A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student engages in off-task and possibly distracting behavior.
Social-Emotional Possibility: Anxiety

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

Some students may engage in off-task and possibly distracting behavior as a result of anxiety. (See Tutorial on Anxiety.)

Relevant observations: The student appears anxious. The student may cry or express feelings of anxiety. The student may shy away from unfamiliar activities and people.

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 anxiety-related teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Anxiety) Try to increase the likelihood of comfort with activities and people (i.e., reduce anxiety). For example, create instructional routines in which the student can be certain of success. Pair the student with familiar peers with whom she is comfortable. Before activities, preset the student in a way designed to reduce anxiety. Possibly begin individual or group counseling sessions.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, then it may be that the off-task behaviors were caused by anxiety. (See Tutorial on Anxiety.)

Possible referrals: School psychologist or counselor for anxiety assessment and counseling

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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