Advocating for Your Child Who Has Behavioral Challenges (page 2)
Issue: My child’s behavior is causing problems at home.
Strategy: Carefully consider what triggers behavioral problems at home. Keep a journal for a while and make notes about what events cause your child to act out inappropriately, including a description and the duration of the behavior. This information may give you an idea of what triggers some behaviors and how to avoid or handle outbursts. Your notes will be useful when you meet with professionals (teachers, counselors, etc.) to help your child.
Issue: I don’t know how to handle my child’s behaviors.
Strategy: Disciplining children is actually teaching them how to be responsible for their own behaviors. It’s important that you define rules and expected behavior for your child. Let her know what the consequences will be and ask for her input on what she thinks would be appropriate consequences. You may be pleasantly surprised! Use positive or natural consequences that teach your child how to make better choices.
Issue: It seems like all I do is reprimand my child. I get so discouraged.
Strategy: Plan ahead for those times when you think your child might have a difficult time with her behavior. Be patient and stay calm. Model the good behavior you are expecting your child to have. Be consistent when consequences are necessary.
Issue: Our family is much happier when my child is not getting into trouble.
Strategy: Reinforce your child’s positive behaviors. Reward her accomplishments and regularly provide positive feedback. Give praise at the first response to your instructions and continue giving praise if the task will take some time to complete. Use specific words and actions that will encourage your child to continue making good choices. Say the positive behavior that is expected; do not use negative statements like “Stop that” or “Don’t run” (say, “I need you to walk”). Give choices whenever possible. Make sure both choices are something you want her to do.
Issue: Even though some days are better than others, I still don’t think I can handle my child’s behavioral problems by myself.
Strategy: Everyone knows parenting can be a very difficult task. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Ask the behavioral health agency in your community for a referral to a counselor who has experience with children who have disabilities. Ask for information about parenting classes. Don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher and ask for a meeting to discuss your concerns. The team approach can help your child manage her behaviors and be successful at school.
Issue: My child’s behavior is interfering with his/her ability to learn at school.
Strategy: Ask school staff to include goals in the IEP (Individualized Education Program) that include positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports to address the targeted behaviors.
Issue: I know I’m an equal participant in the IEP process, but I don’t know what to suggest.
Strategy: Determine if, and when, your child has had a behavioral evaluation. A Functional Behavior Assessment is very helpful to understand the nature of your child’s problems and how to develop interventions. Ask for further testing if needed. Ask your child’s special education teacher for the names and positions of the other people on your child’s IEP team including administrators that might have contact with her on campus.
School staff that provide educational and support services for your child should participate in the IEP meeting. Recommend other professionals that should be involved in addressing the behavior plan. Suggest strategies that work at home be included in the plan. All team members need to keep an open mind to suggestions and consider unique strategies for handling a child’s individual needs and then be certain to consistently carry them out.
Issue: I’m satisfied with the IEP and behavioral plan we developed, however, I wonder if it will work? What do I do if there is a problem? I don’t know if I can follow a similar behavior management plan for my child at home.
Strategy: Communication with school staff is essential. At the IEP meeting, decide on the way(s) that you will be updated on your child’s progress. A communication log is a good idea. Don’t forget to ask whom you should contact when you have questions or concerns. Don’t wait until a concern becomes a big problem. Call your contact person right away. If situations arise that are difficult to resolve, you have the right to ask for an IEP review meeting and request that special education administrators be included to problem solve. Ask for a referral to a special education advocate or support group for additional information and advice.
It’s not uncommon for families to request extra help to learn the skills they need to help their children with challenging behaviors. The school can include parent training and counseling for you under related services on the IEP if the behavior is related to your child’s educational needs.
The following resources are available from the Parent Information Network Clearinghouse (PINC) which can be ordered from a Parent Information Network Specialist, or by calling 800-352-4558. Some of these documents can be downloaded from:
BR14 Social Skills Strategies for Parents and Teachers
BR18 Functional Behavioral Assessment Summary
BR22 Functional Behavioral Assessment
DR34 Strategies to Work with Students with Oppositional Defiant Disorders
DR35 Oppositional Defiant Disorder vs. Conduct Disorder
Arizona Behavioral Initiative: http://abi.ed.asu.edu
Arizona Department of Education: www.azed.gov/disciplineinitiative/resources.asp
International Positive Behavior Support: www.apbs.org/main.htm
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