeing. Maybe your perceptions have been blown out of proportion, you’ve been frustrated for a long time now, things can appear worse than they are. This tactic takes a certain self-awareness. You are exposing your class, warts and all. Isn’t it worth it though, to get to the bottom of the problem?

It will help to have a checklist they can use to mark off observations they are making, and then try to find methods for remediation. A resource I have used for years is “The Pre-Referral Intervention Manual” by Hawthorne Educational Services. Now in its 4th edition, the book is chock full of checklists for modifying behavior that disrupts your class. They take it another step and provide solid strategies for modifying the behaviors so you don’t need to take it to the next step, a SPED referral.

A classroom behavior checklist can be found here:

RTI Coordinator’s Checklist

You can also find a great resource for becoming familiar with RTI (Response to Intervention). RTI is implemented on a district and building level. It’s a complete system for modifying behavior, but also academic interventions so you don’t lose sight of the real issue, the behaviors that have interrupted the learning in your classroom.

Are you high tech? There’s an app for your mobile device that can help you work through behavior issues. It’s a system called DOJO and it might just be what you are looking for.

Use a behavior management menu. Are your students getting enough sleep?

You may have LBD (Learning Behavior Disorder) students in your classroom that have already had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) written for identified behavior disorders. Once a student has crossed over into the domain of special education, the IEP should be developed in a way that provides teachers with real techniques and tools for managing the toughest problems. Analyze the IEP, maybe there are some things you should repair for the next meeting.

I found an “IEP Goal Bank” that has some great advice for writing effective IEPs. iPads are showing up in classrooms these days, there are APPS and other iPad resources that can help with behavior management. Teach-nology has an entire section on their wonderful website for behavior management.

This article will hopefully make you feel better. There are tools and resources that can help – you don’t have to feel alone any more. So, your first step is to call in the troops, have others in your school observe your class and give advice – they may recommend simple things you didn’t think of that would be very helpful. Your goal is to prevent referrals to special education, but you need to know that sometimes the best solution is just that, an IEP creates a legal framework for working with seriously impaired students.

There seems to be no end to the ways that students will choose to drive you crazy, but there’s help out there.

Let me know what you think, comment on this blog, do you have suggestions?


Grant Name: Educational Grants

Funded By: The Ambrose Monell Foundatio 

Description: Giving on a national basis to improve the physical, mental, and moral condition of humanity throughout the world. Giving largely for hospitals and health services, scientific research, museums, performing arts, and other cultural activities, and higher and secondary education; support also for social services, research in political science, mental health, and aid to the handicapped. No grants to individuals 

Program Areas: Adult Literacy, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline: 10/31/2014

Annual Total Amount: $9,000,000.00

Average Amount: $5,000.00 – $100,000.00

Address: c/o Fulton, Rowe, & Hart, 1 Rockefeller Plz., Ste. 301, New York, NY 10020-2002

Telephone: 212-245-1863

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