Behavior is Communication

Behavior is Communication

Behavior is Communication. You might have heard this before…and it’s true!

“A child is not GIVING you a hard time, they are HAVING a hard time.” is a quote I once saw, but I don’t know who the original author is. It speaks brilliantly to why a child is doing what they are doing.  They are trying to communicate something, but are having difficulty.  It’s our job as educators to help figure out what our students are trying to communicate and what might be a cause for the behavior.  Helping your students get their needs met through their preferred method of communication will also help improve unexpected behaviors.  (See my post about Expected and Unexpected Behaviors).
Behaviors have different functions or meanings.  There are four main functions of behavior.
The functions of behavior include:  Escape/Avoidance, Attention, Obtain Something, or Reinforcement.  Let’s get a little bit into what each of these functions of behavior mean. I’ll get into each function further in a future post about Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA).
The function of Escape or Avoidance behaviors is for the student to avoid or escape something. Often the escape/avoidance behaviors occur when students are presented with a non-preferred activity or assignment.
The function of an Attention behavior is simply that…to gain attention. This may mean that the child is seeking attention in either a positive or a negative way. To the attention seeking children, attention is attention and whether it is positive or negative attention, they are still getting their needs met by gaining attention. 
Obtain Something
The function of this type of behavior is that the child is trying to get access to something by displaying a behavior. Typically it is something tangible that they are trying to get; maybe a specific toy or snack.
The function of this behavior is that the child is trying to have their sensory needs met. There are a variety of sensory needs that a child may need. They could either be sensory seeking or sensory avoiding. 
In each of these functions of behavior, your students are trying to communicate to you and may not have the language yet to tell you what they need. Here’s a few tips to help you decode the behaviors your students are trying to communicate.
  • Try using a “First/Then” board. The idea of a First/Then board is to have the child complete the task first and then they get the reward, which isa  pre-determined reward for a pre-determined amount of time. I also recommend using a visual timer for the reinforcer. If you need a First/Then board, you can see the one I’ve created here in both English and Spanish.
  • Try using a Token Economy. Students earn a pre-determined amount of tokens to earn a pre-determined reinforcer. Give your students a choice that they pick and are “working for”. We work for our paychecks, they want to work for something too! Each time you “catch” them doing something you want them to do (working, following directions, etc.) give them a token and when they earn all of their tokens, they get their reinforcer. Again, use a visual timer for the time they are allowed to use their reinforcer. If you need a Token Economy set up system, you can get mine here as well.
  • Teaching students how to take a break. They will need a break, especially if they are trying to avoid a task or become easily overwhelmed by work. I use break cards to help my students visually see how many breaks that they can take during a certain time. It also serves as a visual to help remind them to ask for a break. You can get my break cards here.
  • Visuals. Always use visuals! Visuals speak louder than words. Sometimes your words can be an auditory overload for your students and using a visual may get them to do what they need to do without you having to speak. I always keep the most used visuals on a key ring on my lanyard so that you are able to give visual directions to your students wherever you are. This works great!
  • Prep for your Transitions. Sometimes the transition time is the most difficult because though you know it’s coming, your students don’t always know. Prep your students by reminding them of upcoming transitions, whether it will be from a preferred to a non-preferred activity or walking in the hallway to lunch. Using a visual timer is great for this too. You may also want to use a visual schedule and social stories. You can see the visual schedule I have here.
  • Sensory diet. Providing a student with sensory needs a specified sensory diet will help them to meet their needs. You may teach replacement behaviors for certain sensory seeking behaviors as well.
Behavior is communication. It seems plain and simple to say.  However, it may not always feel plain and simple when you’re trying to figure it out. I hope this post has helped you think about some behaviors in your classroom and how you can help figure out what your student(s) might be in need of. Stay tuned for additional posts about behavior, FBAs, etc. 

The ULTIMATE Special Education Teacher Binder!

Are you looking for a way to get and stay organized in your special education classroom? 

Look no further! This is the Ultimate Special Education Teacher Binder for Organization! This IEP binder is a great tool for helping to get you organized and keep you organized all year…and for many years to come! This is everything you need to keep all of your special education papers, lesson plans, IEPs, notes, calendar, and so much more…all in one place.

I am ALL about organization. Not only is it important to have your paperwork organized in one place, but it is important for our students to see that we utilize organizational tools as well. I like to have the resources I need in an easily accessible place. This special education binder has dividers that are labeled with everything you’ll need to be organized in your special education classroom. It also has matching tabs for 13 different important areas in a special education classroom. If you haven’t used a special education teacher binder before, then you need to use one! I highly recommend it!

Sections included in the Binder:

  • Binder Covers
  • Binder Tabs
  • IEP at a Glance
  • IEP Meetings
  • Notes
  • IEPs
  • Student Info
  • Substitute Info
  • Parent Contact
  • Accommodations
  • Behavior Plans
  • Extra Info
  • Student Data
  • Lesson Plans
  • Calendars

This low-prep special education teacher binder is just the organizational tool you’ve been waiting for! It will save you a ton of time by having everything you need in one place. I hope it helps keep you as organized as it keeps me! Grab your copy by clicking here: Special Education Teacher Binder

Summer ESY Checklists for Special Education

Summer ESY Checklist

Summer is coming and that means you will have students who will qualify to attend ESY. In the field of special education, ESY stands for Extended School Year and it applies to students who would have a significant regression in one or more of 4 categories if they were not to remain working on their goals during ESY. (ESY post with more info coming soon!)

These summer ESY checklists for special education are designed to help you help your students and prepare for ESY. There are two different checklists included in this resource. One ESY checklist is for the teacher or service provider that is “sending” the student to ESY summer session. The other ESY checklist is for the students’ ESY folders. The checklists contain all of the information you will need to account for with each student who will be attending ESY and make sure that they are prepared to maximize learning.

These special education checklists for ESY summer session are available for FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can click here to visit my shop and get your copy!

Asking for Help – Independent Functioning Skills

Everyone needs help sometimes and that’s okay. Asking for help can be challenging for our students with special needs. Learning to ask for help is a skill that sometimes needs to be taught. You might have students who need help and don’t ask for help. They may continue to work and get the answers wrong or they may just sit there and look around because they don’t know how to answer the questions. They may even try to avoid or escape the tasks. None of these are solutions to helping your students, but they may not know that. It’s our job, and it’s often an IEP goal for students to learn to ask for help when they need it.

Here’s how I teach students to ask for help. VISUALS! Using a visual reminder helps students become more independent in asking for help when they need it.

I use a two sided card. The green side says “I can work on my own.” The red side says “I need help.” Having these visual reminders encourages students to ask for help and also lets the teacher know when they are able to work independently. The students can either hold up the card showing the side that says they need help OR if your students are becoming more independent at asking (or if you have students who don’t like to look like they’re asking for help) then they can just flip the card and the teacher will see it on red when walking or scanning the room.

If you want these Help Cards for your students, you can click here or on the image above to sign up to get them in your inbox. I hope these help your students as much as they have helped mine!

independent functioning autism help cards

Promoting Autism Acceptance

April is Autism Acceptance Month. Though, acceptance of neurodiversity should be every month.

Here are some ways you can help promote Autism Acceptance in your school:

  1. Go on the morning announcements (or have students go on the morning announcements) and share information about Autism.
  2. Hang posters and facts/myth busters around your campus.
  3. Host a Autism Acceptance walk-a-thon or a Sensory Day.
  4. Have dress up days with different meanings for what students are wearing, all related to Autism Acceptance.
  5. TEACH KINDNESS. I always incorporate kindness in general when I am teaching about and spreading Autism Acceptance. The fact of the matter is that if you are constantly promoting being kind to everyone, regardless of differences, then students learn to accept neurodiversity as well.
  6. Have an Autism Acceptance poster or door contest. Students can share what they know about Autism and/or what they can do to be kind to those with Autism.
  7. Start a peer buddy program where students can sign up to be paired with students with Autism. They spend time together, participate in fun activities, and form meaningful friendships.

Transitioning Back to School After Winter Break

Episode 2 of the Special Education Clubhouse Podcast is now available.

We all know that transitions, large or small, can be difficult for our students with disabilities. That’s why I wrote this podcast. This episode gives reminders of procedures, routines and expectations to refresh with your class when returning from Winter Break, or really any long break off from school.

You can listen to the podcast wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts – Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music.

Let me know if you enjoy the episode by leaving a rating or dropping a comment! If there’s any Special Education topics that you’d like to see discussed on future podcast episodes, please email me at specialeducationclubhouse@theteachingzoodesigns

Podcast Launch

I am so excited to share this big news with you! The Special Education Clubhouse Podcast has officially launched today! It is available wherever you enjoy listening to your podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and iHeart Radio. I will be releasing new episodes on Mondays to help give tips, ideas and advice to start your week off right!

The first episode is an introduction podcast that lets you know a little about me and what the Special Education Clubhouse Podcast will be about. I have so many topics planned for you in the weeks to come. If you have anything you’d love to hear on the podcast, please email me at specialeducationclubhouse@gmail.com

What is an IEP (Part 2)

What is an IEP? Part 2
    If you’re reading this post, I hope you’ve read Part 1 of “What is an IEP” and that you’ve found it helpful! In part 2, we’ll look at additional sections of an IEP and discuss what they include.
Supplementary Aides/Accommodations
On this section of the IEP, this is where it is documented that a student can receive (and MUST legally receive) the agreed upon accommodations. Accommodations are provided in a variety of categories: Timing, Scheduling, Setting, Presentation.
  • Timing – Does the student need additional time or breaks; if so, how much? (frequent breaks, time and a half, twice the allotted amount of time, more than twice the allotted amount time, etc.)
  • Scheduling – Does the student test better during certain times of the day?
  • Setting – Does the student require testing in a particular setting or accommodated setting? (Familiar place, familiar person, reduced stimuli)
  • Presentation – Does the student require oral presentation of test directions, prompts, etc.?
Special Considerations
This section of an IEP includes a variety of items that are important to note. This section may vary depending on what IEP system your school district uses.
In my district, the Special Considerations included are:
  • Healthcare Needs – Document medical information in this section.
  • Transportation Needs – If the student is eligible for transportation, you will need to add what types of services they need during transportation and provide rationale for determining the transportation needs (do they need a bus attendant, car seat, seat belt, etc. and document why)
  • Limited English Proficiency Needs – If English is not the first language of the student, this is where you will include this information.
  • Assistive Technology Needs – This may include communication devices or adaptive tools (paper, seating, writing utensils, etc).
  • Communication Needs – Does the student receive speech or language services or have any other needs to address for their communication? This is where we document all needs in this area.
  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing – If a student is deaf or hearing impaired, this area will include information and needs of the student relating to hearing.
  • Blind or Visual Impairment – If a student is blind or visually impaired, this area will include information and needs of the student related to vision.
  • Behavior Needs – This is where we document all needs for behavior, which may include information about any functional behavioral assessments (FBA), Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP/PBIP) or any crisis management information.
Coming up in another post – Part 3 in the “What is an IEP?” series. Stay tuned!
Need a condensed list of acronyms used in special education? Sign up for the mailing list and receive your copy directly in your inbox!

Thanksgiving Social Story

Thanksgiving is a time of being grateful and spending time with family. It can also be a time that may be new or bring uncertain feelings to our students and children with autism or other special needs. They may not know what to expect. Even though you might explain it to them, it can still be difficult for them to understand. Verbal explanations are not always the best way to help our students. Social stories are a fantastic way to help our students learn to navigate through difficult situations before they happen. It’s a way to prepare them for new situations that will help make it more comfortable for them.
I created this Thanksgiving Social Story to explain about Thanksgiving and walk through what it is and the events that happen. It comes in multiple options to choose what works best for your students. There’s a large print (8.5 x 11) in both color and black/white. The black and white versions are great to have students create their own book and color it to suit them, as they are reading and learning. The large print is also great if you are using it on a screen or projecting it. It also comes with two different style 1/2 sheet stories. Both also come in color or in black and white. Lastly, they come in a digital Boom Card version that you can use with Boom Learning and assign the story for your students, that can then take it with them on their tablets.
Thanksgiving Social Story
Thanksgiving Social Story
I hope that you find this Thanksgiving Social Story useful for your children or your students. Social Stories work best when pre-taught prior to the situation. I have a variety of Social Stories available and am constantly creating more as needs arise. If you have a need and you don’t see a Social Story available for that situation in my store, please email me and I’d be happy to create it!
Happy Thanksgiving!

What is an I.E.P.?

What is an IEP
Part 1
    What is an IEP? If you’re reading this post, you may be a special education teacher, a general education teacher with students who have I.E.P.s in your class, or a parent of a student with an I.E.P.  Hopefully after you’re finished reading this post, I’ll be able to help answer some of your questions.
    Let’s start with what I.E.P. stands for.  It is an acronym that stands for Individualized Education Plan.  An I.E.P. is just that – a plan that has been created to address a student’s individual needs and what can be put in place to help that child be successful.  There are many components to an IEP and I will break those down in separate posts in order to make sure I cover each one.
A new IEP is completed for each eligible student at lease once annually. IEPs are dated by calendar year, not school year. A new IEP is required to be updated at least once per calendar year. This is known as an Annual IEP Meeting. Any IEP meetings that happen in between one annual IEP and the next annual IEP are known as Interim IEP Meetings. Anyone on the IEP team can request an Interim IEP Meeting.
IEP Team
The child’s IEP team consists of:
  1. The child’s parent/guardian.
  2. The Local Education Agency Representative (LEA – another acronym)
  3. The child’s general education teacher.
  4. The child’s special education teacher.
  5. An evaluation specialist (School Psychologist, ESE Teacher, Service Provider).
  6. Any other service or related service provider.
The service providers for a child can be any or all of the following:
  • A Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP)
  • An Occupational Therapist (OT)
  • A Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Vision Impaired Teacher
  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing Teacher
  • ESE Teacher/Support Facilitator
  • ESE Counselor
  • Gifted Teacher (for twice exceptional or dual exceptional students)
There are four domains for capturing a student’s Present Levels of Performance on an IEP.  Present Level of Performance is also known as PLP (another IEP acronym).  The four domains are: Curriculum and Instruction, Social/Emotional Behavior, Independent Functioning, and Communication.  Within these domains, the student’s teacher(s) and service provider(s) input important information regarding what the student can do presently and is not yet able to do and would benefit from additional instruction with.  It is their current level of functioning in each particular domain. The information included in the four domains helps the providers to develop quality IEP goals for the student. (See separate post on developing quality IEP goals).
Parent Input
There is also a section on an IEP that addresses Parent Input. Having parent input is crucial to include on an IEP.  It provides parents an opportunity to express to the team what they see as their child’s strengths and areas of weakness. They can also include any special interests that their child has, as well as any goals that they have for their child’s educational needs. Parent input can help the team to see what the parent sees when they are with the child at home. School-based providers/teachers only get to see how the child performs at school, but there is another side of the child to see from the parent’s perspective. This can also help the team to develop goals, services, and accommodations for the child.
I know that’s a lot of information to take in, so stay tuned for Part 2. If you want to learn the acronyms used in special education, join my mailing list to receive the free Special Education Acronyms list.

Halloween Write the Room

Halloween Write the Room Activities

My students have always absolutely loved using write the room activities! The truth is, I love them too! It gives our students the much-needed opportunities to get up and move around while they’re learning. They get to be “word detectives” and look around for the words and then write them on their papers. It helps them build vocabulary too! I have made these for just about every theme or topic you can think of. I usually have students use this as a center activity for Literacy centers. This Halloween Write the Room set is perfect for Halloween classroom festivities or Fall Centers. 

The great thing too is that you can differentiate this activity depending on your students’ needs. I’ve included different types of recording sheets for your students to write their words. One with pictures and words to trace, then one with just the pictures to find, match, and write on their own. Then, to extend it, there’s also a variety of writing sheets included. Your students can build their writing ability by using one of these writing extenders to draw, and/or write about the words. For this activity, they can write a cute Halloween story and then share it with the class! 

Do you use write the room activities with your students? If so, do they like them?

Never tried it out, but want to? Grab this set here!

Tag me @teachingzoo using this set in your classroom and it just might be featured on my Facebook and Instagram pages!

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