A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student appears to perseverate or get stuck doing the same activity over and over or saying the same thing or feeling the same emotion; may have difficulty transitioning from place to place or activity to activity; requests to change topics or activities may be greeted with negative behavior; changes in routine cause problems; the student appears to be inflexible. (See Tutorial on Flexibility.)
Behavioral Possibility: Attention seeking

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.

Attention seeking: Some students may appear to be inflexible and engage in ritualistic behavior as a way to seek adult and/or peer attention. (See Tutorials on Attention; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies; Behavior Management: Contingency Management)

Relevant observations: The student may engage in the problem behavior in front of others. The student may tell others about the problem behavior in a manner that seems designed to obtain attention (positive or negative).

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 exploratory teaching strategies or supports for attention seeking (See Tutorial on Attention): Create an environment that provides ample attention to the student. For example, the student may be given a leadership role in the classroom. Or adults may give special attention to the student on a regular basis.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that this student’s problem behavior is in part a result of attention-seeking. (See Tutorials on Attention; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies; Behavior Management: Contingency Management)

Possible referrals: School psychologist or behavior specialist for behavioral assessment and behavior management 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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