The Honeymoon is Over
Now that October is in full swing, you may be seeing a rise in problem behaviors in your classroom. This often happens as the novelty of the new school year wears thin and children begin to challenge expectations. Your preschoolers who were once so excited to walk through those doors may now be telling you "no" to each request you make of them.
Are you still attempting to get all of your cherubs to sit and participate in circle time or group activities? The demands we place on preschoolers set the stage for future learning and success in school. So, how do we improve the cooperation of each of our children while accomplishing our academic objectives?
Understand Each Child's Motivation
The single most important thing you can do to begin to create peace in your preschool classroom is to begin to understand each child's motivation. In a future post, I will discuss creating group contingencies to promote a team feeling among your preschoolers. Here, I want you to think about each child as an individual and what each child finds motivating.
If you consider that every behavior serves a purpose (function in ABA speak), then you can begin to identify what drives the children in your classroom. When you look at behavior through the ABA lens, you begin to see behavior in a whole new way.
All behavior either allows the child to access something they want (i.e. attention, a toy, sensory input, etc.) or to escape something they don't want (i.e. a demand, sensory input, attention, etc.). You can see that there is some overlap between the 2 categories, so it's important to determine if the child wants access to something or wants to escape something. Once you are able to identify what is motivating the behavior you don't want, you can make informed decisions about how to respond.
Make Decisions That Change Behavior
The next step is to develop a plan that teaches the child an appropriate way to get what he or she wants. You will reinforce this skill and you will ensure that the problem behavior does not result in the child getting what he or she wants.
For example, you have a child who struggles to sit at circle. After a minute or two of sitting, he is touching the child next to him, laying down on the floor, talking out, and eventually, he gets up and runs from the circle. You are forced to stop circle to chase him and bring him back.
What is he getting from this? He may be looking to escape from circle, he may be seeking attention (which he receives when you go after him), or it may be a combination of both.
What is your plan? Teach him to say "I need a break" or "I want to be all done circle." Allow him to leave the circle to sit quietly in the book area or to draw at a table provided he has asked appropriately. It might be beneficial to create a visual to remind him that he can ask to leave circle.
You also want to ensure that you are providing a high level of attention for any appropriate behavior while he is sitting at circle. Perhaps have him sit next to you where you can gently place your hand on his shoulder to remind him of expectations.
Identifying what motivates each child can help you teach skills and reduce problem behaviors in your preschool classroom. Please comment or use the Contact Form with specific questions and I will be happy to provide some guidance!
Serious Problem Behavior
At times, you may experience serious problem behavior in your classroom. You may have one or more children in your class who have been identified with autism or another disability that makes them more prone to problem behavior. These types of problem behavior require a more comprehensive approach. In future posts, I will provide some ideas, but until then, check out my blog for parents of children with autism at www.accessibleaba.com.
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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!