Many of us are like Alice.
We want direction, but we don’t know where we want to go.

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Behaviour management is about making decisions. As parents, we sometimes choose not to engage. We know that our child’s behaviour is problematic, but we cannot bring ourselves to do anything about it. Sometimes we give in, sometimes we explode, sometimes we are understanding and patient, sometimes we are furious and dictatorial.

Behaviour management helps us to focus on our goals: where do we want to go? Do we want our child to be docile and obedient or do we want her to retain her independence and free spirit? Different children have different problems and different families will need different solutions. But we all need to decide.

Otherwise, like the cat said, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.

A teacher’s job is very challenging. When working with a child with a language/communication difficulty, many challenges may actually stem from the child’s struggle to understand instructions. To prevent problem behaviour, often the first step is learning to be very clear and consistent. Kids will act out when they are confused about what they are supposed to do. A teacher can prevent numerous behaviour problems simply by confirming that the child understands what is being asked of him or her.

  • Break down instructions (make them step-by-step and/or simplify the language)
  • Check that the student has understood (e.g. ask her to repeat back or point to something.
  • Allow extra time in the lesson for processing instructions, formulating ideas, and starting a task
  • Use visual cues (e.g. pictures, gesture, facial expressions, diagrams, Mind Maps, etc)
  • Relate new learning to the student’s previous knowledge and experience
  • Demonstrate (give examples to start him off)

If the child is still having trouble with behaviour, try to make an “ABC Chart” to help you understand the reason for the behaviour and how to respond. In this chart, a teacher should

  • Log the time of the challenging behaviour
  • Identify Antecedents (what came before the behaviour)
  • Track the Behaviour itself
  • Record the Consequence of the behaviour.

By logging the time, antecedents, behaviour, and consequences, a teacher will be better able to track, identify, and respond to problem behaviour. What’s more, if the teacher can observe consistencies in the problem behaviour, the teacher can better prevent the behaviour from occurring. Many times problem behaviour is strictly out of frustration in response to something the child did not understand or is a way for the child to communicate his basic needs and feelings when he does not have the language to do so.

It may also be the result of a sensory difficulty.

Other helpful tips for teachers to remember include:

  • Use multiple forms of communication (sign language, pictures, gestures, pointing, facial expressions, etc.)
  • If a student has difficulty answering a question, give a choice of answers (e.g. “Is it X or Y?”)
  • If the student is non verbal get him to point to picture/object
  • Model and extend what the student says
  • Keep reminding the child about rules and expectations—use pictures!
  • Make turn taking very clear
  • Do things alongside the child, then encourage her to join in
  • Use Social Stories— look at one behaviour at a time
  • Be clear (to yourself and your student): Not “Good boy” but “Good sitting.”
  • Communicate what you expect the child to do—simple specific language: “Don’t do X, do Y.”
  • If things go wrong: tell the student what she has done and communicate what she is expected to do
  • REMEMBER: What we focus on grows—give attention when the child is behaving not when misbehaving
  • Use specific praise, rewards, and motivators
  • Show rewards visually—sticker chart/Behaviour charts
  • Think of what could be taught as replacement behaviour.
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Remember, addressing the child as a valuable part of the classroom, not simply a troublemaker, will also help as it encourages the child to participate and build self-esteem. Remember that the teacher can offer “replacement behaviours” that are more acceptable if a behaviour is serving as a way of communication or meeting a sensory need.
For eg: banging a drum instead of hitting, or pointing to a picture of a drink instead of screaming. With observation, patience and dedication, a teacher can help a child become an active and well-behaved part of the class.