Strategies for changing challenging behaviors of students with autism

“Every individual should be able to access things that they like,” said Monica Fisher, M.Ed., BCBA/COBA, director of the behavior department at Monarch Center for Autism during an edWebinar. “It is our right to engage in preferred activities, spend time with family, and connect with the community. If there are behaviors that you are seeing in your students with disabilities and challenging behaviors that are limiting these rights, then it is something we need to fix as it can have a long-term impact on their quality of life.”

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a technological and professional systematic approach, is designed to analyze and change behavior by identifying a behavioral problem, gathering relevant data, and formulating/testing a hypothesis. Fisher said that while ABA is a useful tool for looking at and changing the challenging behaviors of students with autism, it can apply to different parts of everyone’s lives.

Three-Term Contingency or ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) goes hand in hand with ABA. ABC is an essential, evidence-based method of examining and changing what people say and do. Fisher explained, “If you want to change behavior, you have to look at the antecedent (action, event, or circumstance that occurs immediately before the behavior) and the consequences (action or response that immediately follows the behavior) applied.”

Challenging behavior
Challenging behaviors in the form of hitting, kicking, biting, and head-banging are not unique to students with autism. However, students with autism can also display challenging behaviors through physical and verbal aggression, self-injury, elopement, property destruction, tantrums, and non-compliance. According to ABA literature, there are four main functions of challenging behavior: attention, escape, access to tangibles, and automatic/sensory. Fisher expounded that it is essential to understand that all behaviors serve a function and they will persist if they are meeting a need for a student.

When a student receives attention after a problem behavior, it may increase the likelihood that the problem behavior will occur in the future under similar circumstances. When an individual engages in challenging behavior, it could be to escape or postpone an aversive event such as classwork or to be given access to tangibles and other reinforcing objects such as more computer time. The challenging behavior of automatic/sensory such as rocking or hand-slapping may reinforce on their own and does not depend on the actions or presence of others.

Important to remember
There are essential skills relating to the functions of behavior that should be taught to children at a young age that could decrease the chances that challenging behaviors will develop. Challenging behaviors can have a long history of reinforcement, making them resistant to change, so Fisher advises that changes will take time and effort and data will play a significant role in analyzing the behavioral changes. A teacher or parent may feel that the reinforcers for changing the challenging behavior are not sufficient, but once the data is analyzed, it may show that there is a slight change in the action. It is also critical that, when initially teaching a replacement behavior, the new skill needs to be low-effort and reinforced every time with a potent reinforcer. Finally, problem behavior has worked in the past to get the individual what they want or need so it is essential for teachers and parents to remember not to personalize a student’s challenging behavior.


5 new developments in physical and network safety

As technology improves, so do solutions to keep students and teachers safe in school buildings and on school networks. This is the main reason why school safety, including cybersecurity and physical safety, retains its place as a top concern for education leaders.

Balancing access to educational resources with security needs remains a top challenge for school district IT leaders, according to new findings from the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning.

Seventy-one percent of district administrators and IT leaders are concerned about the security of their network against malicious attacks or misbehavior, as outlined in the data, which comes from a collaboration between the nonprofit Project Tomorrow and cloud security provider iboss.

Districts turn to technology to keep buildings, and the people in them, safe and secure. Tools that monitor social media for threats, anonymous reporting systems, and databases to track and identify potentially preventable patterns among shootings are growing in popularity as educators recognize the importance of technology in preventing school violence.

Here, we’ve collected some school safety developments and resources to keep you abreast of the latest advancements and changes.

1. The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) released the fourth edition of its Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools, which gives school administrators, school boards and public safety and security professionals guidelines for implementing a layered and tiered approach to securing and enhancing the safety of school environments.

The PASS Guidelines identify and classify best practices for securing K-12 facilities in response to urgent needs for information identified by the education community. The guidelines describe approaches within five physical layers for school facilities: district-wide, the property perimeter, the parking lot perimeter, the building perimeter and the classroom/interior perimeter. Within each layer, the resource outlines key safety and security components, such as policies and procedures, people (roles and training), architectural components, communication, access control, video surveillance and detection and alarms.


3 takeaways from my STEM PD

Professional development (PD) is more crucial today than ever for educators to stay relevant in the classroom. The fast pace of innovation makes it an ongoing challenge for teachers to stay on top of the latest developments, so they can include the newest topics in their curriculum, particularly in the areas of science, technology, and engineering. Even new teachers struggle because from the moment they graduate from college, their knowledge and skills begin to fall out of date. So, imagine how difficult it is for teachers who have been on the job for five, 10, or 20 years to keep pace with cutting-edge developments.

We have a duty to learn about the latest advances in our fields of study, so we can pass that knowledge on to our students and implement the most effective methods for teaching modern topics and concepts. Doing so allows educators and schools to give students the best education possible in high school—an education that will set them on a path to success in college and career.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to attend a two-day PD workshop at the East Bay Educational Collaborative (EBEC) in Warren, Rhode Island. The session was offered as part of a grant that Atlantis Charter School in Fall River, Mass., recently secured for STEM – High School Chemistry from the U.S. Office of Naval Research through the EBEC, which also includes six new lab stations, new textbooks, and new lab manuals. I was excited to learn how it all works because I knew it would not only benefit my career, but also more importantly my students.

The following are my top three takeaways from the STEM PD.

1. I was introduced to new teaching methods of teaching
There is innovation everywhere, and chemistry is no exception. The PD workshop introduced me to the latest “green” approach to chemistry, which I plan to begin weaving into future lesson plans.

The centerpiece of the new program is a small, computer-based lab station. Users can turn on various functions to mimic experimentation and attach various probes, such as a heater that can boil water in a test tube. No more Bunsen burners, which have open flames and burn extremely hot.

The equipment is not difficult to use, but the PD provided me with the training to properly teach my students. The lead instructor led us through several interesting activities during the two-day workshop. He did experiments with us, showed us the electronic and print-based resources that come with the course, and shared ways to use them in the classroom.


Are your edtech tools really working?

Elkin City Schools (ECS) is my home. It’s a small district, located near the North Carolina border, with three schools and about 1,200 students. It’s a small, tight-knit community full of passionate leaders, dedicated teachers, and inspired learners. We rank considerably well in the state almost entirely across the board. We’re ranked 7th or better for ELA in grades 3-7. We’re also 10th in the state for ACT scores, 12th for high school math, 8th for English II instruction, and we’re 3rd in the state for biology.

As a small district, we’re proud to be recognized among the top academic school systems in North Carolina. Despite our strong academic standing within the state, however, we know there’s always room for growth. At the end of the day, we want to be number 1 in all areas. Attaining this goal comes down to two factors: 1) the people we have in place that deliver the instruction and 2) the apps and tools they’re using to differentiate lessons and embrace our support of the whole child.

I believe ECS’s teachers are one of our greatest assets. But determining if we’re using the best piece of technology for every student in every instance has often been a challenge.

Edtech is a crucial aspect of the vision we have for our students: to “ignite the desire to learn in every student by providing them a unique, varied, and authentic learning experience.” This is directly tied to the technology our students are exposed to. We’re constantly asking ourselves, “Does this tool ignite the desire to learn? How is it unique? Varied? Authentic?” These are the questions that matter to our administration because they matter to teachers and the learners who we want to prepare for lifelong success.

Getting the right data to go deep
Understanding the impact of our digital solutions is where our edtech management system, LearnPlatform, plays a key role. Before we purchased the platform, people on the curriculum side and the technology side wanted and needed to know which edtech tools were being used, what we were paying for, and what was actually working for our students.

We knew there were a lot of free apps that teachers swore were responsible for raising test scores and lots of others that I believed were actually hindering results. Without any real data to support these beliefs, decision making was a challenge. How do you decide what to purchase, what to get rid of, and what to use for a particular set of students without any evidence to back you up? It was just a guessing game at that point.

LearnPlatform helped us take control of our edtech management district-wide. It gave us a lot of the data we needed to support our edtech decisions, with regard to budgets and classroom use. We believed in tools like Discovery Ed, IXL Math, and Star Reading  and felt they were driving academic achievement for many of our students. With an edtech management system in place, we were able to see real analytics behind their use and justify the costs associated with each of them.

To be able to streamline our edtech use and to be able to support and find out where our money was being spent—and how wisely it was being spent—were huge benefits, primarily for a district our size. Obviously, we want tools that complement the skills and content being taught to hopefully raise test scores, but that’s not enough. We need to make sure we’re buying and using edtech that is unique and provides authentic learning experiences.

There are a lot of programs out there, free and paid, that can claim to raise a test score. But at the end of the day, we don’t believe that’s what it’s all about. We want tools that differentiate instruction and embrace the whole child to help prepare our students for success both within and outside of the classroom.


What are your edtech resolutions?

This year, I resolve to ….

Support high-quality learning
Frankie Jackson, chief technology officer, Cypress Fairbanks (TX) Independent School District

“For 2019, our IT emphasis will be on cybersecurity and on high-availability, high-resiliency, high-speed wireless access to support 24 x 7 x 365 learning. Our primary goal is to build a world-class-quality K-12 technology service system, including achieving Level 2 in the ‘process and results’ categories of the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for Education.”

Celebrate progress
Kristina Stratton, principal, Westside Elementary School, Florida

“In the new year, when we receive our mid-year i-Ready results, I want to celebrate our students’ growth, paying particular attention to those who were below grade level on their fall assessment and have worked hard to make meaningful progress since then.”

Teach STEAM skills
Oletha Walker, challenge resource/project-based learning teacher, John F. Kennedy School, Connecticut

“I want to provide my students with opportunities to learn how to code using the Evo robots, which use a color coding language. When my students have advanced past color programming, they can program the same robots using Blockly/Java script. I also plan to use the 3Doodler EDU Create+, which lets students create 3D projects without having to wait hours for their design to finish printing on a 3D printer.”

Give students more time in our makerspace
Esra Murray, library media specialist, Cider Mill Elementary School, Connecticut

“Our goal for 2019 is to launch #Munch+Crunch @LLC, a lunchtime purposeful play opportunity for students to explore, design, and create using a variety of tools, including Raspberry Pi, Makey Makey, and Dash & Dot. Students have been asking to spend more time in our learning commons and more time tinkering in the makerspace, so our ultimate goal is to extend the space, especially during the dark and cold New England winters, to all learners who want to extend their own learning.”

Help teachers learn to code
Tina Coffey, instructional technology resource teacher, Roanoke County (VA) Schools

“Now that Virginia has passed Computer Science Standards that K-8 teachers will be required to implement starting next school year, my overarching goal is to spend the rest of this school year developing lessons and ideas that help teachers implement coding throughout their content areas. I plan on using several different resources to help with this endeavor. I’d also like to become more proficient with using code in Minecraft Edu to write lesson plans that incorporate it into core content areas.”

Expand professional development (PD) and keep learning
Kendra Murphy, digital learning specialist & learning designer, Charleston County (SC) School District

“My top 3 education intentions are to continue to build PD that empowers teachers and to model for them what they want to try in their own classes, to listen to different ideas and points of view, and to work to learn more and try new things.”

Help more students learn to use tech
Jenna Rosienski, 7th-grade teacher, Franklin Middle School, Wisconsin

“My hope is that we can get technology in the hands of students of all ages and abilities across the globe. Implementing programs like Discovery Education’s Ignite My Future in School can take a student’s education to the next level. As teachers, we need to be preparing our students for the complex problems of today and the future; many solutions will be made by empowering our students to use technology.”

Reduce paper and increase students’ self-reflection
Dene Gainey, 3rd-grade teacher, Seminole Science Charter School, Florida

“I will have students write a self-reflection weekly to reinforce learning of concepts and ideas.

“I will use less paper by having students document learning electronically and posting to their FreshGrade eportfolios.

“I will have my students respond to their reading by writing summaries and reflections in their digital portfolios.”

Expand my tech knowledge and usage
Susan Keene, 3rd-grade teacher, West Newton Elementary, Indiana

“My goal this year is to continue to look for innovative ways to incorporate new technology in order to support my students. Whether that be from fellow tech leaders on social media or reading more articles, I want to better prepare my students for future technology integration.”

Learn from my students and share their work globally
Gaila Sanders, teacher, Hillsboro High School, Texas

“Learn about an app from my students that they think is cool!

“Be brave and find a safe way to share my students’ work with the world!”

Provide authentic reading experiences for my students
Scott Hayhurst, teacher, Okanagan Mission Secondary School, Canada

“I would like to find more online spaces where students can read student-generated stories and share their own written creations. Expanding the audience for both my avid and reluctant writers helps make the entire process more relevant and powerful. Moreover, having stories that my readers can peruse will increase the chance that they find a writer or genre that hooks them and keeps them ‘turning the (digital) page.’”


96 edtech predictions for K12 in 2019

We asked 49 edtech executives to look into their crystal balls and share their thoughts about what will happen in 2019. In addition to the usual suspects—more augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps—a lot of people believe this will be the year that social emotional learning (SEL) and interoperability become part of the mainstream. There are also a lot of predictions about improving safety and security. Read on to see what’s in store for 2019…

Berj Akian, CEO, ClassLink

• With 2019 here and 2020 in arm’s reach, there’s an ever-growing expectation that next-generation tech tools should do a better job of informing educators on which resources improve learning outcomes. I’m pleased to say that more and more education leaders and technology products providers are regularly talking and doing something about this. I hope this topic always remains the main problem to solve, and that the slow, steady progress the industry is making continues.

•  The industry has made loads of good progress on interoperability; now it’s on the mind of all educational leaders. This is a good thing, because it will take motivation from all sides to achieve simpler data connections between systems. The only wrinkle I see in the land of interoperability is that the conversation is still too complicated, and school leaders still don’t have a go-to resource that helps them translate the techno-babble of open data standards into plain English. What the industry needs is a place where interoperability can be discussed and advocated without complicated jargon and a standards bias—maybe a “Church of Interoperability” that’s open to all. I see Project Unicorn possibly filling this role. They see the bigger picture and nicely bridge the tech and curriculum sides of the discussion.

Chakrapani Appalabattula, CEO, Bloomz

• In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in parental engagement that can be correlated to the implementation of digital platforms and applications. School-to-home communications has evolved through three phases. Student information systems and automated messages are what I consider to be the first stage in the evolution of parental engagement, or version 1.0. With the next stage, 2.0, came a myriad of apps, each designed to solve one problem really well. And now, I believe we are entering a new stage of “one-stop shop” solutions. As schools are adopting and using more digital tools, they are looking for solutions that not only consolidate functions to reduce the risks of privacy or security failure, avoid confusion among teachers and parents, and also better connect and engage school communities. We are already seeing the evidence of this, as administrators are taking a more active role in parent-teacher communication, ensuring that stakeholders are able to engage via their preferred method through one simple-to-use, safe platform. Additionally, educators swear that their parents are showing up more prepared for conferences and more in tune with their child’s education than ever before. As we gain further insight into teacher, parent, and student communication needs, interaction between school and home will become more commonplace and more frequent.

Dr. Becky A. Bailey, educator, author, and founder, Conscious Discipline 

• School leaders and personnel will take a more active role in addressing the emotional toll of safety procedures like lockdown drills, and in building community as a vital safety measure in schools. Creating a learning community that nurtures emotional safety, connection, and inclusion provides fewer opportunities for the growth of the “outsider mentality” that often ends in violence, and will emerge as an essential tool for school security.

• SEL will begin to affect school culture from the top-down, bringing about change in adults first and students second. In 2019, administrators and educators will gain a broader awareness of the internal growth and consistency required for adults to transfer SEL skills to students. As a result, greater value will be placed on SEL providers who bring longevity, proven results, practical tools, and adult-first approaches to the table. Recent years have brought about a surge of new SEL players, and many educators have scrambled to put new programs in place. Progressive leaders will emerge by acknowledging that successful SEL requires a perceptual shift from school leadership and staff, and also by discouraging midstream changes in favor of long-term personal growth. Educators will prioritize SEL over technology controls as cyberbullying deterrents. This more comprehensive understanding of social-emotional health will spur schools to prioritize SEL as a foundational response and technology monitoring as a complimentary (but secondary) facet of student wellness and safety. As a result, both physical bullying and cyberbullying will decrease in schools that prioritize meaningful connections, inclusion and emotional regulation.

Kevin Baird, chief academic officer, Achieve3000; chair, Center for College & Career Readiness 

• Districts will increase their focus on collaborative environments and collaborative tasks for basic literacy development.

• Neuroscience, and the measurement of emotional immersion, will become a key innovation and a new precision metric of student engagement. As a result, districts will recognize that student “Net Promoter Scores” (a measurement of customer experience) are more reliable and valid indicators of program excellence and student learning outcomes than standardized tests.

• Districts will start to focus on speaking and listening protocols before, during, and after reading to accelerate vocabulary acquisition for fluency.

Dr. Carolyn Brown, president and co-founder, Foundations in Learning

• New players in the education market will focus on models of learning rather than methods of teaching. The continuing failure to meet the needs of a growing number of students will demand different approaches and practices taught in Colleges of Education. Focusing on how students learn rather than what they learn will eventually lead to changes in conceptual frameworks of “teaching” and instructional practices. As this movement gains traction, formative assessment tools will become critically important to the iterative process of maximizing the learning environment and customizing instruction to meet students’ needs.

• Principles of learning that are emerging from cognitive science will begin to infiltrate the education space. Integrating principles of learning into instructional classroom practices will challenge traditional thinking; however, there will be early adopters who will be willing to test new approaches—especially to help their most challenged learners. Data analytics embedded within instructional tools (not just digital renditions of content) will inform the process of change.

• Teachers will gravitate towards educational solutions that engage their students in meaningful social-emotional contexts. While technology can play an important role in targeting student needs, students and teachers are welcoming the re-emergence of meaningful interactions in the classroom. Consequently, technology will find its place to support rather than supplant student engagement through personal interactions with both peers and teachers.

Jacob Bruno, vice president of professional learning, NWEA

• More personalized professional development (PD), driven by data. We are seeing schools and districts starting to be more creative and collaborative with PD, expanding beyond school-wide workshops to include professional learning that recognizes the existing competencies and knowledge base individual educators bring to their work. Contributing to this trend is the growing use of data to encourage inquiry and dialogue in collaborative learning communities that build collective teacher efficacy. As such, we are going to see an increased focus on PD that facilitates assessment literacy, fosters active professional learning communities, and supports teachers in developing formative instructional practices.

Jamie Candee, CEO, Edmentum

• The trend of schools implementing adaptive and digital experiences will continue and increase in 2019. Advancements in data science will provide valuable information about how students learn and help educators individualize instruction—the ability to adapt and curate curriculum will be the new core curriculum. By better understanding what students know, educators will be better able to measure growth, predict performance, and make informed decisions about which curricular resources and instructional activities best fit the needs of their students. Soon the days of core, supplemental, and intervention will essentially merge as technology that gives educators the ability to curate the right curriculum for each student.

• The amount of data that is in educators’ hands can be overwhelming. While data is a powerful accelerator, data-tracking systems often operate separately from one another, leading to frustration and roadblocks. In 2019 and beyond, interoperability will be an extremely important point of emphasis for edtech leaders. At the end of the day, our role is to save educators time—not make their jobs more difficult.

• As personal technologies become more engaging and interactive, learning systems have to as well. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity that augmented reality (AR) and VR activities bring learners. AR and VR can engage and excite learning while simultaneously breaking down traditional barriers of accessibility. Imagine a student experiencing the Louvre for the first time in an art appreciation course.