3 Ways to Make Positive Reinforcement Systems Work in the Classroom


Returning to my series on managing challenging behavior, I wanted to take a moment to talk about positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior and why creating systems for giving it might be helpful and is important.  Positive reinforcement is both an antecedent strategy /preventive strategy as well as a teaching tool for replacement skills.  We try to keep it from being a response to negative behavior since reinforcement would increase that undesired behavior.  If we use positive reinforcement systems consistently for appropriate behaviors, we reduce the likelihood that challenging behaviors will be exhibited and we use reinforcement systems to teach new skills to replace challenging behavior like raising their hand to gain attention (positive reinforcement) and asking for a break (negative reinforcement--we took something away and the asking for a break increased).  For general classroom management we want to reinforce appropriate behavior across the classroom about 5 times for every redirection or correction that we make (Flora, 2000).  We also have a good research literature that tells us that classrooms typically do not reach that ratio and that increasing praise can improve students' behavior (Flora, 2000).

Teachers don’t have just one job.  Have you ever met a teacher who felt he/she just had to do well in one thing?  I haven’t.  Just thinking of everything that a teacher needs to do throughout the day is exhausting.  But I don’t need to tell YOU that (unless you aren’t a teacher).  However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t mean to be said.  Trying to keep track of everything that is happening in a successful classroom and keep all the students engaged is a monumental task.  When I am running a classroom, I find it easiest when I automate as many of the tasks as I possibly can.  The more I can do that, the less time I have to spend remembering, and the more engaged I can be with the students—which is always my ultimate goal (you know, prevents challenging behavior, increases skills effectively….for those reasons).

8 Ways to Communicate with Families: Beyond the Home Note

Wow, my self-created fall break was so amazing it's hard to get back into the swing of things. But I'm BACK!

In my last post I talked about home notes as a way to communicate between school and home.  I promised at the end to talk about some different ways we can communicate with families (and families can communicate with schools) so I want to focus on that today along with some of the pros/cons about the different ways to get information between the two settings.  I have talked about why this is important for individuals in special education, but there is also research that indicates that for all students, having parents involved in their schooling improves their performance.  I would expect it to be no different for individuals in special education and the need is even greater for different types of communication.  So, here we go.

Special Education Home-School Communication for All Ages

Many of you have seen these (or won a copy) on my Facebook page, but I have received a number of requests for information about the home note that was on yesterday's post.  I've talked about why home-school communication is so important for our students and some Dos and Don'ts in doing it.  This is an area I have been working in for many years trying to find the balance between providing specific and meaningful information to families while still assuring that the teacher can 1) teach the class and 2) stay sane.  There are SOO many things to do in a classroom, especially one that serves students with special needs, that adding this component of communicating with families is often the straw that broke the camel's back.  So, I want to share a tool that I hope will make it easier, quicker and more effective to help build relationships with families while also helping teachers stay sane.

Dos and Don'ts of Communicating with Families

Effective home-school communication
In my last post I talked about why communication between schools and families is so important for students with autism and other special needs.   Today I want to talk a little about some do's and don'ts I've learned over the years in working with families.  This is definitely not a comprehensive list so please share in the comments other thoughts and input on the topic.

5 Reasons Why Building Effective Home-School Communication is Important

I promise to continue with the challenging behavior series in the future, but there are always so many things I want to write about!  Sometimes I feel like my brain will explode from ideas...and I get bored talking about the same thing all the time, so I ask you to be patient with me and indulge me.

Today's burning topic in my head is about creating effective home communication systems.  Clearly this is something that is important for all classrooms and all teachers.  However, it's something that really hits home for families and teachers of students with special needs of all kinds.  Let me start this topic by addressing 5 of the reasons (there are more) WHY it's so important.

Throwback Thursday for Fire Safety Week

I am linking up with The Teacher's Desk 6 for her PURR-fect Previous Posts: Throwback Thursday linky.  October has so many things going on from Bullying Prevention Month to Fire Safety Week (not to mention fall, pumpkins and Halloween).  I've been thinking about fire safety week which reminded me of this post from April 2013 that many of you may not have seen.  (By the way, did you know the best way to find posts on my blog is to use my Pinterest blog board?  You can use the search box to the right too, but I actually find all the posts I'm looking for on my board.  I think it's a visual thing!).  Anyway, as you will see from this post I have some very strong feelings about fire drills and students with autism or other disabilities.  They are hard for many of our students, but they are no less important for teaching.  And at the end of the post are some resources and another throwback post with a link to a freebie for teaching about fire drills.

Bullying and Students on the Autism Spectrum


I have the amazing opportunity to work with a selection of amazing professionals who provide training and support to autism programs across the U.S. and Canada called the Network of Autism Training and Technical Assistance Programs (NATTAP).  This offers a unique opportunity to collaborate on a number of projects including the one below in which we developed a brief on bullying and students on the autism spectrum.  They had much more to do with this than I did, but I wanted to share it with all of you.  It is a bit long comprehensive you can download the pdf version to share as needed and skip to the end for references/research and resources to use for awareness with your students. 

Most of us have had unfortunate experiences with bullying in our work with individuals on the spectrum.  While we must prevent bullying through education and supervision at all times, we also can take advantage of the designation of October as National Bullying Prevention Month to really hit this topic hard across our schools and communities.  

Workbasket Wednesday--October 2014 Edition

It's that time of month again.  I can't believe it's already the first Wednesday of October!!  And it's still 90 degrees in South Florida!  I've lived here most of my life--you would think I would learn.  Can't wait to get a little time out and about to places that have real fall!  So, in my longing for fall, I thought I would make fall the theme for this month's work boxes.

If you want to link up, you don't have to follow the theme...it just helps me organize which pictures to pull out of the archives!  So, I started with fall and pumpkins....and I kind of slid into Halloween.  So, read on for fall workboxes and for directions, the graphic and the link up, skip to the end to link up!

Defining a Break in Functional Communication Training

In my last post, I talked about how to teach a communication response to replace escape-related challenging behavior and had a protocol for teaching a break response as one of the options.  I wanted to take some time today to talk about what a break might actually look like.  As I noted in that post, the type of break and what happens during a break can vary as much as all our different students.  A break can take place in the same place as the activity the student is asking to escape.  Typically this would make sense if the student is escaping from work.

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