Proactively Addressing Problem Behaviors Benefits Students and Your Budget
Over the last decade, evidence has been mounting that students’ behavioral health needs are growing. For example:
- In the 2012 “Primary Sources” survey, 62% of teachers working in the same public school for at least five years said disruptive behaviors had “notably worsened.”
- In 2015-16, 43% of teachers “agreed or strongly agreed that student misbehavior interfered with their teaching,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
- In 2019, a survey of almost 1,900 elementary school teachers, administrators, and staff found disruptive behaviors cost “nearly three weeks of lost instructional time each year.”
But there’s good news!
Implementing a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) approach to behavioral health ensures students and staff get support quickly, effectively, and without blowing up your program costs.
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), we help schools and school districts throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware be proactive—not reactive—in the face of this issue affecting education across the country. And we’ve seen successful MTSS behavior interventions make all the difference.
Move Beyond Too Much FBA by Empowering School Staff
Where is the line between regular education with discipline, and special education?
It’s a hard question for special education administrators and building staff to answer.
Most districts with Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBAs) on their teams consider behavioral health a related service. But increasingly, we see BCBAs being asked to consult on any significant, concerning behaviors that manifest in a school environment.
This increased demand for consults results in a rush to Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) on a multitude of students. It also leads to pushback from building staff about “owning” classroom management issues.
What’s the better solution?
Empowering your staff with tools, knowledge, and strategies—the foundation of any successful MTSS implementation.
What Does an MTSS Approach to Behavioral Health Look Like?
Administrators often assume teachers gained a fundamental understanding of behavior during their “classroom management” education. In truth, many haven’t had enough training to allow them to address disruptive behaviors effectively. For example, at in-services we hold for teachers and paraprofessionals, we find most participants can’t name the four “Functions of Behavior,” or define reinforcement accurately.
Clearly posting expectations in classrooms and around the school is a great way to get teachers and students talking about appropriate behavior. Letting your BCBA consult with your Child Study Team on some basic Positive Behavior Support strategies is also important. Then the team can work directly with classroom teachers to put those interventions in place.
When students don’t respond to some of these Tier 1 interventions, short-term, small group programming often does the trick. This programming can include social skills and self-regulation groups led by a counselor, psychologist, or occupational or speech therapist.
Tier 2 behavior interventions focus on building prerequisite skills and breaking down more complex skills into their components. Strategies may include modified classroom assignments and more frequent reinforcement schedules.
By definition, positive reinforcement increases the likelihood students will repeat a particular behavior in the future. For teachers looking to increase such desired behaviors as attention to task, following directions, or functional communication, the timing of positive reinforcement is everything. While delayed gratification works for some students, others require immediate reinforcement to show them their behavior was a desired one.
Commonly implemented and effective MTSS Tier 2 interventions include:
- Individualized token systems.
- Differential reinforcement (i.e., reinforcing the desired behavior while simultaneously ignoring an undesired one).
- Individualized rewards.
These easily implemented strategies can make a big impact on classroom behavior, and training teachers in MTSS makes these techniques more viable choices for managing students’ behavioral health.
Moving Away from the “FBA and Run” Model
When teachers and paraprofessionals don’t understand behavior and positive behavior support fundamentals, an FBA is often the go-to response to behavioral outbursts. But when BCBAs are spread too thin trying to address crises, an FBA can become a little more than a temporary patch on a deeper problem. We call this the “FBA and Run” model!
In contrast, PTS supports a consultative model. Behavior therapists focus on equipping teachers, paraprofessionals, and families with tools needed to support students’ behavioral change on a continuous basis so that, over time, the need for formal intervention decreases. This ongoing teamwork drives needed adjustments to behavior strategies and updated behavior plans as students show improvement.
When fully implemented, our proactive approach:
- Reduces FBA requests.
- Improves the quality and consistency with data collection.
- Decreases paraprofessional support over time, as programs are implemented with fidelity.
- Substitutes robust in-district programming for outplacements.
What’s more, as our BudgetWatch™ Technology (which tracks our clients’ key program metrics) shows, MTSS behavior interventions reduce overall behavioral health programming costs.
Getting Everyone On Board with Collecting and Using Data
People often think behavior tracking only applies to specific students and ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) professionals. It’s actually an important component of program evaluation.
Keeping a record of things like the number of times individual students are sent to the office or which teachers “eject” students most frequently can be enlightening! Many behaviors resulting in FBAs stem from classroom management issues.
Sometimes a good teacher simply gets a tough group of students. She needs a BCBA to come to observe her class (not just one student) and give more global strategies that will improve everyone’s academic and behavioral experience.
By looking at behavior data across your building, teachers, grades, and environments, you can pinpoint areas requiring additional support and training. This proactive approach elevates the building culture in ways the “whack-a-mole” method of dealing with individual students never can.
Smaller Investments for Bigger Results with PTS’ MTSS Behavior Interventions
MTSS implementations help your students become better students. They also help your teachers become better teachers, and your budget better meets the demands placed upon it.
At PTS, we’ve established ourselves as leaders in transforming special education and related service programs through our MTSS approach.
To find out more about how it can benefit your program, call us today at 610-941-7020, or visit us online.