Category Archives: Behavior Management

Secondary Characteristics – Math Anxiety

Watch the video of 2 students, 1 with ADHD. You will notice differences.

Some differences are directly related to ADHD. Others are the result of secondary characteristics. In special education these are characteristics of a student that result not from the disability but from how the disability plays out in an academic and other settings. For example, a student with a speech impediment may be very timid and anxious in situation in which he or she may need to speak.

In math a major secondary characteristic is math anxiety. This is a performance issue vs an ability issue and it must be addressed as a legitimate obstacle for the student. I work with graduate students who still suffer math anxiety years later.

math-anxiety-picture_orig.jpg

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Meeting Needs Part 2

In the past year I have helped two 7th grade students who are categorized as twice exceptional (2e). Both had more severe math anxiety that impacted their performance and masked their ability. When we started both were working on elementary school level math. Within a couple of months both were working on algebra. (Both had gaps but I was testing their ability by test running higher level math with them.)

As I shared in a previous post my approach is to focus on meeting needs. I want to elaborate on this. My secret is I listen to the student… In other words, the student drives the instruction.

Here’s an analogy. You go to a frozen yogurt or ice cream store and they offer you a sample. You try a couple then go with the one you like. That’s what I do. I try out different types of instruction (samples of the ice cream) and the student tells me (verbally or by the response to the instruction) which one they want. That is the I in IDEA and in IEP.

icecream samples

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Performance vs Ability

In the effort to assess student ability performance factors are likely present. It is incumbent upon the educators to mitigate the performance issues to assess true ability.

For example, I conducted an evaluation on a student in middle school who has ADHD. All of her testing records indicated that she would lose focus during the assessment and that the focus was problematic for testing. Before we met I surveyed her on her favorite snack (didn’t know Sour Skittles is a thing), brought this reinforcer along with a bottle of water. She sat through an entire 1 1/2 hour KeyMath Assessment without incident.

performance vs ability

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List of Performance Points

 

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Painting the letters on the ground is a performance point for the person responsible for this task. The task was discussed at some other time and location. Performance points, as explained in another post, are the situations or locations or times that a person has to perform a task. For students with special needs this is where special education gets real. It is where the supports play out. For students with more severe disabilities, e.g. ADHD, Autism or Down Syndrome, most if not all performance points require some support so identifying these points is important and often overlooked.

Below are a list of performance points students encounter in k-12 education.

  • transition between classes
  • using a hall pass
  • arriving or leaving school
  • riding a school bus
  • transition to and from lunch
  • transition to and from specials
  • gym
  • playground/recess
  • entering and starting class
  • packing up and leaving class
  • transition between activities during class
  • choice or down time during class
  • following directions given in class
  • retrieving, using and returning class materials
  • sharpening pencil
  • asking permission to use a pass
  • identifying appropriate reasons to use a pass or to ask a question
  • responding to questions or participating in class discussion
  • paying attention to presentations
  • group work
  • individual work
  • homework
  • studying for an assessment
  • long-range projects
  • bringing materials to class
  • organizing notebook and book bag
  • using a notebook effectively, e.g. finding and following examples
  • interacting with classmates in a socially appropriate manner (during classwork, free time, down time, in the hallway, at lunch, at recess) – note: socially appropriate would need to be defined with observable behaviors
  • empathizing with others
  • reciprocating in a social conversation
  • curtailing behavior when presented with negative feedback
  • initiating conversation
  • greeting others appropriately – initiating and responding
  • identifying non-verbal cues and communication

Certainly there are more. Please comment below if you want me to add anything to the list.

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Address Challenges at Performance Points

performance-point

In the photo above you see a contrast between how children learn and how educators often teach necessary skills. Children learn to ride a bike by actually performing the target skills. This is a performance point – the setting in which the child actually performs. In school students are often taught necessary skills in isolation, away from the performance points. Imagine teaching a child to ride a bike by having him sit at a desk while the parent points out all the steps for riding a bike.

Often accommodations and supports are provided in isolation or out of context. Students with autism have lunch buddies in a contrived setting with an educator leading conversation. Students with ADHD have a weekly time to organize their notebooks. Students who have trouble functioning in a general ed classroom may be pulled out as a result.

Below are a couple of examples of how support can be provided at the points of performance. The photo below shows a checklist I used for a students with autism in my algebra class. They would follow the checklist and self-evaluate by checking off each step as it was completed. They were learning how to perform necessary skills at the point of performance.

checklist-in-class

Another overlooked point of performance is in organizing a notebook. Students should organize a notebook while IN CLASS and on a DAILY basis. I use the rubric below to help support students with this task.

checklist-for-notebook

Dr. Russell Barkley, an expert on ADHD, talks about performance points for students with ADHD in his book and in his ADHD Report. This focus at the “points of performance” can and should apply to any student with a disability (and students in general).

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Prompt Dependence

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Great blog post on prompt dependence

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Shaping Behavior

Shaping is a term in special ed which basically means to train a student to incrementally follow through on a sequence of substeps to accomplish a task. B.F. Skinner coined a different name for this which he called operant conditioning. The top photo below shows “Skinner’s box.” The pigeon was placed in the box and when it pecked at the metal wall a pellet of food was presented to it. Eventually the reward was given as the pigeon pecked closer and closer to the disk in the wall where its beak is in the photo. Finally, it learned that by pecking this disk was the only means of getting the pellet.

In special education, this shaping is used to train a student to achieve specific outcomes. In the bottom photo below my son Gabriel is playing with his favorite all time toy, Legos. As is the case with many with autism, he would not look at people in the eye. His therapists trained him to make eye contact by first holding his Legos in the air until he requested them. Eventually the Legos were held incrementally closer to the therapist’s eyes. The second to last step was to hold them next to the eyes and finally he had to look into the therapist’s eyes before getting the Legos.

This same approach can be used to train students to attempt problems, think critically, follow classroom norms such as the appropriate steps for starting classs and any other desired behavior.

skinner box

lucas and Legos

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Daily Checklist for ASD

Daily Checklist for ASD

This is a daily checklist (list of expectations) for a student with an autism spectrum disorder. This student completes it as we proceed through class. He gets a daily grade for this. This particular student loves The Avengers so I added a Captain America sticker as reinforcement (which he likes).

Other students have a more detailed checklist with a reliance on words alone. Kids with ASD often need visual representations.

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