Sunday, June 21, 2009

acting out cycle- part 1

still studying for comps- bare with me through these last few days as I use the blog to sort through my thoughts...

I've dug through my old binders (part of preparing for a comprehensive exam at the end of a masters program is that you have to keep ALL of your coursework from the last 2 years in preparation for this test) and found articles by Geoffrey Colvin (Colvin, Sugai, & Patching, 1993- and I didn't even have to look at my notes to cite that one!). Reading over these articles makes me realize how much I have tried to internalize Colvin's work, and how much I use it almost every day.

In both my class on emotional disabilities and my class on behavior management we focused quite a bit on Colvin's acting out behavior model- a 7 phase graph that shows the different stages a student goes through with escalated behavior.

It begins with the calm stage, where, obviously, we'd ideally like all of our children to be all the time. Children in the calm stage follow the rules, stay on task, respond to praise, and are generally cooperative.

Phase two is the trigger- something that sets off something inside of them to turn them from no longer being the calm cooperative child. A child's trigger could be a conflict, a change in routine, when they are provoked (either by the teacher or by another student, on purpose, or on accident), pressure, interruptions, or errors. Figuring out a student's trigger is a huge step into managing their behavior. However, the trigger may happen every morning when getting ready for school, or at dinner the night before- we can't always control or observe the trigger behavior.

Phase three is the agitation stage when, after the trigger, there is a decrease or increase in an unwanted behavior. If there is an increase the student's eyes may dart around the room, use non-conversational language, have busy hands, and be in and out of groups. If the student's behavior decreases he or she may stare into space, have subdued language, withdraw from groups or appear frozen. The behavior, either increase or decrease, is generally unfocused. The agitation state can last for awhile- many students come to us in the morning already in the agitation state. (Why I love having my desk in a classroom- I can see the kids when they come into the classroom first thing and get a read on things. Are my little ones with anger issues having a good morning, or have they already been set off by something outside of my control?)

Knowing what a student's behaviors are in the agitation state is important, because this is your opportunity to reduce the behavior and get the student back on track. Last year I watched one of my student's carefully and began to realize the difference between him in the calm and the agitation state- then I was able to watch for what triggered the change in the behavior- and discovered it happened any time he didn't know what was going on. If he'd been out of the room and suddenly came back in and the class was doing something different he'd start his attention seeking behaviors. His voice would become high pitched, his eyes would dart around the room, and he'd start petting his friends. Realizing that his behavior changed because he was unsure of what to do his teacher and I were able to work with him on asking for help, and how to watch other people for social cues. After some social skills training his tantrums were FAR reduced, simply because we'd taken good notes on his agitation behavior to learn his trigger.

The next step is acceleration, when the student actively attempts to engage you or others in provoking behaviors. The student may argue, be non-compliant or defiant, provoke other students, whine, cry, show avoidance or escape behaviors, or verbal abuse others. When a student reaches this step it's your chance to NOT let it go any further. The student's goal is to engage you, and once you're engaged you've already lost-you've given the kid control. Which of course is the hardest thing not to do, because when a child is refusing to comply, yelling mean things at you, or arguing with you, the first instinct we have is to show this kid whose boss. Especially if other teachers are watching. But the minute we do that we've lost- the kid's behavior will only get worse.

The next stage is the Peak stage, when a child is literally out of control- tantrums, running, screaming, hyperventilation, self abuse, or physical abuse. And that this stage it's important to have a good network of people in the building to help you- remove the other students, call the office for help, make sure the student isn't going to hurt you or him/herself, and let them work through what's going on. The best way for you to get hurt is to interfere with a student who is in the peak stage- Some children lose complete control when they are here, and they wont settle down until they've worked through it.

De-escalation is the next stage- when a student is coming out of the peak stage. The student may be confused, withdrawn, blame others, sleep, but slowly respond to directions. This isn't a good time to talk to the child about what just happened- it can send them back to the acceleration or agitation stage. let the student cool off- give them a simple job to do (pick up the chairs he or she threw), give them space, tell them to write about what happened, etc.

Finally, when the student is in the recovery stage, you can talk to the student about what happened, de-brief, apply the consequences, establish a plan for the future.

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I'm off to play in the sun- enough studying, or psuedo-studying. I have far more I want to say about this, but it will have to wait.

1 comment:

Mrs. R said...

This is fascinating. I REALLY wish I'd been given this info in my undergrad classes. Thanks for posting it!