|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.
Task avoidance: Some students may appear to have difficulty attending as a way to avoid specific tasks. (See Tutorials on Noncompliance; Errorless Learning; Problem Solving; Initiation; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies; Behavior Management: Contingency Management.)
Relevant observations: The student engages in the problem behavior when tasks are difficult or otherwise undesirable.
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 task avoidance (See Tutorials on Noncompliance; Errorless Learning; Problem Solving; Initiation): (1) Systematically observe and compare behavior in a setting and/or activity that the student enjoys (e.g., Gym) versus a setting and/or activity that the student does not enjoy (e.g., Math). (2) Add enjoyable elements to tasks that the student appears to avoid. (3) Simplify the tasks that the student appears to avoid, add the assistance of a collaborator, or in other ways ensure success.
- If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, then task avoidance may be contributing to the problem behavior. (See Tutorials on Noncompliance; Errorless Learning; Problem Solving; Initiation; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies; Behavior Management: Contingency Management.)
Possible referrals: School psychologist or behavior specialist for behavioral assessment and behavior management strategies; instructional strategies specialist