A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student speaks out of turn, shows off, or engages in other apparent attention-seeking behavior.
Cognitive/Self-Regulatory Possibility:

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.

Inflexibility: Some students may engage in apparent attention-seeking behavior as a result of difficulty with change; they may be rigid and inflexible; they may have particular difficulty with novel versus routine tasks. (See Tutorial on Flexibility.)

Relevant Observations: The student’s ability to sustain consistent behavior may be related to the novelty of the task or to change in some aspect of the task (e.g., materials, people, place, instructions). Many students with disability benefit from well understood, consistent routines. They may act out or engage in apparently attention-seeking behavior when tasks change or routines are violated. Others benefit from novelty in the task and give themselves novelty if there is insufficient novelty in the environment. Observation of the student under novel versus routine conditions is the first step in sorting this out. (See Tutorials on Flexibility; Self-Regulation/Executive Function Routines, Impulsiveness/Disinhibition, Instructional Routines.)

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 rigidity/novelty-related teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Flexibility): Maintaining components of a task, deliver the task within a well understood routine versus within elements of novelty. For example, use familiar scripted instructions versus novel instructions. Or use familiar teacher-directed tasks versus novel student-directed tasks. Or modify some other aspect of the task (e.g., person, place, materials). Do this across several tasks, settings, and people.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the target behavior increases or decreases during intervention, it may be that this student’s problem behaviors are in part a result of difficulty with change or possibly a need for novelty. (See Tutorials on Flexibility, Self-Regulation, Self Monitoring and Self Evaluating, Organization, Problem Solving, Impulsiveness/Disinhibition, Initiation, Problem Solving, Instructional Routines)

Possible referrals: School psychologist for assessment; instructional support specialist for instructional strategies; behavior specialist for behavior management strategies

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
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