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.)
Cognitive / Self-Regulatory Possibility: General self-regulation impairment

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.

General self-regulation impairment: Some students may appear to be inflexible and engage in ritualistic behavior as a result of general difficulty with self-regulation (e.g., rigidity, impulse-control problems, disorganization). (See Tutorials on Self Monitoring and Self Evaluating, Organization, Problem Solving, Impulsiveness/Disinhibition, Initiation, Problem Solving.)

Relevant Observations: The student may have a weak understanding of her own ability and needs. It may be difficult for the student to organize her behavior, her thinking, and her talking. She may have difficulty inhibiting her impulses or initiating responses. She may have general difficulty with problem solving.

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 self-regulation teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Self-Regulation/Executive Function Routines): Create an environment that provides self-regulatory support for the student. Examples: Create external organizational support, such as an activity organizer. Create a schedule that is placed on the student’s desk for her to refer to for transitions and activities. Give the student extra time on tasks. Routine impulse-regulation prompts and/or initiation prompts may also be useful. Prompt asking for help as a general problem-solving strategy.
  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 general difficulty with self-regulation. (See Tutorials on Self-Regulation, Self Monitoring and Self Evaluating, Organization, Problem Solving, Impulsiveness/Disinhibition, Initiation, Problem Solving)

Possible referrals: School psychologist for self-regulation 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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