3 Common Examples of Classroom Behavior and How to Make a Lasting Impact: Coping Skills & Emotional Intelligence

Brief examples of behavioral intervention techniques, strategies, and interventions.

 Scenario #1:

Teacher report: Behavioral concerns include the inability to exhibit self-control and appropriate coping skills in stressful situations, inability to accept and use certain words in conversation and the learned dependence of classroom assistant during classroom work (worksheets, quizzes, etc.).

Behavioral Concern: Inability to exhibit self-control and coping skills in stressful situations.

Overview: Typically, XXX spirals down a path of negative talking, throwing himself around on the floor, hitting the floor, licking materials, spitting, kicking, pinching, hitting, screaming and crying.  Once he becomes frustrated, XXX compensates by scrolling through a group of behaviors he understands are inappropriate.  He continues to scroll through the inappropriate behaviors no matter if they are ignored or reinforced (reprimanded); however, in the attention condition (he is reprimanded) XXX appeared to be less stressed and the scrolling extinguished earlier than if ignored.  The amount of time he needs to regroup always varies depending on his level of frustration. XXX will typically continue using negative statements (“The robo-chimp smashed the stupid building with his fist.”) or choose to converse about negative topics (“Would you like it if a bird flew into a window and died?”) after he appears to be calm and collected.  Often an episode will leave him stressed well after a resolution has been made.  This is seen both at home and at school.

Plan: I have devised a cognitive-behavioral program that will allow XXX to learn self-monitoring and coping skills.  Initially, XXX will understand the progression of emotion from a stressful situation to anger.  We will define emotions visually, verbally and by association.  I will implement protocols that teach the body’s reaction to stressful situations and how to use effective self-monitoring techniques.  XXX will participate in mindfulness and self-talking exercises.  Social stories, role-playing, visual flowcharts of emotion, and behavioral charts will be used.   I do not expect XXX to generalize these learned coping skills without further teaching in various environments.  We should observe changes in our therapy sessions within a 2 week period and consistent, positive behavioral changes in the home environment within a 4 week period.  Rules and guidelines of the intervention techniques will be shared with his team as we continue to tailor a program to meet XXX specific needs.

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Intervention:  There are many possible ways to alter triggering antecedents in order to avoid problem behaviors.  Changes should be based on behavioral observation, data collection and functional behavioral assessment.  The following list summarizes some of the most widely used, school-based, antecedent alterations:

Change the WHO:

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.png Change staffing – reduce the number of staff that work with the student or look at alternating staff at appropriate times during the school day

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.png Change grouping – regroup the student with a different set of students (fewer or more peers)

Change the WHAT:

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngMake instructional activities more functional and change the level of difficulty (ask if a task is too difficult or easy)

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngProvide a choice of activity or a choice of order to complete the tasks

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngPrompt correct responses and positive behaviors before the student has a chance to make mistakes

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngActivities should be structures and concrete – Provide models of the completed activity, utilize manipulatives and objects that the student may be more likely to interact with, and define the beginning and end of a project (e.g. “we will do 3 and then take a break”).

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngUtilize visuals – VISUALS, VISUALS, VISUALS

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngProvide more encouragement or a different type of encouragement (e.g. more or less proximity,  more emphasis on self-evaluation)

Change the WHEN:

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngCommunicate changes in the routine {e.g. verbally, pictures, symbols, auditory countdown, AAC device (high tech/low tech), ASL}

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngUtilize the Premack Principle – Balance difficult and easy tasks by alternating preferred and unpreferred assignments.

Change the WHERE:

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngAlter the seating arrangement or the location of instruction.

cropped-handdrawn-27-07-2017_12h24m56s3.pngPrepare the student for entering problem environments by utilizing visual schedules, social stories, sensory supports and an exit plan.

Hokey Pokey

Other Common Behavioral Supports

After exhausting all common behavioral changes, move to more specific interventions such as teaching replacement behaviors and self-control strategies.  Ask questions to help determine a starting point.  For example, can the student identify emotional states in himself/herself vs. others?  If not, then this is a good starting place.

Example intervention for identifying emotional states

Emotions Scrapbook

Allow XXX to make a scrapbook for each emotion.  For example, if the emotion is happiness, XXX may paste pictures of objects XXX enjoys, depictions of happy characters or people (family members), magazine advertisements depicting a food he enjoys, pictures of enjoyable actions or events… It is important to explore the sensations associated with the feeling, such as aromas, tastes and textures.  For example, XXX may choose to paste a photo of cookies baking (aroma) or a big fluffy teddy bear (texture).  It is important to discuss the concept (sensations and there relationship to feelings) while XXX is pasting the photos in the scrapbook.  The instructor will need to have a variety of magazine clippings (precut) when introducing the emotions scrapbook.  Initially, you will give XXX a choice between two very different items.  For example, give him a choice between a picture of a train and a picture of a wheelbarrow.  Ask XXX which one of the two pictures would make him happy.  Of course, he is going to choose the train over the wheelbarrow.  The instructor will want to talk to XXX about why he made the choice he did.  Next, make the choices more similar and discuss the concept of happiest. In the next phase, allow XXX to flip through a magazine and cut the photos out on his own.  This will allow the instructor to broaden the discussion of the emotion.

Visual-EYES Intensity of Emotions 

The instructor will need to collect photos depicting the various intensities of an emotion.  For example, if you are targeting anger you will need photos depicting the various intensities of anger: annoyed, frustrated, mad, angry, rage.  Place the photos on the table in front of XXX and have him put them in order (from least intense to most intense).  This will be very challenging for him; therefore, it is important to make suggestions and point out different types of body language.  The instructor will need to use different photos each time the protocol is practiced in order to generalize the skill.


Use a visual depiction or drawing of a thermometer in order to discuss the perceptions of emotional states.  This protocol initially works on the theory of mind concepts and then it is used to gauge how XXX would feel in certain situations.  Use different events or scenarios that would occur in a school or home setting in order to introduce the thermometer.  Label the thermometer to depict different levels of the emotion (annoyed, frustrated, mad, angry, rage).  The instructor will read the scenario to XXX and he will use the thermometer to indicate the intensity of the emotion felt by the individual in the story.  He may point to an intensity level or color the thermometer to indicate a certain intensity level.  The instructor will discuss his choice and make suggestions if his interpretation is off the mark. Use the thermometer to practice different intensity levels of various emotions.  After XXX can appropriately determine how another individual may react in a certain situation, relate the scenarios to him.  Use past experiences or behavioral episodes and allow XXX to indicate the level of frustration he felt in the situation.

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Scenario #2

Behavioral Concern: The inability to accept and use certain words in conversation.

Overview: XXX will often correct peers and adults if they use a word in conversation that he does not like such as shorts (makes him think of short red shorts), red (makes him think of blood), good (makes him think of sixties school children), calm (makes him think of pink and that is a sissy color), or hippopotamus (would rather say hippo).  Although XXX asks politely, “Could you say…?”  it has become a control issue and typically ends in an argument or tantrum if the individual refuses to use the word he prefers.  He seems to be frequently adding new words to his list of words he does not like.

Plan: In order to address this control issue, I have devised simple cognitive-behavioral protocols that will allow XXX to make new associations.  We will discuss negative thinking (his negative associations with words) and positive thinking (making new mental pictures) and how they relate to his frustration of using a particular word.  It is important for XXX to make new associations with all of the words (relate them to his senses in a positive manner), verbally say them, use them in conversation, except there use in conversation and not allow them to cause him stress.  Rules and guidelines of the intervention techniques will be shared with his Aide as we continue to tailor a program to meet XXX specific needs.

Scenario #3

Behavioral Concern: The learned dependence of his Aide during classroom work (worksheets, quizzes, etc.).

Overview: It is important that we consider “Asperger Time” when devising and modifying a curriculum for XXX.  Children and adolescents diagnosed with AS tend to have an internal clock that differs from that of most of their same-age peers.  Students diagnosed with AS often need additional time to complete assignments, gather materials, and orient themselves during transitions.  XXX morning is packed with seat work:

Spelling 8-8:10

Reading 8:10-9:15

Break 9:15-9:30

Math 9:30-10

Computer 10-10:35

Social St. 10:20-11

English 11-11:40

However, I feel the break and computer lab times are incorporated well into XXX schedule.  These are nice times for him to regroup.  XXX doesn’t typically complete his seat work during the morning; however, the classroom is given around 20 minutes of homework time in the afternoon.  XXX usually completes most of his homework during this time with the help of his Aide. Currently, XXX has a digital timer on his desk in order to help him keep track of the amount of time he has per activity.  However, he manipulates the timer to his advantage by stopping and staring it as he pleases.  At this point, the timer is not an effective device.  His seat work has also been modified by using highlighted cues and decreasing the number of problems he must complete.  Nevertheless, XXX continues to operate on AS time and has trouble attending to his seat work.  On average, XXX typically completes 4-5 problems or worksheet questions within 15 minutes.  Yes, XXX should take longer than his peers to complete his work; however, he is capable of completing tasks in a timely manner and without the constant assistance of his Aide.

Plan: It is important to devise a detailed written schedule to be used on a daily basis.  The schedule should be attached to the top of XXX desk and should include his daily activities including detailed instructions on seatwork assignments.  There should be columns (with checkboxes) titled Completed, Need to Complete, and Homework.  XXX will be prompted to use his schedule rather than rely on his Aide for information.  His Aide and the classroom teacher will need to introduce the schedule to him and prompt its use for one week.  XXX will need initial prompts (verbal then fade to gestural cues) to check his schedule and place a check mark in the appropriate boxes accordingly.  The goal is for the schedule to take the place of his Aide during seatwork activities and promote independence.

A motivation system should be put in place that would allow XXX to earn points or play money that he could eventually cash in to receive rewards such as extra computer time.  Currently, XXX has no motivation to complete his seat work.  After establishing a motivation system, XXX should be introduced to cost response and consequences if he does not perform in a timely manner.  For example, XXX may have more homework a few days in order to establish the cost of not completing his work during class time.

Other suggestions for school:

1.  I would like to see XXX take tests and quizzes orally in order to alleviate the stress of writing and promote better grades.

2.  I would suggest teaching typing skills and allowing XXX to complete writing assignments on the computer as his typing skills improve.

3.  Modify all short answer questions into true/false or multiple choice questions.



Favorite books for self-control:

My Mouth Is Volcano – by Julia Cook

All of Louis thoughts are very important to him. In fact, his thoughts are so important to him that when he has something to say, his words begin to wiggle, and then they do the jiggle, then his tongue pushes all of his important words up against his teeth and he erupts, or interrupts others. His mouth is a volcano! My Mouth Is A Volcano takes an empathetic approach to the habit of interrupting and teaches children a witty technique to capture their rambunctious thoughts and words for expression at an appropriate time. Told from Louis’ perspective, this story provides parents, teachers, and counselors with an entertaining way to teach children the value of respecting others by listening and waiting for their turn to speak.

That Rule Doesn’t Apply To Me! – by Julia Cook

Noodle is having a rough couple of days. The rules keep getting in the way of his fun! Rules for this and rules for that. There are so many rules – too many rules! Rules stink! And Noodle struggles because he doesn’t think many of them actually apply to HIM! Can’t he just have a rule-free day? Author Julia Cook’s newest book in the Responsible Me! series will have readers in stitches as Noodle describes the variety of rules he deals with daily. Will Noodle’s mother and teacher convince him that rules are meant to help, not harm, him?

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