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Running out of class, refusing adult directives in early elementary

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Presenting Behavior:
Please describe the behavior:
Running out of the classroom. Ignoring adult directions to return/ remaining out of the classroom despite reinforcement.

How old is the student?
Early Elementary

Where and when does the behavior occur?
Classroom in the am

Frequency and duration of behavior?
daily 20 to 75 min

What happens before and after behavior?
Often physical or verbal aggression occurs in the classroom to deny requests to complete activities. After behavior student is often encouraged to return to class or remains outside. Parent is called if student becomes a danger to himself or others.

What does the student get from engaging in the behavior?
Escape from classroom demands

What is the emotional state of the student during the behavior?
Excited, but quiet. Makes defiant comments when he does speak up, "I'm going to break this," etc.

Who is the behavior directed at?
Teacher

Is the behavior intentional or involuntary?
Intentional

Relevant health and mental health conditions?
Student was on medication for ADHD but is not on medication currently.

Student strengths and interests?
Coloring, star wars, donuts

Have you noticed any patterns?
Frequency of student leaving the classroom has increased.

Other information and comments:
Student also engages in swearing and verbal protest towards authority figures when spoken to during times of defiance and classroom refusal. Student has gone to the parking lot when upset.

Possible Interventions:
Younger students with these kinds of overt behaviors are so difficult to manage and each case really requires highly individualized intervention. Most of the young kids I've worked with like this eventually come around, but it's usually after a year or two of numerous interventions and some maturing.

With defiant kids like this, it can be helpful to divert the authority from the teacher to an object to reduce power struggles. Like having a simple set of written expectations or visual/picture expectations, which the teacher and others refer to when giving corrections or redirecting the student. For example, instead of the teacher saying, "get to work" or "sit in your seat", the teacher refers to the specific expectation on the list to avoid provoking a power struggle. The teacher would say something like, "Johnny, the list (or picture) says we need to stay in our seats" or "Johnny the picture says we need to start our work now".

For the physical and verbal aggression, you could try to get the child to use several general prescribed words or phrases and "I" statements. I am mad, I am unhappy, I am bored, etc. And/or use several pictures of facial expressions to serve the same purpose. You could increase buy-in with this method if you use actual pictures of the child's facial expressions. The child could point to the picture or put the one they are feeling on their desk or on the teacher's desk when they feel that way.

For positive reinforcement, the child has some interests that could be used as incentives. For example, with the interest in Star Wars, the child could earn 5 minutes of "Star Wars movie time" for each assignment they complete or each time they use words or point to pictures rather than acting out. These could be given as tokens or star stickers or as play money that the child buys the movie watching time with. I've got some money you can download and print on the site, which can be customized with text (PBISWorld.com School Reward Dollars.pdf).

The student could earn just one or one of several favorites. Having the option of several rewards of the student's choosing would help make the student feel they are maintaining some amount of control. It could be set up like a little store where they take their earned dollars and buy star wars movie time, star wars action figure play time, star wars computer game, star wars poster or pictures printed from the web, donut, coloring page and coloring time, etc.
If the student likes attention, perhaps having them be the leader in activities where they are having trouble, like lining up for example. They would be the line up leader and show the others how to behave well in line or how to sit well, or listen on the carpet well, etc.

With regard to academic work, the teacher could break work into small chunks with frequent breaks. Have the teacher take turns doing work items or problems, where the student does one then the teacher does one, etc. Putting less on each page for the student. For example, instead of 10 problems on their page, only 1 problem in larger print. This will increase their sense of achievement and success, hopefully increasing buy-in and work compliance. The teacher could relate assignments and work to Star Wars when possible. The student could have a special Star Wars pen or pencil they use to do only work with, not non-academic work. This may entice them to do more work to get to be able to use the pen or pencil, and may create a positive association with academics.

Along the Star Wars theme, you could emphasize the student needs to be like Luke Skywalker and work hard to become a Jedi. Jedi being those that work hard and learn academics well. This could be tied into a progress chart and reward system whereby the student earns moves or spaces forward on a Star Wars map for doing work, sitting in seat, expressing self appropriately, etc. At the end of the map they reach/earn "Jedi" status. You could have various milestones or major and minor points on the map where they earn Jedi tools, like a Star Wars light saber pen, folder, stickers, etc. When they do finally reach "Jedi" status, they get some significant reward and a new map where they continue in the same manner, but now the points are battles against Darth Homework Destroyer and such. They continue to earn their way forward and get special Jedi tools, all relating some how to academics and behavior. Rewards for moving forward on the chart could also be more abstract, like when the student reaches a certain point, they earn the Jedi Ability to treat others nicely even when the other person is not being nice.

Like I mentioned above about redirecting the authority toward a list of expectations, you could make that list of expectations relate to Star Wars and Jedi's. For example, the Jedi Code would be the expectations list that the teacher and others would refer to when redirecting and correcting the student. Like, "Suzy, the Jedi Code says good Jedi's try hard on their work and never give up".

If donuts are a big incentive for this student, you could make a progress and reward system around that too. Make a chart with a picture of a Dunkin Donuts box empty. As the student does what they are supposed to, they get to choose and place a picture of a donut on the box, like they are filling the box. When the box is full, they get a real donut. The expectations list in this case could be called the Donut Do's and would have positive statements like sitting in seat, working hard, being respectful, etc.

With the student's interest in coloring, you could develop a progress and reward system whereby they earn coloring time. The expectations list could be called the Good Colors List or something. They would earn points, tokens, stickers, etc toward coloring time. After earning enough tokens they get 5 or 10 minutes to color. After earning 5 or 10 coloring sessions, they would then get to select one of their colorings to be displayed in the hall in the display case for a week.

If you haven't tried timeouts, you could do that, just make sure they are very structured, the same every time in procedure, place, etc, and practiced with the student. If the student is running away though, you would need to restrain them (must only be done by those trained through a certified program in restraint and seclusion), which is not a great idea in school. After they run away though and you go through the whole outburst and decline with the student, you could still hold them to the time out after they have calmed, stating that before they can start earning Star Wars steps on the map or whatever, they have to do the time out. And until the time out is done, they can not start earning anything.

One other quick thought is if the student likes adult attention and there is an adult they seem to connect with in the school, they could earn time to play Star Wars with this adult. Maybe you could keep a couple Star Wars light sabers with that adult and the two play with those for 5 minutes. this could serve as a mentorship where the adult models the "Jedi code" and encourages the student to follow the code to be a good Jedi, instructing the student how to say nice words, say “no” appropriately, listen to directions, start work right away, not hit others, etc.

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