ADDRESSING SKILL DEFICITS
An assessment might indicate the student has a skill deficit, and does not know how to perform desired skills. The functional behavioral assessment may show that, although ineffective, the child may engage in the inappropriate behavior to escape or avoid a situation: (1) for which he or she lacks the appropriate skills; or (2) because she or he lacks appropriate, alternative skills and truly believes this behavior is effective in getting what he or she wants or needs. For example, a child may engage in physically violent behavior because he or she believes violence is necessary to efficiently end the confrontational situation, and may believe that these behaviors will effectively accomplish his or her goals. However, when taught to use appropriate problem-solving techniques, the student will be more likely to approach potentially volatile situations in a nonviolent manner. If this is the case, the intervention may address that deficit by including, within the larger plan, a description of how to teach the problem-solving skills needed to support the child.
If the student does not know what the behavioral expectations are, the plan can be formulated to teach expectations, and would include the supports, aids, strategies, and modifications necessary to accomplish this instruction, with expectations explained in concrete terms. For example, if the expectation is "to listen to lectures," the intervention plan might include the following:
Goal: During classroom lectures, Jim will make only relevant comments and ask only relevant questions in 80 percent of the opportunities.
Objectives: Given a 50 minute, large group (i.e., more than 20 students) classroom lecture, Jim will ask one appropriate question and make two relevant comments on each of 3 consecutive school days.
Activities to accomplish the goal and objectives:
If the student does not realize that he or she is engaging in the behavior, (i.e., the student is reacting out of habit), the team may devise a plan to cue the child when she or he is so engaged. Such a cue could be private and understood only by the teacher and the student. If Mariah, for instance, impulsively talks out during Ms. Baders class discussions, Ms. Bader and Mariah may agree that Ms. Bader will look directly at Mariah and slightly move her right hand in an upward motion to remind Mariah to raise her hand. If Mariah does raise her hand, Ms. Bader agrees to call on her.
Sometimes, for biological or other reasons, a student is unable to control his or her behavior without supports. If the IEP team believes the student needs medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes an appropriate referral can be made.
Should the student not know how to perform the expected behaviors, the intervention plan could include modifications and supports to teach the child the needed skills. Such instruction may require teaching academic skills as well as behavioral and cognitive skills, and may require a team member to do a task analysis (i.e., break down a skill into its component parts) of the individual behaviors that make up the skill. For example, if the skill is to "think through and solve social problems," the individual skills may include:
The behavior intervention plan, in the previous case, would include methods to teach the necessary skills to the child, and would provide the supports necessary to accomplish such plans. Methods may include the following components:
A technique known as curricular integration is useful in teaching skills to students, as the technique integrates positive strategies for modifying problem behavior into the existing classroom curriculum, and is based upon the premise that a skill is more likely to be learned when taught in the context in which it is used. Teachers who incorporate behavioral interventions into daily instruction generally state that this technique has proven to be particularly effective for teaching replacement behaviors.