Occasionally, children may not make enough progress in learning to control their behavior despite the educator’s best efforts. The child’s behavior may make it difficult for the child and other children to learn and grow in the program. If the behavior is so severe that 1) it is likely that the child will be isolated and ostracized by the other children if it continues, 2) there is a serious possibility of harm to the child, the other children, or staff, and/or 3) it consumes an excessive amount of the educators’ time and energy, a Behavior Support Plan will be created. When creating a Behavior Support Plan:
Define the challenging behavior. Describe the behavior so that it is identifiable and measurable.
Collect information. Record the behavior when it happens. Observe the child in several different contexts (e.g., classroom, playground). Note what happens before and after the behavior to better understand the behavior’s triggers and reinforcers.
Determine the function of the behavior. Determine why the child engages in the challenging behavior (e.g., to get attention, get a desired object, avoid a disliked task).
Discuss in teams. Use team meetings as a sounding board and resource for discussing and “problem-solving” children’s behavior. Brainstorm modifications that could be made such as changing classroom environment, classroom materials, or other accommodations that will help the child succeed.
Hold a conference. If a child’s behavior does not respond to the behavior management techniques listed here, the next step should be a parent conference with the teaching team and the director. It’s important to ensure consistency across all environments and provide parents with strategies they can use at home.
Create the Behavior Support Plan. The plan must include 3 key components:
Preventative strategies – actions to pre-empt challenging behavior such as setting clear expectations, modeling positive behavior, praising appropriate behavior, and providing rewards.
Replacement behavior (or a new skill) – explicit descriptions of the behavior you want the child to engage in (e.g., asking for the toy instead of hitting a peer to get it), which the teacher will need to intentionally teach.
Response strategies – responses to challenging behavior when it occurs and reinforcement of the desired behavior.
Refer. The need for specialized support services will be assessed. If the strategies are not successful, with written parental permission, we will refer the family for specialized services that can address the child’s behavior problems, following our policy for referrals.
Schedule. If necessary, we will discuss other possible actions like reducing the child’s schedule, up to and including helping a family transition to a program better suited to the child’s needs.
Monitor progress. Use visual aids such as pictures, charts, and schedules to help the child understand expectations. Track progress and adjust the plan as needed. Celebrate successes and work with the child to continue to improve their behavior.
Remember that each child is unique, and what works for one doesn’t work for all. The behavior support plan must be tailored to the child’s individual needs, and may require adjustments as the child develops. No matter what the behavior exhibited, we will treat the child and their family with the same respect, support, and care that we do any other child or family.
Guidance should not be thought of as a weak alternative to traditional discipline—it’s being a good coach who doesn’t give up on any member of the team. Your efforts at guidance don’t have to be perfect, but if you persist and reflect, you will get good results. We learn even as we teach. Do these things and you will feel positively about yourself as a teacher—and that will help with the inner calm you need to guide children toward healthy emotional and social skills.
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