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.
Cognitive/Self-Regulatory Possibility: Difficulty Attending.

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 result of difficulty attending (See Tutorial on Attention).

Relevant observations: The student does not maintain focus on one activity at a time. The student frequently ‘fidgets’ and may have difficulty completing tasks or comprehending tasks. This behavior may interfere with the student’s ability to learn and retain information.

Useful experiments:

  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 attention teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Attention): Create an environment that provides support for the student to maintain attention. Examples: (a) The student may benefit from a quiet, distraction-free area to complete assignments; (b) Attention-focusing printed cues, timers, or other external strategies may help; ( c) Frequent changes in activity may help focus attention; (d) It may be beneficial to reward the student for on-task behavior; (e) With younger students, a game can be made out of maintaining focus.
  3. If the off-task behavior decreases as a result of the intervention, then this student’s difficulty with attention may be contributing to the problem behavior. (See Tutorial on Attention)

Possible referrals: Physician (to explore possible neurological basis), school psychologist for assessment of attentional functioning

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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