Behavior management within the Academic and Social Immersion Model begins with setting the tone of “the community”, where teachers and staff demonstrate acceptance for all students, and define the expectations (or rules) for appropriate behavior within the classroom and throughout the school (which all students are expected to follow, both neurotypical and ASD). Behavior is deeply embedded within our character education program. Students are taught connections between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and the six pillars of character defined by the Josephson Institute of Ethics.
Frequent review of expectations or rules with the student along with visual expectations provides supports to increase the likelihood of improving target behaviors. Visuals may include visual schedules, rule reminders, and social stories. These are used alongside a self-monitoring system to help the student connect the rules to his/her behavior, and is a way to make the behavior concrete for the student. These systems are paired with positive reinforcements, which may include teacher praise, tangibles, and natural access to social opportunities. The systems are also adapted to students’ cognitive abilities and classroom placement.
Teachers and staff use “clues” in the natural environment to aid in connecting behavior with the natural environment and to encourage appropriate social behavior. Pointing out the actions of others compared to the action of the student with ASD (“Look at your friends. They are standing in line without touching their neighbors.”) would be an example of “clues in the natural environment”.
One example of this at work may look something like this. A student who becomes angry, screams, and kicks his desk because he doesn’t get his way:
- Is referred to his self-monitoring system to review the expectation and take accountability for his actions, and to remind him of the “reward” or positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior
- Is instructed to “Look at your classmates. They are not screaming and kicking” to redirect the student to an appropriate behavior model,
- Is reminded that screaming and kicking is disrespectful to others in his class in order to connect the behavior to the character pillars. Teacher then talks with student about RESPECTFUL ways to voice his frustration the next time.
These strategies used in combination can increase the likelihood of success, both social and academic, in the typical classroom environment. Consistent and appropriate behavior management is crucial to a student with ASD being truly immersed in a classroom. A student left to his or her own devices may alienate peers, making inclusion in classroom activities more challenging. With this in mind, consistent and firm behavior expectations are the most appropriate, effective, and loving strategy to help children with ASD become fully participating members of the classroom and community.
The overall approach in Academic and Social Immersion emphasizes the teaching and learning nature of behavior management. Make a plan for success!