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: Novel Versus Routine Tasks

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 with novel versus routine tasks (See Tutorial on Attention).

Relevant observations: The student’s ability to sustain on-task behavior and reduce distraction my be related to the novelty of the task. Many students with disability benefit from well understood routines. Others benefit from novelty in the task. Observation of the student under novel or routine conditions is the first step in sorting this out. (See Tutorials on Self-Regulation/Executive Function Routines, Impulsiveness/Disinhibition, Instructional Routines.)

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 novelty teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Self-Regulation/Executive Function Rouitnes): Maintaining components of a task, deliver the task within a well understood routine versus within elements of novelty. For example, use familiar scripted instructions versus novel instructions. Or use familiar teacher-directed tasks versus novel student-directed tasks. Do this across several tasks, settings, and people.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that this student’s distracting behaviors are a result of difficulty with or possibly need for novelty. (See Tutorials on Self-Regulation, Self Monitoring and Self Evaluating, Organization, Problem Solving, Impulsiveness/Disinhibition, Initiation, Problem Solving, Instructional Routines)

Possible referrals: School psychologist for assessment, instructional support specialist for instructional strategies, behavior specialist for behavior management strategies

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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