What do you get when you put 15 preschoolers in one room and try to teach them? Problem behaviors! Young children inevitably present challenging behaviors. There are many methods out there. Do your research and identify the strategies that align with your values and beliefs, but also understand that there is a significant amount of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of specific methodologies.
Here are some strategies to help improve your experiences!
Establish concrete rules for your preschoolers
Ensure that you have clear rules established for your classroom so your students know what is expected of them. Keep the rules simple, positive and understandable. Limit the number of rules so that the children can easily remember them. "Be safe, Be kind, Be responsible" may cover the majority of behaviors preschoolers are expected to display. You will need to teach your students exactly what it means to be safe, be kind and be responsible; however, if you are repeating these rules over and over again, they will learn quickly.
Use visuals to support your preschooler's appropriate behaviors
Preschoolers are typically unable to read more than a few words. Many of them benefit from the use of visuals to communicate expectations, especially preschoolers with disabilities or behavioral challenges. Visual schedules, visuals to identify areas of the classroom or where items belong on a shelf, visuals depicting the classroom rules, and visuals to facilitate communication are common in preschool classrooms. You can use photographs of the items you wish to depict, but keep in mind that you want to ensure the item in your picture is not complicated by the presence of confusing background stimuli (ideally, the picture would be of the item alone on a white background). If your preschool is large enough to support it, software programs such as Boardmaker or Pics for PECS are available to make creating the pictures easier.
How to address persistent and problematic behaviors
If an individual child's behaviors persist despite classroom wide implementation of positive supports, you may need to look closer at what is going on. Follow the steps below:
Problem behavior may be the result of underdeveloped skills. Identifying the problem behavior is the very first step. You want to ensure that you know specifically what you are looking to change, so you can decide if your interventions have been effective. What does the behavior look like? Where and when is the behavior most likely to occur? Where and when is the behavior least likely to occur? Are there activities, people or other circumstances that make the behavior more or less likely to occur?
Determine why the behavior is occurring. Is the behavior occurring because the student lacks the ability to perform the skill required? Is the behavior occurring because the student does not like a particular activity and he/she is trying to avoid the activity? Is the behavior occurring because he/she typically receives attention for the behavior in the form of reprimands from the staff or giggles from his/her peers?
Determine if you are equipped to address the behavior. Using the resources available to you (including staff, time, knowledge, experience, and material resources), are you able to alter the contingencies that are impacting the behavior? Are you able to teach and reinforce an appropriate alternative behavior? Many severe behaviors may require consultation with a professional to assist in developing a plan to address problem behaviors. Consultation with a BCBA or other professional may be expensive; however, implementing a successful behavior plan could mean the difference between success and failure for a child with serious behavior challenges. Consider contacting local mental health facilities to see if they are able to offer any resources.
Understanding behavior and the factors that affect it is a complex topic that is beyond the scope of this website. Below is some information to get you started but I encourage anyone encountering regular, severe behaviors to seek additional information and professional guidance.
The basic principle of Applied Behavior Analysis is that all behavior serves a purpose (has a function). Once this purpose has been identified, it’s then possible to determine the most effective methods for reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Although many of us will attempt to guess or make assumptions about the functions of a particular behavior (“John is always screaming to get attention!”), ABA relies on information and data collection to ensure that all factors are considered. Perhaps, John screams each time he is given a math task, or each time he is told to sit next to Mary. This information alters our perspective and we begin to better understand the situation.
Possible functions of behavior
Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS)
Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports uses a multi-tier system for intervention delivery. While it’s programmatically somewhat different from ABA, many of interventions used in the PBIS model are in line with the ABA approach to behavior. With this approach, there are interventions at the school level, classroom level and individual level. What does the school do to promote appropriate behavior for all students? What can be done in the classroom to promote appropriate behavior for all students? Which students require a plan to specifically address problem behaviors? For more information visit http://www.pbis.org/school/swpbis-for-beginners.
You know the importance of reading to your preschoolers regularly to build literacy skills. You choose engaging books that your preschoolers love. You read with enthusiasm. Did you know that the books you choose can impact the language development of the children in your classroom? This can be especially true for children with disabilities.
Books that are predictable, either because they rhyme or repeat, can support language in preschoolers that may be struggling. One of my all-time favorite story books is a wonderful example.
Include The Napping House by Don and Audrey Wood in your "All about me" theme
This book touches on many important topics for young children. The story opens the door for conversations about non-traditional family structures. Does this child live with his granny or is he just visiting? Who takes care of your preschoolers at home? Your preschoolers can identify with the child in the story.
This story brilliantly engages children through repetition. Your preschoolers will be reading right along with you even if they have never heard the story before.
Tell the story using visuals
use the story to teach math skills
Once the children have become familiar with the story, bring it into your math center! Here are a few ideas, but be creative:
What stories do you use to engage your preschoolers?
There are thousands of amazing children's stories available. There are many traditional stories that we all have used. What are some of your favorites and why?
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Welcome! Through my career I have worn many hats. I taught preschool in a public, commercial preschool and I taught at a Head Start program. Currently, I am a BCBA, supervising 2 clinics for children with autism. At the clinics, I have created a program to prepare our children for success in public school. Children participate in a preschool classroom style program. I developed a comprehensive parent training program and frequently consult with schools. Here, I want to share my experiences and offer some practical advice. Please let me know if there is ever a topic you would like me to cover!