At a recent 2-day workshop on Pyramid of Behaviour Interventions, the conversation turned to the question: “What do you do with the kids who just refuse to do the work?” We had already discussed the foundation of working collaboratively in a PLC (Professional Learning Community), being clear and consistent on priority learning outcomes, having a pyramid response to intervention (PRTI) and being willing to differentiate for the needs of different learners. “Ya, but…” asked one participant, “what about the kid who outright, defiantly refuses to do the work and disrupts others in the process?”
Great question. My first response to that question is always “Is it a CAN’T or a WON’T?” As Buffum, Mattos and Weber so succinctly put it, “Behaviour and academics are inextricably linked”. Is it that the child CAN’T do it, WON’T do it, or BOTH? It is often difficult to separate the behaviour problem from the academic problem. As you move higher up the pyramid in terms of intensity and frequency of defiant behaviour, it is almost impossible to separate the two. To help answer that question, I asked all of the participants to think of a very challenging student they had worked with recently. On their own, I asked them to describe in as much detail as possible all of the details surrounding that defiant behaviour. What behaviour did you observe? Can you recall the setting and situation just before the defiant behaviour? What task was being asked of the student? What was the intended learning outcome of the task? What was the student getting or avoiding by exhibiting the undesirable behaviour? Participants then shared these observations with a colleague.
Together, we walked through the process of “ABC Analysis”. This is a very simple version of a Functional Behaviour Assessment that can be done by almost any educator. It does not replace the work of a trained Functional Assessment specialist, but it is a very helpful tool for most teachers and education assistants. By breaking down the observations of the interaction, most educators are able to begin to identify “triggers” to the behaviour, as well as “consequences” that result from the behaviour. Consequences, in this context, are the things the student either gets or avoids. Working as a team, educators can usually differentiate the CAN’T from the WON’T. They are also usually able to identify some of the underlying causes to the symptoms displayed and, in most cases can usually prescribe some form of prevention, intervention, adaptation or assistance.