A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student can write or type words, but does not seem to be able to generate organized, coherent, and adequately long written compositions.
Behavioral Possibility:
Attention or sympathy 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.

Manipulativeness: Some students may do poorly on academic tasks as a form of manipulation. (See Tutorials on Manipulation; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies.)

Relevant observations: The student’s behavior may not be consistent across settings or people (e.g., poorer performance when mother is present, better when father is present), suggesting the manipulation of specific people or situations.

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 manipulation (See Tutorial on Manipulative Behavior): If you believe that the student is being manipulative with specific people or in specific situations, change one aspect of the environment that the behavior is occurring in. For example, use a different parent, teacher, or assistant and record the frequency of the behavior. Then put the original teachers back into the environment and record the frequency of the behavior. Change only one aspect of the situation at a time and compare the frequency of the behavior. Other aspects to be explored include type of task, task difficulty, etc.
  3. If written composition improves during intervention, it may be that manipulation is one of the contributing factors to the problem behavior. (See Tutorials on Manipulation; Behavior Management: Prevention Strategies; Behavior Management: Contingency Management).

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