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Supporting Young Children with Challenging Behavior. 2010-2011 Special Education Paraprofessional Training Series . December 8, 2010 Dr. De Voka Gordon.

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supporting young children with challenging behavior

Supporting Young Children with Challenging Behavior

2010-2011 Special Education Paraprofessional Training Series

December 8, 2010

Dr. De Voka Gordon

pattan s mission
The mission of the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) is to support the efforts and initiatives of the Bureau of Special Education, and to build the capacity of local educational agencies to serve students who receive special education services.PaTTAN’s Mission
pde s commitment to least restrictive environment lre
Our goal for each child is to ensure Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams begin with the general education setting with the use of supplementary aids and services before considering a more restrictive environment.PDE’s Commitment to Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

District, IU, Preschool Agency Policy

Your local district or agency’s policies regarding paraprofessional job descriptions, duties, and responsibilities provide the final word!

  • Define what is meant by an effective workforce
  • Examine attitudes toward challenging behavior
  • Discuss how to support nurturing and responsive relationships
  • View high quality supportive environments
  • Develop targeted social emotional supports for young children
learner objectives
Learner Objectives

Participants will:

  • Describe a framework for addressing social emotional development and challenging behavior.
  • Identify strategies to promote positive behavior practices.
  • Identify effective leadership strategies for paraprofessionals.
  • Collaborate with appropriate partners to develop strategies for improving children’s social emotional and behavioral outcomes.
effective workforce
Effective Workforce

Behavior that promotes and

sustains the use of positive behavior practices.

How does this connect to your professional responsibilities?


Managing Personal Stress: Thought Control

Upsetting Thoughts

“That child is a monster.

This is getting ridiculous.

He’ll never change.”

“I’m sick of putting out fires!”

Calming Thoughts

“This child is testing to see

where the limits are.

My job is to stay calm and help

him learn better ways to behave.”

“I can handle this. I am in control.

They have just learned some powerful

ways to get control. I will

teach them more appropriate

ways to behave.”


Examining Our Attitudes About

Challenging Behaviors


  • What behaviors push your buttons?
  • How do these behaviors make you feel?
  • How does this impact your relationship with a child and his/her family?

Managing Personal Stress: Thought Control

Calming Thoughts

“I feel undervalued right now –

I need to seek support from

my peers and supervisor.”

“Having her in my class is going to

be a wonderful Professional

Development experience.”

Upsetting Thought

“I wonder if the corner grocery

is hiring?”

“He ruins everything!

This is going to be the worst

year of my career.”


Key Social Emotional Skills Children

Need as They Enter School

  • Confidence.
  • Capacity to develop good relationships with peers and adults.
  • Concentration and persistence on challenging tasks.
  • Ability to effectively communicate emotions.
  • Ability to listen to instructions and be attentive.
  • Ability to solve social problems.
  • What do children do when they don’t have each of these skills?

Key Social Emotional Skills Children

Need as They Enter School

  • When children do not have these skills, they often exhibit challenging behaviors
  • We must focus on TEACHING the skills!
Children identified as hard to manage at ages 3-4 have higher probability (50:50) of continuing to have difficulties into adolescence.

Campbell & Ewing, 1990; Egeland et al., 1990; Fischer, Rolf, Hasazi, & Cummings, 1984



Some Basic Assumptions

  • Challenging behavior usually has a message- I am bored, I am sad, you hurt my feelings, I need some attention.
  • Children often use challenging behavior when they don’t have the social or communication skills they need to engage in more appropriate interactions.
  • Behavior that persists over time is usually working for the child.
  • We need to focus on teaching children what to do in place of the challenging behavior.

Preschool children are three times more likely to be “expelled” than children in grades K-12(Gilliam, 2005)


Promoting Children’s Success

  • Create an environment where EVERY child feels good about coming to school.
  • Design an environment that promotes child engagement.
  • Focus on teaching children what To Do!
  • Teach expectations and routines.
  • Teach skills that children can use in place of challenging behaviors.
nurturing and responsive relationships
Nurturing and Responsive Relationships

Supportive relationships are essential to promoting healthy social emotional development

How does this connect to your professional responsibilities?


Building Relationships with Children

  • Helps each child feel accepted in the group.
  • Assists children in learning to communicate and get along with others.
  • Encourages feelings of empathy and mutual respect among children and adults.
  • Provides a supportive environment in which children can learn and practice appropriate and acceptable behaviors as individuals and as a group.

Building Relationships with Children

  • Why is it important?
  • Children with the most challenging behaviors especially need these relationships
  • Adult time and attention are very important when children are behaving appropriately
  • Parents and critical partners (such as mental health providers and therapists) need to work together to build children’s social emotional competence to ensure success.

Building Relationships with Children

  • Why is it important?
  • The relationships that we build with children, families, and colleagues are the foundation of everything we do.
  • Building relationships early on make it easier to address problems when they arise.
  • Children learn and develop in the context of relationships that are responsive, consistent, and nurturing.

Building Relationships with Children










Time &



Ideas for Making Deposits

  • Greet every child at the door by name.
  • Post children’s work around the room.
  • Have a “star” of the week who brings in special things from home and gets to share them during circle time.
  • Call a child’s parent in front of them to say what a great day she is having or send home positive notes.

Ideas for Making Deposits

  • Call a child after a difficult day and say, “I’m sorry we had a tough day today. I know tomorrow is going to be better!”
  • Give high fives and thumbs up accomplishing tasks.

Activity- Building Relationships

  • How do you build positive relationships with
  • Children?
  • Families?
  • Colleagues?
  • Brainstorm a list of things you could do to build or strengthen relationships with children, families, or other colleagues.
  • Share within your group.
  • Identify 2-3 things you are going to do to build stronger relationships with children, families, and colleagues.

Building Relationships

  • When a child misses school tell him how much he was missed.
  • Write on a t-shirt all the special things about a given child and let him/her wear it.
  • Find time to read to individual children or a few children at a time.
  • Acknowledge children’s efforts.

Building Relationships

  • Find out what a child’s favorite book is and read it to the whole class.
  • Give compliments liberally.
  • Play with children, follow their lead.
  • Let children make “All About Me” books and share them at Circle Time.
high quality supportive environments
High Quality Supportive Environments

High quality early childhood environments promote positive outcomes for all children

How does this connect to your professional responsibilities?

high quality environments and positive outcomes
High Quality Environments and Positive Outcomes

Teachers report that challenging behavior is their number one training need and promoting social emotional development as the second. Eighty (80%) of teachers report that problem behavior negatively affects their job satisfaction and directors report that teachers are not effective in implementing prevention/promotion practices.

Hemmeter, M.L. (2006). Research and Issues for Implementation, Policy and Scaling Up: Training & Supporting Personnel and Program Wide Implementation, presentation, Annual Policy Maker’s Summit, Center on Evidence-based Practices: Young Children with Challenging Behavior, Washington, Dc., November, 2006.

create meaningful and engaging learning areas
Create Meaningful and Engaging Learning Areas

Stand in center of the room

Is there a clear entry to each center?

Is each center inviting?

Are there enough materials (3 units of play per child allowed in center)?

Is there a system in place for entering and exiting centers?

Are centers and materials/shelves labeled?

Is there a rotation of materials?

Are materials highly engaging?

Are the activities relevant to children’s needs, interests and lives?


Classroom Arrangement and

Design: Traffic Patterns

  • Minimize large open spaces
  • Minimize obstacles and other hazards
  • Consider the needs of children with physical and sensory disabilities

Classroom Arrangement and

Design: Learning Centers

  • Physical Design
    • Clear boundaries
    • Visibility
    • Visual prompts when centers are not an option
    • Adequate number of centers
    • Size and location of centers
    • Number of children in centers
    • Organization of materials
    • Preparation of centers

Classroom Arrangement and

Design: Learning Centers

  • Create meaningful and engaging learning centers
    • Relevant to children’s needs, interests, andlives
    • Highly engaging and interesting
    • Variety of materials in each center
    • Changed and rotated on a regular basis

Schedules and Routines

  • Develop a schedule that promotes child engagement and success
    • Balance activities
      • - active and quiet
      • - small group and large group
      • - teacher-directed and child-directed
    • Teach children the schedule
    • Establish a routine and follow it consistently
    • When changes are necessary, prepare children ahead of time

Photograph Visual Schedule

1. Turn on water.

2. Wet hands.

3. Get soap.

4. Rinse hands.


Photograph Visual Schedule

5. Turn off water.

6. Dry hands.

7. Throw away towel.

8. Go play.




Discuss these two writing centers.



large group activities
Large Group Activities
  • Planning the activity
  • Consider the length
  • Be clear about the purpose and goals of the activities
  • Use circle time to teach new things
large group activities1
Large Group Activities
  • Implementing the activity
  • Provide opportunities for all children to be actively involved
  • Assign jobs to children
  • Vary your speech and intonation patterns
  • Have children lead activities
  • Pay attention to children’s behavior
  • Plan for transitions
  • Minimize the number of transitions that children have during the day.
  • Minimize the length of time children spend waiting with nothing to do.
  • Prepare children for transitions by providing a warning.
  • Structure the transitions so that children have something to do while they wait.
  • Teach children the expectations related to transitions.
  • Individualize supports and cues.
targeted social emotional supports
Targeted Social Emotional Supports

Systematic approaches to teaching social skills can have a preventive and remedial effect

How does this connect to your professional responsibilities?

giving directions
Giving Directions
  • Make sure you have the children’s attention before you give the direction.
  • Minimize the number of directions given to children.
  • Individualize the way directions are given.
  • Give clear directions.
giving directions1
Giving Directions
  • Give directions that are positive.
  • Give children the opportunity to respond to a direction.
  • When appropriate, give the child choices and options for following directions.
  • Follow through with positive acknowledgment of children’s behavior.
general guidelines about rules
General Guidelines About Rules
  • Have a few simple classroom rules.
  • Involve the children in developing the rules.
  • Post the rules visually.
  • Teach the rules systematically.
  • Reinforce the rules at high rates initially and at lower rates throughout the year.
  • Should Address
    • Noise level
    • Movement inside
    • Interactions with property
    • Interactions with adults
    • Interactions with peers
involve children in developing the rules
Involve Children in Developing the Rules
  • Have children help generate the rules.
  • Name the rule and have a child demonstrate the rule.
  • Name the rule and have the children identify the visuals that might go on a poster.
  • Have children help decorate a rules poster.
key point intentionally teach teach me what to do
Key Point: Intentionally Teach!(Teach me what to do!)
  • Friendship skills
  • Emotion words/feelings
  • How to recognize feelings in oneself and others
  • How to “calm down”
  • How to control anger and impulse
  • How to problem solve
rules activity
Rules Activity
  • Develop a list of 3-5 rules you use or would use in a classroom.
  • Discuss these rules with others in your group.
  • Brainstorm fun and creative ways for teaching the rules.
fun ways to reinforce the rules
Fun Ways to Reinforce the Rules
  • Rules Bingo!
  • Make a big book about school rules
  • Homework– what are your rules at home?
  • Play “rule charades”
ongoing monitoring and positive attention
Ongoing Monitoring and Positive Attention
  • Give children attention when they are engaging in appropriate behaviors.
  • Monitor our behavior
    • to ensure we spend more time using positive descriptive language
    • less time giving directions or correcting inappropriate behavior.
using positive feedback and encouragement
Using Positive Feedback and Encouragement
  • Use nonverbal forms of positive feedback and encouragement.
  • Individualize use of positive feedback and encouragement based on children’s needs and preferences.
  • Encourage other adults and peers to use positive feedback and encouragement.

If there is anything that we wish to

change in the child, we

should first examine it and see

whether it is not something

that could better be

changed in


Carl Jung – psychiatrist

major messages
Major Messages
  • The first and most important thing that we can do is to build positive relationships with every child and family.
  • Focus on prevention and teaching appropriate skills.
  • Promoting social emotional development is not easy. There are no quick fixes to challenging behavior.
  • It requires a comprehensive approach that includes building relationships, evaluating our own classrooms and behaviors, and TEACHING.
learner objectives1
Learner Objectives

Participants will:

  • Describe a framework for addressing social emotional development and challenging behavior.
  • Identify strategies to promote positive behavior practices.
  • Identify effective leadership strategies for paraprofessionals.
  • Collaborate with appropriate partners to develop strategies for improving children’s social emotional and behavioral outcomes.
csefel website

contact information www pattan net
Dr. De Voka Gordon

[email protected]

412-826-2336, ext. 6832

Contact Information

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Edward G. Rendell, Governor

Pennsylvania Department of Education

Thomas E. Gluck, Acting Secretary

Amy Morton, Deputy Secretary

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

John J. Tommasini, Director

Bureau of Special Education

Patricia Hozella, Assistant Director

Bureau of Special Education