Skill Deficits and Performance Deficits
Sometimes, a student does not perform the desired appropriate behavior because he or she does not know how to do it (a skill deficit). Other times, a student may have the skills needed to perform the appropriate behavior but either chooses not to do so or, for reasons such as anxiety, anger, frustration, or a medical condition, cannot perform the behavior (a performance deficit). It is also possible that a student may be experiencing both a skill and a performance deficit. This section describes strategies that can be considered for addressing these deficits.
Addressing Skill Deficits: Working With Students Who Lack Skills
A functional behavioral assessment might indicate that the student engages in the inappropriate behavior because she or he lacks the appropriate, alternative skills and/or believes the inappropriate behavior is effective in getting what he or she wants (e.g., allows the student to escape or avoid an unpleasant task or situation). If the student does not know what behaviors are expected, an intervention plan could resolve the confusion by teaching the student to sort positive and negative examples of what is expected. A plan should also include the supports, aids, strategies, and modifications necessary to accomplish that instruction. If the student does not know how to perform the expected behavior, the intervention plan should include instruction to teach the needed skills. Sometimes, it may require teaching both behavioral and cognitive skills and may call for a team member to conduct a task analysis (i.e., break down the skill into its component parts) of the individual behaviors that make up the skill. Regular behavior management techniques may not even be appropriate. For example, if the student is to think through and solve social problems, the individual skills may include the following components:
In other instances, a student may be unable to appropriately handle the aggressive verbal behavior of a classmate. The student may need to be taught to recognize those words (or actions) that usually lead to aggression and to discern whether the behavior is or is not provoked by the student. Then, a series of role playing sessions might teach the student ways to defuse the situation (e.g., avoiding critical remarks, put downs, or laughing at the other student), along with when to walk away or seek assistance from peers or adults. For example, Helen may be able to accurately read a problem situation, but lacks the impulse control to self-regulate her behavior and respond appropriately. Overt teacher modeling of self-control, along with guided and independent practice (behavioral rehearsal), and individual or small group discussion of "when and how to" strategies may prove effective. Other options include instruction in the use of mnemonic devices that enable Helen to handle a problem situation in a positive manner (e.g., FAST-Freeze, Assess the Situation, Select a response, Try it out).
Addressing Performance Deficits: Working With Students Who Have Skills But Do Not Use Them
Sometimes, the IEP team will find that the student knows the skills necessary to perform the behavior, but does not consistently use them. In that case, the intervention plan should include techniques, strategies, and supports designed to increase the students use of the behavior. If the functional assessment shows that the student is engaging in the problem behavior because he or she actually believes that this behavior is more desirable than the alternative, appropriate behavior, the intervention plan should include techniques for addressing that belief. For example, a student might think that acting quickly is best because she values resolution. This belief might be countered by assigning the student to list the additional problems a faulty, but quick, solution can produce.
Sometimes, a student does not perform the behavior simply because he or she sees no good reason to do so. For example, if Trish can avoid feeling ridiculed by threatening or hitting her classmates on the playground, she may not see the advantage of interacting positively with others. Therefore, the behavioral intervention plan may include strategies to increase her use of existing skills to interact appropriately with peers. Finally, because of her aggressive behavior, it may be necessary to prompt classmates to initiate play with Trish, and to reinforce both her and her classmates for engaging in positive social exchanges.