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.
Behavioral Possibility: Communication

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 in the classroom as a form of communication (whether intentional or unintentional). (See Tutorial on Teaching Positive Communication.)

Relevant observations: The student may be either verbal or nonverbal, but is observed to have communication difficulties. Staff report difficulty identifying the communication function of the student’s behavior (especially behavior that is not intentionally communicative).

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 communication teaching strategies or supports: Create an environment that encourages and facilitates effective communication. This may include providing pictures that describe activities that can be selected or emotions that the student can select to describe feelings. Other augmentative communication possibilities may be suggested by the speech-language pathologist. Teaching specific signals to indicate specific messages (e.g., “I can’t continue with this task” or “I need help”) is part of this process.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that this student’s off-task behavior is a result of difficulty with communication.
    (See Tutorial on Teaching Positive Communication.)

Possible referrals: School psychologist or behavior specialist for behavioral assessment; speech-language pathologist for communication assessment and strategies; counselor for 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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