ERIC Identifier: ED358674
Publication Date: 1993-06-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and
Gifted Education Reston VA.
Behavioral Disorders: Focus on Change. ERIC Digest #518.
Students who are referred to as having "conduct disorders" and students who
are referred to as having "emotional disabilities," "behavioral disorders,"
"serious emotional disturbances," or "emotional and behavioral disorders" have
two common elements that are instructionally relevant: (1) they demonstrate
behavior that is noticeably different from that expected in school or the
community and (2) they are in need of remediation.
In each instance, the student is exhibiting some form of behavior that is
judged to be different from that which is expected in the classroom. The best
way to approach a student with a "conduct disorder" and a student with a
"behavioral disorder" is to operationally define exactly what it is that each
student does that is discrepant with the expected standard. Once it has been
expressed in terms of behaviors that can be directly observed, the task of
remediation becomes clearer. A student's verbally abusive behavior can be
addressed, whereas it is difficult to directly identify or remediate a student's
"conduct disorder," since that term may refer to a variety of behaviors of
widely different magnitudes. The most effective and efficient approach is to
pinpoint the specific behavioral problem and apply data-based instruction to
remediate it. (Lewis, Heflin, & DiGangi, 1991, p.9)
IDENTIFY NEW BEHAVIORS TO BE DEVELOPED
Two questions need
to be addressed in developing any behavior change procedure regardless of the
student's current behavioral difficulty: "What do I want the student to do
instead?" and "What is the most effective and efficient means to help the
student reach his or her goals?" Regardless of whether the student is withdrawn
or aggressive, the objective is to exhibit a response instead of the current
behavior. We may want the student to play with peers on the playground instead
of playing alone. We may want the student to play appropriately with peers on
the playground instead of hitting peers during games. For both behavior
patterns, we have identified what we want them to do instead of the current
problem behavior. (Lewis, Heflin, & DiGangi, 1991, p.14)
Using effective teaching strategies will promote student academic and social
behavioral success. Teachers should avoid focusing on students' inappropriate
behavior and, instead, focus on desirable replacement behaviors. Focusing
behavior management systems on positive, prosocial replacement responses will
provide students with the opportunity to practice and be reinforced for
appropriate behaviors. Above all else, have fun with students! Humor in the
classroom lets students view school and learning as fun. Humor can also be used
to avoid escalating behaviors by removing the negative focus from the problem.
(Lewis, Heflin, & DiGangi, 1991, p.26).
PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE NEW BEHAVIORS
expect students to learn appropriate social skills we must structure the
learning environment so that these skills can be addressed and practiced. We
need to increase the opportunity for students to interact within the school
environment so that prosocial skills can be learned. If all a student does is
perform as a passive participant in the classroom, then little growth in social
skill acquisition can be expected. Just as students improve in reading when they
are given the opportunity to read, they get better at interacting when given the
opportunity to initiate or respond to others' interactions.
It is necessary to target specific prosocial behaviors for appropriate
instruction and assessment to occur. Prosocial behavior includes such things as
Taking turns, working with partner, following directions.
Working in group or with others.
Displaying appropriate behavior toward peers and adults.
Increasing positive relationships.
Demonstrating positive verbal and nonverbal relationships.
Showing interest and caring.
Settling conflicts without fighting.
Displaying appropriate affect. (Algozzine, Ruhl, & Ramsey, 1991, pp. 22-23)
TREAT SOCIAL SKILLS DEFICITS AS ERRORS IN LEARNING
skills deficits or problems can be viewed as errors in learning; therefore, the
appropriate skills need to be taught directly and actively. It is important to
base all social skill instructional decisions on individual student needs. In
developing a social skill curriculum it is important to follow a systematic
behavior change plan.
During assessment of a student's present level of functioning, two factors
should be addressed. First, the teacher must determine whether the social skill
problem is due to a skill deficit or a performance deficit. The teacher can test
the student by directly asking what he or she would do or can have the student
role play responses in several social situations (e.g., "A peer on the bus calls
you a name. What should you do?").
If the student can give the correct response but does not display the behavior
outside the testing situation, the social skill problem is probably due to a
If the student cannot produce the socially correct response, the social skill
problem may be due to a skill deficit.
More direct instruction may be required to overcome the skill deficits, while
a performance deficit may simply require increasing positive contingencies to
increase the rate of displaying the appropriate social response. During
assessment, it is important to identify critical skill areas in which the
student is having problems.
Once assessment is complete, the student should be provided with direct
social skill instruction. At this point, the teacher has the option of using a
prepared social skill curriculum or developing one independently. It is
important to remember that since no single published curriculum will meet the
needs of all students, it should be supplemented with teacher-developed or
Social skill lessons are best implemented in groups of 3 to 5 students and
optimally should include socially competent peers to serve as models. The first
social skill group lesson should focus on three things:
an explanation of why the group is meeting,
a definition of what social skills are, and
an explanation of what is expected of each student during the group. It may also
be helpful to implement behavior management procedures for the group (i.e.,
contingencies for for compliance and non- compliance).
It is important to prompt the students to use newly learned skills throughout
the day and across settings to promote maintenance and generalization. It is
also important to reinforce the students when they use new skills. (Lewis,
Heflin, & DiGangi, 1991, pp.17-18)
TEACH STUDENTS TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN
Often overlooked is the need to increase student independence in
learning. Students with BD may be particularly uninvolved in their learning due
to problems with self-concept, lack of a feeling of belonging to the school, and
repeated failures in school. Instructional strategies involving self-control,
self-reinforcement, self-monitoring, self-management, problem solving, cognitive
behavior modification, and metacognitive skills focus primarily on teaching
students the skills necessary for taking responsibility and showing initiative
in making decisions regarding their own instruction. These strategies, typically
used in combination or in a "package format" that incorporates extrinsic
reinforcement, have shown promise for enhancing student learning and
independence. (Gable, Laycock, Maroney, & Smith, 1991, p.24)
FOCUS ON FUNCTIONAL SKILLS THAT WILL HAVE BROAD
Essential in a curriculum for students with behavioral problems
are skills that can directly improve the ultimate functioning of the student and
the quality of his or her life. The concept of functional skills is not limited
to the areas of self-help or community mobility, but also include skills such as
those required to seek and access assistance, be life-long independent learners,
respond to changes in the environment, succeed in employment, be adequately
functioning adults and parents, and achieve satisfying and productive lives. The
concepts of the functional curriculum approach, the criterion of ultimate
functioning, and participation to the highest degree possible in life must be
extended to students with BD, many of whom will otherwise fail to fulfill their
potential. (Gable, Laycock, Maroney, & Smith, 1991, p.28)
This digest was developed from selected portions of three 1991 ERIC
publications listed below. These books are part of a nine-book series, "Working
with Behavioral Disorders." Stock No. P346.
Algozzine, B., Ruhl, K., & Ramsey, R.
(1991). "Behaviorally disordered? Assessment for identification and
instruction." Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children. (ED No. 333660).
Stock No. P339.
Gable, R. A., Laycock, V. K., Maroney, S. A., & Smith, C. R. (1991).
"Preparing to integrate students with behavioral disorders." Reston, VA: The
Council for Exceptional Children. (ED No. 333658). Stock No. P340.
Lewis, T. J., Heflin, J., & DiGangi, S. A. (1991). "Teaching students
with behavioral disorders: Basic questions and answers." Reston, VA: The Council
for Exceptional Children. (ED No. 333659). Stock No. P337.
Brolin, D. E. (1992). "Life centered career education: Personal-social
skills." Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children. Stock No. P368.
Evans, W. H., Evans, S. S., & Shmid, R. E. (1989). "Behavior and
instructional management: An ecological approach." Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
McIntyre, T. (1989). "The behavior management handbook: Setting up effective
behavior management systems." Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Meyen, E. L., Vergason, G. L., & Whelan, R. J. (Eds.) (1988). "Effective
instructional strategies for exceptional children." Denver, CO: Love Publishing.
Morgan, D. P., & Jenson, W. R. (1988). "Teaching behaviorally disordered
students: Preferred practices." Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Morgan, S. R., & Reinhart, J. A. (1991). "Interventions for students with
emotional disorders." Austin, TX: ProEd.
Rockwell, S. (1993). "Tough to reach, Tough to teach: Students with behavior
problems." Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children. Stock No. P387.