A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.

Problem: The student hits, shoves, or pushes peers and/or adults, or uses aggressive or threatening language.
Cognitive/Self-Regulatory Possibility:
Severely impaired impulse control

Step 1: Organize observations relevant to the problematic behavior/issue

  • Who is reporting the problem?
  • When does it occur? (Include time of day, activities etc).
  • Where does it occur?
  • What tends to precede the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What tends to follow the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What is the age and functioning level of the student?
  • Previous documentation/charts?

Step 2: Identify possible contributors to the problematic behavior/issue

In many cases, there are several contributors to the student’s identified problem. These contributors may interact with each other, therefore, it may be necessary to combine tests from different categories of possibilities. The existence of several interacting contributors may become obvious as you proceed through individual intervention experiments.

Severely impaired impulse control: Some students may be aggressive as a result of serious impulse control problems. They may understand intellectually that aggressive behavior is unacceptable and jeopardizes peer acceptance and friendship, but nevertheless they act on impulse which leads to occasional aggression. (See Tutorial on Impulsiveness/Disinhibition.)

Relevant observations: The student indicates that he wants to have friends and expresses regret after being aggressive in relation to peers. The student acts impulsively in many contexts, not just social interaction.

Useful experiments for assessment and intervention:

  1. Observe and record the frequency and/or intensity of the problem behavior when a new teaching strategy or support is being implemented versus when it is not being implemented.
  2. Possible intervention strategies or supports to explore: Create an environment in which impulsive behavior is prevented by means of antecedent control strategies. For example, routinely preset the student with positive behaviors prior to social interaction. (This may be insufficient for seriously impulsive students.) Position the student physically in relation to peers so that physical aggression is unlikely. Use the “child proofing” strategies listed in the Tutorial on Self-Regulation/Executive Function Routines. Routinely give the student a task or responsibility that is incompatible with aggression. In ways such as this, ensure that the student spends most of his time in an environment in which aggression is prevented.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that the problem behavior is in part a result of serious impulse-control problems.

Possible referrals: Social worker, counselor, school psychologist, or speech-language pathologist for social skills and social perception assessment and intervention; behavior specialist for antecedent-focused behavior management strategies and self-regulation routines (See Tutorials on Positive Behavior Supports; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies; Self-Regulation/Executive Function Routines; Impulsiveness/Disinhibition.)

A program of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, and funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

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The Brain Injury Association of New York State
10 Colvin Avenue, Albany, NY 12206 - Phone: (518) 459-7911 - Fax: (518) 482-5285

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