A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student appears to need directions repeated; he often does not do what he is supposed to do; he either does not begin or does not complete assignments; he may at times appear to be defiant.
Cognitive/Self-Regulatory Possibility:
Generally weak cognitive and academic functioning

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.

Generally weak cognitive and academic functioning: Some students may appear to need directions repeated as a result of excessive demands placed on their memory, organizational ability, academic skill, or other cognitive ability. They may experience frequent failure in school. (See Tutorials on Cognition, Memory, Organization.)

Relevant Observations: The student’s ability to remain confident may be related to the cognitive and academic demands of the task. The student may become sad when cognitive and academic demands rise. Failure to follow through on tasks may rise when special academic demands are present. (See Tutorials on Cognition, Memory, Organization, 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 cognitive and academic demand-related teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Instructional Routines): Maintaining other components of a task, deliver the task with ample supports for success (e.g., collaborative work, ample cues, advance organizers, simplified tasks, and the like) versus no special supports for success.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that this student’s problem behaviors are in part a result of high cognitive and/or academic demands of tasks.

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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