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Communicative Strategies for Challenging Behaviors

WOW- It has been a long few weeks! For those of you who don’t know, I unfortunately sustained a concussion and strained neck about a week and a half ago. Due to my injuries, I was required to stay home from work for brain rest. Let me tell you something- relaxing sounds amazing in theory, but can actually be quite difficult in practice! I found myself thinking about work, missing my students, and worrying about all of my responsibilities that would surely be piling up on my desk waiting for me to return. But, I realized that in order to get better, I would need to listen to my body and give myself time to do nothing. It ended up being just what I needed in order to start to heal and move forward.

I want to spend some time today talking about communication and challenging behavior.

Over the years, I have found myself in meetings discussing students’ behaviors when a well-intentioned colleague looks at me and says, “if the student could communicate, they probably wouldn’t engage in X behavior!” The team nods in agreement and all eyes are on me. I have struggled with my responses over the years. It is true that communication breakdowns can and do lead to frustration and challenging behaviors. It is also true that when a student is able to communicate effectively, he may be less likely to engage in these behaviors. But, in order to really make improvements in this area, we need the whole team to be on board! As we know, communication transcends all areas of life. This year, it is my mission to educate team members about the value of teaching core vocabulary and utilizing AAC across all aspects of a student’s programming- even within behavioral support plans!

In my most recent instagram post, I shared a new resource titled “Core Vocabulary Selection Chart for Supporting Behavior,” which is for sale on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. This product can be used to create a plan that integrates communication within behavior supports. This product is most effectively used after the school psychologist or behavior specialist conducts a functional behavior assessment (FBA) to collect data about a student’s behaviors. With enough data, an FBA can provide information about the perceived function (purpose) of the student’s behavior.

In this product, you will find charts corresponding to six common perceived functions of behavior (gaining attention, avoiding/escaping items, etc.). These charts can be used to determine which core vocabulary words a student needs to learn in order to prevent or replace his challenging behaviors. For example, if a student presents with aggressive behaviors when he wants to gain attention, the team could list “look” or “I want attention” as possible targets to be prioritized across all contexts. The chart has columns where team members can describe the student’s current understanding and use of target words as well as how and when the team will address will provide modeling and instruction throughout the day. Additionally, the chart suggests that the team discuss whether or not the child has a reliable, consistently accessible way to communicate the target word.

By sitting down as a team and discussing challenging behaviors with communicative solutions that everyone can target, we can continue to build relationships among the team as well as with our students. I really like this product as a framework for thinking about communication and challenging behavior. Now, when I am faced with the comment “if he could communicate, he probably wouldn’t engage in X behavior,” I can confidently respond, “That’s a great point! Let’s fill in these charts to see how WE can address this together!”

To check out this product, click the link below or go to the “shop products” tab on the menu!