LIstening to your students for Behavior Solutions

A delightful 1st grader on the autism spectrum entered my classroom and my life one year.  He cried and screamed a lot, but beyond that, had no verbal communication skills. He could sign a few things, but those signs were often poorly executed and difficult for others outside his world to understand.
He often ran through his repertoire of signs when asked to use them just to see if he "hit" one that will work. Frustrating to say the least...on all sides.
So here I was,  a new person in his world and I needed to communicate with him and him with me. Where should I start to help this student?

I chose to start with things he liked. His preferred items.  Luckily, I had most awesome paraprofessional and together we walked this path together to work our way into his world and him into ours.
 and found a variety of activities he demonstrated interest in doing. One of his first was a 2nd hand office chair I had gotten from a fellow teacher. Fortunately, it is very sturdy and safe because we soon discovered he loved to spin. The preferred item we found was through his behavior analyst. He shared that he enjoyed gummy bears.
Once I had found 2 items he preferred, I made a choice board with those two items. We set up a schedule for him that alternated work time and choice time. At the end of each work time we asked him to "make a choice".

We started with a board with just two items. A food item of gummy bears and a picture of the chair he LOVES to spin in. It took several weeks to get a good pointing action from him and the moment we got a close proximity of indicating a response as to what he wanted -he got the item.

It was AMAZING to watch this learning in progress. I worked many years and in many ways with kids with disabilities, but I was in awe and humbled every time when I had the privilege to see learning like this take place.
The next step was increasing his items. We found he like grapes and jumping, so those were also added to his choice board. The jumping was an fantastic find, as it added to his physical activity and seem to funnel some of his energy into an appropriate physical outlet.
Here is an example of the 4 item choice board I made.

As you can see I try and use real pictures when at all possible, but sometimes, its quicker and easier to use clip art.
Now we have built up to a choice board with 12 items on it. 

Here are some other examples of choice boards. 
Here is one for the same student much later in the year with multiple choices on it.

Tabbed Choice Boards
 Choice Boards

Here is a First/Then card I often used. The student can pick choice cards from the board and use them here.

For this student choices and alternating work and choice activities were the key to helping him begin integrating into our classroom. 
Remember, when you have those problem kiddos, take it slow, progress in small steps and listen to the students too. Sometimes they will tell you what they like and needs.

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1 comment

  1. I also currently teach kids and their behaviour really depends on us, how we treat and teach them.