|Problem: The student appears to have difficulty paying attention (focusing, maintaining attention, shifting attentional focus, dividing attention) in academic or other domains.
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.
Manipulativeness: Some students may appear to have difficulty attending as a form of manipulation (other than oppositional behavior). (See Tutorials on Teaching Positive Communication Alternatives to Negative Behavior; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies.)
Relevant observations: The student’s behavior may not be consistent across settings or people, suggesting the manipulation of specific people or situations.
Useful experiments for assessment and intervention:
- 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.
- Possible exploratory teaching strategies or supports for manipulation (See Tutorial on Teaching Positive Communication Alternatives to Negative Behavior): If you believe that the student is being manipulative with specific people or in specific situations, change one aspect of the environment that the behavior is occurring in. For example, use a different teacher or assistant and record the frequency of the behavior. Then put the original teachers back into the environment and record the frequency of the behavior. Change only one aspect of the situation at a time and compare the frequency of the behavior. Other aspects to be explored include type of task, task difficulty, etc.
- If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that manipulation is one of the contributing factors to the problem behavior. (See Tutorials on Teaching Positive Communication Alternatives to Negative Behavior; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies; Behavior Management: Contingency Management).
Possible referrals: School psychologist or behavior specialist for behavioral assessment and behavior management strategies