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Behaviour. Working with students who have behavioural exceptionalities, AD/HD and the 3 D’s (Defiance, Disengagement, & Dishonesty). Behaviour is a BIG Topic!. The purpose of this presentation is:

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Working with students who have behavioural exceptionalities, AD/HD and the 3 D’s (Defiance, Disengagement, & Dishonesty)

Behaviour is a big topic

Behaviour is a BIG Topic!

  • The purpose of this presentation is:

    • to provide some definitions of behavioural exceptionalities and negative behaviours observed in the classroom;

    • to briefly outline possible reasons for behaviour;

    • to suggest strategies that can be used within the classroom and school to help our students be successful; and

    • to guide you towards some useful resources.

Behavioural exceptionality

Behavioural Exceptionality

  • The Ontario Ministry of Education defines behaviour as, “A learning disorder characterized by specific behaviour problems over such a period of time, and to such a marked degree, and of such a nature, as to adversely affect educational performance, and that may be accompanied by one or more of the following:

    • an inability to build or to maintain interpersonal relationships;

    • excessive fears or anxieties;

    • a tendency to compulsive reaction;

    • an inability to learn that cannot be traced to intellectual, sensory, or other health factors, or any combination thereof.”

      (ETFO - Special Education Handbook, A Practical Guide for All Teachers, 2007, p. 10.)

What do the labels mean

What do the Labels Mean?


  • student has feeling of worry or unease; if feelings interfere with daily activities then may be an anxiety disorder; there are several types:

  • separation anxiety,

  • generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) kids with GAD are often the students who are ‘perfectionists’ and/or feel a need for approval,

  • social phobia (prevalent in teenagers) students with this phobia often avoid social situations, speaking in class, have low self-esteem, may be shy & self-conscious, get embarrassed easily,

  • panic disorder – severe anxiety disorder which may lead the child to believe that something terrible is going to happen to them if they leave the house or go outside (debilitating)

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) students with OCD have unreasonable thoughts that they cannot control and that may leave them performing repetitive actions over and over again to try and help them get rid of the thoughts, this compulsive behaviour may be such that these kids are unable to live a normal life

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) not common in children however may be seen in kids who have been abused or who have been through other very difficult/traumatic experiences (children from refugee camps, war zones, etc),

  • selective mutism a form of anxiety where a student may not be able to speak in certain social situations due to anxious feelings


AD/HD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)

student is unable to sustain attention (age-appropriate) leading to incomplete work as student cannot stay on task/focus for long

impulsivity is observed – actions do not take into consideration consequences, repetitive behaviour is seen as student doesn’t learn from previous experience

hyperactivity – actions are often non-purposeful and inappropriate (age)


little interaction with peers (faders)

sad demeanour

academically stagnant

sleep deprived

feel worthless/hopeless


CD (Conduct Disorder)

  • antisocial

  • failure to follow rules @ home and school

  • explosive behaviour (meltdowns, destruction of property)

  • Deceitful

    ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)

  • oppositional, negative, hostile behaviour to authority

  • may see explosive behaviour (meltdowns, aggression aimed @ peers)

  • intentionally annoying

  • similar, yet less severe to behaviours seen with CD students

    * must be medically diagnosed; behaviour needs to be repetitive and extreme over a period of at least 6 months; behaviour that is outside the ‘normal’ limits

Possible reasons for behaviour

Possible Reasons for Behaviour

  • Poor nutrition (hungry kids)

  • Lack of sleep (tired)

  • Child’s temperament

  • Cultural patterns (relationships within family, upbringing)

  • Immediate events (what happened on the way to school?)

  • Abuse

  • Prenatal substance abuse

  • Lack of social skills

  • Learning difficulties/lack of academic skills

  • Syndromes (ASD, FAS)

Or as margaret berry wilson states in her book teasing tattling defiance and more 2013

Or as Margaret Berry Wilson states in her book, Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More…(2013),

Misbehaviour is usually the result of one or more

of these 5 main influences:

  • Basic needs

  • Social-emotional needs

  • Lack of social-emotional skills

  • Lack of academic skills, and

  • Developmental factors

    (Wilson, 2013, p. 4)

Strategies to help ourselves and our students

Strategies to Help Ourselves and Our Students

  • Manage the environment

  • Instructional – simple & concise

  • Organization – period & day

  • Classroom procedures & routines

  • Build momentum along with motivation

  • Note improvements

Effective teaching respect

Effective Teaching = Respect

Effective teaching

Effective Teaching

  • Welcoming & greeting students at the door

  • Establishing consistent routines for entering class and beginning period

  • Establishing seating plan & makes changes if/when necessary

  • High visibility & interaction outside the classroom (e.g. any events in which their student(s) is/are involved; running extra-curricular)

  • Using ‘empty envelope’ or colour coded card technique (or the like) to send student who requires it, on a necessary body-break (“antiseptic-bouncing”)

  • Allows for redemption of demerits (checks for negative behaviour can be worked off)

  • Proximity and circulation, not sitting/standing in one place

  • Avoids sarcastic remarks and yelling (allows for maintenance of student dignity)

  • Uses consequences that suit the behaviour (does not use math or the like as punishment)

  • Avoids arguments and confrontation in front of peers

  • Has high expectations for all students (discretely differentiates & modifies as needed)

  • Uses SMART goals (short-term & achievable key to seeing personal success)

  • Has ‘physical evidence’ rewards – personal progress charts, accumulated notes, proof that their time at school is producing positive results (consequences)



In order for a student’s behaviour to change, they must be in a safe place where they feel valued and respected. This in turn will lead to the student respecting others and this is key if they are ever to modify their behaviour.

Change takes time and it won’t be without setbacks. Try and catch all students doing good things and praise them for the good things. Hopefully more good behaviour than bad behaviour will be the result!

Academic learning front center

“Some teachers, they don’t get much work ready for us ‘cause they thing we don’t care about nothin’ right? And they think we don’t notice. But how many crossword puzzles do they think we gotta do before we figure it out, right? Don’t know why they do that. I mean, we’re in school, so why not give us schoolwork? But that’s not everybody, now. You take Mrs. P…. Now in her class do we ever have to put out. I mean, she’s got work and everything every day! Like there’s always stuff on the board for us, and then we get a lesson-thing. And then more work. And we got this huge ton of notes!

What’s cool is nobody messes around in Mrs. P.’s class. And like, it’s not just that she’s mean – like – it’s like you’re really doin’ something in that class, man. It’s – it’s like you’re learning something!”

Fergie S., aged 15, on audio tape.

(Mrs. P. was in her first year of teaching)

(Bennett, Dworet, Weber. Special Education in Ontario Schools Sixth Edition. 2008, p.129)

Academic Learning Front & Center



  • Bennett. S., Dworet. D., Weber. K. (2008) Special Education in Ontario Schools, 6th Edition. Highland Press. Toronto, ON.

  • Berry Wilson. M. (2013) Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More…Positive Approaches to 10 Common Classroom Behaviors. Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc. Turners Falls, MA.

  • Dean. C.B., Hubbell. E.R., Pitler. H., Stone. B. (2012) Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd Edition. McREL. Danvers, MA.

  • ETFO (2007) Special Education Handbook, A Practical Guide for All Teachers. ETFO. Toronto, ON.

  • Moorish. R.G. (2004) With All Due Respect, Keys for Building Effective School Discipline. Woodstream Publishing. Fonthill, ON.

  • Winebrenner. S. (1996) Teaching Kids with Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom, Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Challenge & Motivate Struggling Students. Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. Minneapolis, MN.

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