CA Dept. of Education


On Haitus

Behavior Archive 2006


Dru Saren, Ph.D
Behavioral and Education Specialist

I have taught pre-school through graduate school; general and special education; in public, private and psychiatric hospital schools; in New York City, New Mexico, and California. I received my doctorate in education, with a specialization in working with students with behavioral and emotional disorders, from the University of New Mexico in 1986.

Much of my success and failure in implementing behavior strategies, as well as maintaining some sense of humor about it all, can be credited to a 27-year post graduate course offered by my daughter, who has Down Syndrome, and her younger brother and sister, who have substituted when things were going too smoothly.

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  • Interacting with other children.

Question 1:

Dear Dru,

I have a 7 year old son who seems like a pretty good kid most of the time. He has friends, does well with adults, likes school and is happy. He is an only child as well.

My problem is that he has real trouble playing with other kids unless it is one on one.

At a birthday party recently he grabbed something out of another child's hand, said he was better then they were at this or that, and was very loud. He also likes to tell or show everyone how to do things and gets mad if they want to do it themselves. A couple of his friends don't like playing with him anymore as he has become bossy and always wants to do what he wants to do (only child syndrome?). I am afraid that this will only continue to get worse. I think society will deal with this it's own way, but I am trying to prevent that cruelty from happening.

Since this behavior seems to happen most often when I am not there, is there anything you can recommend I can do at home to nip this situation in the bud?

This has been going on for a while but has gotten especially worse this year. Thank you for whatever help you can offer, regards, Victoria Norton


Question 2:

Dear Dr. Dru,

My 7yr old grandson lives with my husband and me. He is very bright, has many friends, is quite out going, has very good manners and is very loving. When he was much younger he was very strong willed and at times very difficult but he seems to have passed through those phases. The problem now is that although he gets very high marks in his academic work in the first grade, he gets minuses in self control. His teacher explains that he does not sit in circle without talking or touching whomever is sitting next to him and then he is sent to his seat until he thinks he can return and behave correctly, however he then starts the behavior all over again. He rarely sees his father who lives in another state, although he does talk to him almost every night (briefly because my grandson does not like talking over the telephone very long.) His mother, our daughter, lives with us but is gone most of the time, but also talks with him most nights she is not here, but not always. My husband and I worry about what he thinks of our situation, and we worry that this has some bearing on his classroom and P.E. behavior. We take him everywhere, such as to his Tae Kwon Do lessons and to soccer practice and his games. We do school activities with him and give him birthday parties. He loves us very much and of course we love him with all our hearts but we also understand that we cannot take the place of his parents. His classmates seem to like him very much, he is popular and makes them laugh. He is a very handsome boy and the girls are already paying attention to him. He seems to like all of his classmates, of course there is a couple that he isn't as fond of but doesn't say that much about them. Last weekend at his birthday party he and a couple of boys were so full of themselves that he just didn't seem to be able to calm down and we think we were seeing some of what his teacher was trying to tell us about. Even after we cautioned him several times he would go right back to being very loud and boisterous and losing his good manners. Please don't think we are prudish, we are not. I am a school teacher, have taught second and fourth grades, so I am aware of different behaviors and some of the reasons for them. At this point we are hoping to help our grandson control himself in the classroom as well as other places, we just want to know if we should seek counseling for him and/or ourselves. We want his world to be as normal as possible. 

Thank you, Concerned Grandparents


Dear Vicki and Concerned Grandparents,

First of all, I commend you both for your commitment and I want to reassure you that in no way does your son or grandson’s behavior sound like it is because his home life is not exactly what we were brought up to believe was “normal”. It sounds as though they are getting what every child needs: love, security, good models.

Children mature in different areas at different times. Not all growth is even, so while they may be at grade level or better in academic areas, these boys may have slower maturation in self-management. Or, they may have a temperament that is very excitable when other children are around.

It’s so hard to know from letters whether your children are just boisterous boys with a little too much zest or whether either has a problem that is a little more serious. For now, I would do some rehearsal before play or party situations:

  • Remind them of the “rules” appropriate for the setting, like use your “inside voice”, wait your turn, hands to yourself. Ask them to repeat them.
  • Ask them to think about what they will do if… (for example, “If you want to see Jose’s game boy, what do you do?” “And if he says no, what do you do?”)
  • Look for times when you can “teach” empathy. When there is a situation where someone gets his feelings hurt or someone says something rude, ask your son or grandson “How do you think that made Troy feel?” When you watch TV show or movies or read books together, look for moments like these.

As far as the behaviors at Circle, perhaps the teacher can make some minor changes. Sending him back to his seat to magically develop better behavior in Circle is surely not working! Suggest that he be allowed to try a fidget toy. See what the teacher’s behavior system is and see if your grandson can earn some reinforcement within that system for appropriate Circle behavior. Does she teach, model, and cue for expected Circle behaviors? Does she “catch him being good” i.e., praise him when he is not touching a neighbor?

At this time, neither boy seems outside normal variations in maturity. Should the behavior of either child become more serious, talk to the teachers about the availability of social skills training at school.

Your no-longer-lonely behavior specialist thanks you all for your letters and says, “Keep writing!”



  • Writing effective behavior intervention plans under the final regs.


Dear Mr. Saren:

I hope you are doing well. I am working on a story for The Special Educator and Special Ed on writing effective behavior intervention plans under the final regs. Could you please assist me with this story by answering the following questions.

1. What steps should be taken before writing the plan? 
2. What should the plan include? 
3. What steps should be taken after the plan in written? 
4. What should be done if the behavior continues?

Thank you for assisting me with this story. If you would like to answer these questions in a telephone interview, please email me with a date, time and phone number.

Jay Kravetz 
The Special Educator 
California Special Ed Alert 
Special Education Report 
LRP Publications 
360 Hiatt Dr. 
Palm Beach Gardens, FL. 33418 
561-622-6520 ext. 8732


Dear Jay,

The resources to answer questions 1 – 3 are available at the PENT website: Click on Behavior Planning

PENT stands for The Positive Environments, Network of Trainers and is a California Positive Behavior Initiative designed to provide information and resources throughout California for educators striving to achieve high educational outcomes through the use of proactive positive strategies. Through an email list-serve of California educators, evidence-based positive practices and helpful information is disseminated statewide to members.

Question 4 calls for a second go-round of steps 1 -3 to figure out what has not worked. Thus, the team needs reconsider each part of the behavior support plan:

  • Was the behavior properly described?
  • Was the function identified correct?
  • Were the antecedents accurate?
  • Did the team provide necessary environmental changes and supports?
  • Was the student able to learn and use the replacement behavior?
  • Did the replacement behavior match the function of the problem behavior?
  • Did the team select reinforcement that was reinforcing to the student?
  • Was the reinforcement delivered frequently and consistently?
  • Were there adequate strategies developed to use if the problem behavior occurred again?
  • Did the team provide for communication among all partied?

The solution to the problem should be found in the answers to these questions.

I hope this has helped!

Dru (I’m female) Saren

  • She was not meeting her academic goals and her behavior has become more defiant.


Dear Dru,

I am the Mother of a 7 yr old with DS. She has been mainstreamed since preschool, repeated kindergarten, and is currently in a general Ed 1st grade class with a 1:1 (who I feel is unqualified). She also has been receiving pull outs for Speech and RSP. Last month at her IEP, the teachers informed me that she was not meeting her academic goals and that her behavior has become more defiant. She is not cooperating or responding (shutting down) when asked to do her work. The Teacher(s) basically don't want to deal with her any longer and suggested a Special Ed Class placement for the coming year.

I disagree with their suggested placement. I believe that there should be (should have been) some sort of behavior intervention done to address this, as well as more support for the Teacher who is just "giving up", next years Teacher, as well as the school staff as a whole. I was hoping you might have some specific information that I could offer to them when I present my thoughts and concerns.

I know that my daughter can be willful and controlling, what 7 yr old isn't? I also know that she is capable and more knowledgeable than their testing and assessments are showing.

I hope you can help me guide them to understanding and supporting my daughter.

Thank you,



Dear Rhonda,

I am the mother of a 30 year old daughter with Down Syndrome!! In some ways, things haven’t changed much. There is still a deeply held belief that special education is a place rather than a range of services that are to be delivered in the least restrictive environment. I agree with you that the general education teacher needs sufficient support to include a child with exceptional needs, and that pull-out is not usually the best ways to support the child or the staff. In particular, the teacher needs support in modifying assignments and activities so that your daughter experiences success.

I offer some suggestions below, and I haven’t even scratched the inclusion surface:

  1. Behavior is communication. Repeat this 9 times! Your daughter’s defiance and shutting down are saying something. I’m guessing that it is saying that the work presented is not at her level or there is too much of it. Every time she uses behavior to say “This is too hard” or “This is too long” should be looked at as an impetus to adapt the assignment so that it is just right! That means each and every assignment she protests should be evaluated and modified applying the principles below:

Steps for Modifying the Curriculum

Step 1 Can Kim (I’m going to give her a name!), given necessary accommodations, do the same activity at the same level as peers? If not...

Step 2 Can Kim do the same activity but with modified expectations? (Kim is given fewer spelling words.) If not.. .

Step 3 Can Kim do the same activity but with modified expectations and different materials? (Kim matches spelling words to pictures.) If not...

Step 4 Can Kim do the same activity but with individualized content? (Kim is given functional spelling words i.e., related to her daily activities.) If not...

Step 5 Can Kim do a similar activity using different materials? (Kim works on letter recognition using a computer program.) If not...

Step 6 Can Kim do a different, parallel activity? (Kim might write in a journal, put pictures in sequence in a journal, or learn to use a picture/symbol word processing computer program.) If not...

Step 7 Can Kim do a different activity in a different section of the room? (Kim might sort papers for the teacher or water plants.) If not...

Step 8 Can Kim do a functional activity in another part of the school? (Kim might work in the library, office, or cafeteria, completing meaningful, necessary tasks)

Diagnostic Center North: adaptation from Gaston, David, Olympia School District, Olympia WA, Tom Neary and Mary Falvey, Inclusive Education

  1. Provide Visual Supports:
  • Provide Kim with an individual schedule that delineates each activity of her day. Keep the schedule close to her at her desk or in a folder to take with her.
  • Use a clear icon to represent each activity.
  • Pair each activity with the written word.
  • Add the time (digital) that each activity begins and teach her to remove or check off each activity as it is completed.
  • Pair a simple two to three word phrase when showing Kim the picture on the schedule (e.g., “Time for reading”).
  • Prepare Kim well in advance for any changes in her schedule; use a colored arrow to point to the change in her schedule (e.g., “No speech today”).
  • Create activity schedules (also known as checklists, embedded schedules, or task cards) accompanied by visuals and the steps for completing various assignments, tasks or activities. Activity schedules can be created for times when Kim is required to work on an assignment independently, during centers, and even during whole class lessons. During independent work, for example, the tasks Kim needs to complete can be written and visually represented on a piece of paper or a white board. She can cross off each activity as she completes it. Teaching Kim to use activity schedules will increase her ability to be independent in the classroom, reduce the times adults redirect her and give her verbal prompts, and help her stay focused. An example of an activity schedule for independent work that Kim might followed include the following steps:

    __ __ 1. Put your pencil away. 
    ______ 2. Put your math book away.
    ______ 3. Get your coat.
    ______ 4. Go to recess.

  • Use a TimeTimer to provide Kim with a visual representation of how much time she needs to spend on a task and how much time remains.
  • Make visual rule cards for Kim. Teach Kim the specific rules she needs to follow using visual cues and provide continuous positive feedback for following these rules . Create behavior rule cards that state the exact behaviors she needs to engage in during specific activities. 
    • Write each rule (begin with only three) on a card paired with a picture that represents that rule or behavior.
    • Review the card with Kim throughout the day and immediately before each activity begins.
    • Write each rule positively, such as “quiet,” rather than “no talking.”

For example, during independent work, “quiet hands”, “raise hand,” “quiet voice,” “feet on floor," and “stay in chair” could be on a card. These rules should be reviewed with Kim immediately before she transitions to her desk for independent work. If she begins talking, rather than saying, “Shhhh!” the aide can point to the rule card for “quiet voice” and then reinforce her as soon as she complies.

Individualized visual social "rule" cards can be taped to the Kim's desk as a reminder of appropriate social behaviors. Portable "rule" cards can be used for environments other than the classroom. Write the rules on index cards, laminate them, put them on a ring and give them to her to carry as visual reminders of the social "rules" for any particular context.

  • Your daughter is entitled to necessary supports and services to receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive setting. Her behavioral needs may require a positive behavior support plan to assist her in her classroom. A Behavior Support Plan (BSP) template, a manual on how to write a BSP, a tool to evaluate the quality of the BSP, and many other helpful suggestions, articles, and legal information can be found at (Look under Behavior Planning).
  • The above suggestions apply to the school creating an appropriate program. It is also important for you to have realistic expectations. I want to talk to you parent to parent here. While your daughter will continue to learn all her life, it will take her longer to learn the things her classmates do and she will not be able to master the curriculum as it becomes more abstract. She will also need to learn the skills that will foster independence, usually called functional skills. Other children do not require explicit instruction in these areas, but your child will.

There are many reasons for her to be included in general education but one of them is NOT that she will be able to perform academics at her grade level. If one of the reasons that she is avoiding doing school work is that you are requiring that she do the same thing as the other children, you are contributing to her behavior problems. I believe you when you say that testing does not reveal all her abilities but testing does reflect the school environment and its demands.

Make sure that each IEP goal can meet this criteria: How will learning this skill help her become independent or increase her ability to participate in the world?


Giangreco, M.F. (2002). Quick-guides to inclusion 1, 2, and 3: Ideas for educating students with disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

TASH website and especially you will LOVE this one!!

  • This month's question and answer is a double hitter!

This month's question and answer is a double hitter! See below

The theme for this month is Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI). I have received two letters about behavior in children who have experienced a TBI. I am grouping them together although the first thing that should be said about TBI is that it is not a discrete diagnosis. The injury can be to any part of the brain, of a non-specified degree of severity, occur at any age, and have a wide range of anomalies. Sometimes, the term “acquired brain injury” is used to include open- or closed-head injuries (TBI) and non traumatic brain injuries that are the results of strokes, infections, or noxious products taken into the body.

It is a unique disorder in the special education arena because the children who experience a TBI were, for the most part, previously typical in their development, and the change occurs suddenly. Thus, the emotional impact of a TBI, both on the child and his or her family, is a part of the picture. Most children (and adults) have some behavior problems and cognitive changes are also frequent. Attention, memory, and judgment are often affected. Just as there are no “typical” TBIs, there is no typical intervention.

Question 1:

I have a son who is 22 years old. He was in accident in 1996 after which he was diagnosed with TBI. He is on a great deal of medication for depression, seizures, compulsive behavior. His behavior is completely out of control. His IQ is around 14 yrs. He is now taking money, forging my checks, making long distance calls =$2200.00, thought the calls were free. He is addicted to POT! Its like he will do what ever just to feel accepted, and that has been a bad influence. His physician. prescribed all meds, we meet for 1 on 1, but he seems to be getting worse. But with him being of legal age I can't just take him to hospital in which he has spent a lot of time for psychological problems. He had the medical testing early, the psychological again last year. Do you think a repeat in medical examination may be help full, as in MRI etc.? I do not know where to start. Feeling very stressed, tired, helpless. He needs guidance on how to survive and interact with society in the right way. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You for taking your time to read this,

Alisa R. Mullis

Question 2:

Hi Dr. Saren,

I have an 11 yr. old child who suffered from TBI on the right side of the brain 5 years ago. Academically, he's very good in math and science but he has problems in reading comprehension and writing. He also has some problems with social skills such as not easy to make friends, preferring to be alone, being passive in class and not initiating things. He also forgets things such as not turning in the homework that he already completes. We have an educational specialist referred by one psychologist coming home to help him with writing for about 1 year, but I don't see any improvement. Where can we get information to look for educational therapists, who can we contact for help and what should we do to help him improving in social skills, in writing and reading comprehension as well as his forgetfulness and his withdrawn behavior at school?

Thank you,

V. Nguyen

Answer 1:

Dear Ms. Mullis,

I totally understand your feeling of not knowing where to start. And it is very common for young people who experience a TBI to be immature and to have problems with self esteem but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier for their families or themselves.

Your son clearly needs help, but the medical needs of individuals with TBI require specialists, and you are looking for a program that has a team approach to look at the psychological, medical and functional needs that your son has. Your son might benefit from medication for depression but because of his injury, a psychiatrist with experience in treating people with TBI will know which medications are safe and effective for him.

I don’t know where you live but there are centers in various parts of the country that specialize in treating people with TBIs. In Northern California, there is the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. If you are not in this area, I am sure that they can direct you to a center nearer you. Try them at 408 885-5000 or (Brain Injury Association) 1800 444-6443 see TBI Challenge (v.5 #4 2001) by Carolyn Roccio about finding a suitable counselor in the community mental health.

Also, check out these web sites: Managing Behavioral Problems after a Traumatic Brain Injury by Tom Novak and the site many other resources – clear fact sheet TBI Survival Guide by Dr. Glen Johnson – a free and informative book on-line Free articles dealing with psychological issues for people with TBI

Answer 2:

Dear Ms. Nguyen,

Thanks for your letter. Some of the behaviors and abilities you describe are typical of children who have experienced a TBI. ( Take a look at this article: Traumatic Brain Injury in Children and Adolescents). That means that there are strategies that can help him, that some of these things may improve over time, and also that everyone must recognize that some of these things are going to remain challenging. I think hiring an Educational Therapist is an option, and that some of his difficulties can be addressed by his special education IEP team.

It’s hard to offer blanket interventions for big areas such as social skills or reading comprehension with so little information. I would suggest that for his forgetfulness that you and his school team use schedules and check-off sheets.

  1. Provide an individual schedule of his day that he can keep with him at all times. Teaching him to use and follow a written schedule may be a life long accommodation. His schedule should include the written words of each activity in his day, including break times between classes. He can check off each class or activity as it is completed. 
  2. Use “within activity” schedules (or embedded schedules) to help your son complete the work assigned to him independently. Within each activity listed on his daily schedule, write an activity checklist that outlines the specific assignments. For example, when it is time for math on his schedule, his checklist would list such things as a page number and the problems assigned as well as how much time he has to complete the work. Teaching him to use these embedded schedules will help reduce the times he needs to be reminded what to do next. It will also remove the “I forgot” excuse!

re: an Educational Therapist; there are various levels. You want one who meets the qualifications of Board Certified. Beware : There are people who use the title, but lack the training. To locate one, complete the form available at (under parents) and the association will send you up to 3 names of certified Educational Therapists in your area.

  • I am wondering if he needs a smaller classroom because I don’t feel I can meet his needs.


I have a student in my second grade class who has Tourette syndrome. Tommy is more distractible than any student I have had in my 20 years of teaching. He gets NOTHING done unless someone sits next to him the whole time, and I can’t do that. Despite his lack of work production, he is able to do work at grade level.

He often reacts to small things in big ways and the other students don’t know what to make of him; he has no friends. He goes to the resource room for 45 minutes each day. I am wondering if he needs a smaller classroom because I don’t feel I can meet his needs. Please give me some suggestions.


Molly in San Jose


Thanks for your question. You don’t mention any motor or vocal tics and the presence of both of these is required for a diagnosis of Tourette. These tics are often the focus of questions about including students in the general education classroom but since you don’t mention them, it raises doubts in my mind about the diagnosis. You also don’t mention any obsessive or compulsive behaviors that often accompany Tourette. What you describe is Attention Deficit behavior (I don’t hear in your description hyperactivity, as much as inattention) that is extreme in severity and what I interpret as his being very easily frustrated. Here is what I would think about for Tommy:

  • If you are not seeing tics (and he must have motor and vocal), I would share that information with his family and ask them if Tommy’s physician could give the school some information.
  • Is Tommy taking any medication for the ADD symptoms? While there is no medication for Tourette per se, medications that target symptoms that impact his functioning are available. Some stimulant medications are not appropriate for children with Tourette; Tommy’s physician should be one familiar with Tourette (see resources below)
  • AskaSpecialist has our own Attention Deficit specialist, Shari Gent. Ooodles of ideas and suggestions for working with students who have difficulty with task initiation & completion and other attention problems. Check it out! Check out the archives. Shari also offers a (free) full day training in Northern California. Our website gives dates and places where she will be presenting next school year.
  • Tommy’s IEP team may wish to review the supports and services he needs to receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive setting. He may need more in-class support and/or some mental health services and/or some school counseling, for example to assist with implementing the ideas below.
  • The short fuse and overreaction you describe are not unusual for children with Tourette syndrome. They can be very difficult for the child and for the rest of the class, including you. Some ideas:
    • Tommy’s responses are not volitional, at least to some extent. He is wired to react strongly. He needs to learn to recognize his behavior and begin to know when he is beginning to feel the loss of control. See an archived Askaspecialist:
    • Individualized rating Scales are another way to build self awareness and to see its connection to behavior.

Individualized Rating Scales

Individualized Rating Scales (IRSs), are tailor made for each situation and measure identified targets. The student rates herself, and so do relevant other persons (e.g., one-to-one aide, teacher, parent). IRSs are particularly useful in measuring intensity but can also rate seriousness, importance or frequency. They document change over time and the effectiveness of interventions.

Here is an example of an IRS for Irene:

Problem: I am asked to do something I am not in the mood for. Circle the best description of how I felt:

1 2 3 4 5
I felt a little irritated.
I felt very irritated. I felt mad. I felt very mad. I felt furious.

Outcome: Here’s how I handled it:

1 2 3 4 5
I handled my feelings perfectly and did what I had to.
I made a face and did something small (e.g., banged my desk), but I did what I had to.
I made loud comments and let everyone know I was upset, but after a while I did what I had to.
I refused to do what I was asked, even when my aide came over.
I screamed or disrupted others and left the class.

Have Irene use this IRS whenever she feels herself getting angry. Compare her scores with the ones the staff have graded. At the end of each day, make an average of her scores for each scale. At the end of the week, graph the cumulative average of each scale.

Adapted from: Bloom, M., Fischer, J., & Orne, J.G. (2003). Evaluating practice: Guidelines for the accountable professional (4 th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Other Resources
For you:

  • (1995) Dornbush, M.P. & Pruitt, S.K.Teaching the tiger: a handbook for individuals involved in the education of students with attention deficit disorders, Tourette syndrome or obsessive compulsive disorders

For Tommy:

  • (1990) Buehrens, A. Hi, I’m Adam a child’s book about Tourette Syndrome

For the Family:

  • I was wondering if you can recommend any kind of follow-up training?


Dear Dru,

Thanks for the PowerPoint training on Key Concepts that you posted in January. I used it very successfully with the staff in the three schools I work in and I was wondering if you can recommend any kind of follow-up training?


Julie in British Columbia


Dear Julie,

I am glad it was helpful. I have found some others that make great next steps: :

“To deal effectively with students who exhibit challenging behaviors, it is important to approach such problems from a research-validated theoretical perspective.Understanding Behavior: An Interactive Tutorial provides a basic introduction to the behavioral model. By understanding and applying the behavioral model, you will increase the likelihood of intervening successfully with problem behaviors.”

“ Management of student behavior is a major concern of teachers and paraeducators because of its importance in establishing a positive learning environment. Creating the opportunity to learn and develop both academic and behavioral skills is essential to an effective classroom. This unit provides paraeducators with basic information to assist them in contributing to an effective behavior management approach. The unit addresses the goals of behavior management; planning and the roles of paraeducators in carrying out behavior management; strategies which assist in managing students and promoting positive behavior; and ethical considerations related to classroom management.”

Happy Training!


  • I have a 7 year old son in 1st grade.



I have a 7 year old son in 1st grade. I think he is average to above average in all subjects. I don't believe he has any emotional disabilities.

Today, his teacher told me that he was drawing a picture of the Eiffel tower, which they were studying, and he drew pictures of people falling off the tower. She told him to redo his picture, and he got angry with her. Told her he hated her, then continued to express his anger (verbally) and ended up telling her he wanted to kill her. She mentioned she has talked with the class about drawing inappropriate pictures, and that it's not ok.

He was sent to the principal’s office where he was shown the code of conduct for students in which they are not allowed to physically or verbally insult or hurt other students or teachers. I was told my son was very remorseful, and the teacher felt he received enough continues for the bad behavior. He has also had similar conflicts with the teacher’s aide. They just don't get along.

I do not know what to do to help him stop this behavior. It seems to happen when he gets angry and mostly with teachers.

I would appreciate any suggestions.

Thank you!


Thanks for your question. I am going to suggest two books that have great ideas for parenting children who are not mild-mannered, easy-going kinds of kids. Please do not think that this means that there is something seriously wrong with your son. Some kids are born with a temperament and style that just reacts more to situations. 


The Explosive Child Understanding and Helping Easily Frustrated, "Chronically Inflexible" Children by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.

Good parenting suggestions and imparts an understanding of how it feels to be this kind of child.

The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Five "Difficult" Types of Children -- by Stanley I. Greenspan, Jacqueline Salmon

Read the sections on Defiant and Active/Aggressive children to see if he fits the descriptors. I have found that most children do not fit exactly into one of his types, but a mix of the parenting strategies may be very helpful.

Both of these books are readily available on-line.

A technique that might be helpful for your son is one used a lot with children with autism. Again, I am not suggesting that your son is autistic. A Social Story™ describes the relevant social cues inherent in a situation, perspectives that they may engender, and common responses using a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a Social Story™ is to impart accurate social information in a reassuring manner. Half of all Social Stories™ developed should affirm something that an individual does well. If you need help in writing one, the speech and language pathologist and/or the school psychologist in your school district may be able to help you. See:

You can also model for him how you and other family members handle anger. When you are angry, tell him that you are feeling this way, and what you might like to do that may not be acceptable, and what other things you can do instead.

Finally, I would carefully supervise the media he is exposed to. I would seek out the type of books that show children how to solve problems peacefully. Some resources are: and

I would also supervise his television viewing, if you don’t already do that, prohibit cartoons and shows that are violent.

Your measured response, which expresses both confidence in your son you’re your legitimate concern about his school behavior and anger, will be very helpful in teaching him how to participate in the big world. Getting on this problem early is an excellent predictor of success. Good luck!


  • I would like some samples of data collection sheets for behavior.


I would like some samples of data collection sheets for behavior.

Sue Biers


Dear Sue,

Bless you!! Data keeping is the most overlooked important part of changing behavior. There are some wonderful resources available, just a click away.

The first is on the PENT website and called Functional Observation Form. One thing I like a lot about this form is that it guides you to consider the function as you are observing the behavior. The other feature I like is that it allows you to collect data on more than one behavior simultaneously. This is especially helpful when particular problem behaviors seem to occur simultaneously. What I don’t like about it is that it is quite detailed and takes some time to learn to use fluently. http:www//

(If you have trouble with the link, go to , scroll down to Forms on the left, and select Functional Observation Form.)

The second resource is found at There you find a baker’s dozen of forms that range from generic to specific, with nice descriptions about when to use which.

I also like The Problem Behavior Pathway at

because it makes the logic of a problem behavior seem clear. And go back to the home page ( for the very useful “miniwebs”.

Below I have copied a quick overview of the different types of behavioral recording that I swiped off the website of the illustrious Dr. Mac ( If you don’t know Dr. Mac’s website, ( which has been mentioned in earlier Askaspecialist pages, bookmark it! It’s a behavior specialist’s idea of a good time!

Happy Counting!


from Dr. Mac:

    " Another method of evaluating a student's behavior that provides you with a very precise picture of its severity is behavioral recording.  The teacher or aide observes the student directly and records how long or how often a certain behavior occurs. Using this method, you can compare the degree of occurrence of the behavior with the degree to which it is exhibited by other students.  This comparison can be used as support for enrolling the student into a certain educational placement.  This method may also be used to obtain an accurate idea of whether the student's behavior is improving over time.  There are three basic types of behavioral recordings: frequency recording, duration recording, and interval recording (although many other variations are sometimes used for certain purposes).  The recording procedure you choose will depend on the kind of behavior demonstrated and type of information that would be most beneficial.

    Frequency recording is a simple counting of how many times a behavior occurs during a designated period of time. Those designated periods might be a minute, an hour, a day, or a week.  It is most useful with behaviors that are discrete and short in duration (e.g., number of curse words, number of short talk-outs without raising hand), or are things that the student has created (e.g., number of correct math problems, number of homework assignments submitted).  The second type of frequency recording in which you count the number of items is known as "permanent product recording".

    Duration recording monitors the percent of time or the total time that a behavior occurs in a specified time period.  To calculate the percentage, the sum of the times (duration) that the behavior occurred is divided by the total observation time.  This type of recording is used for behaviors that last for more than a few seconds and/or for varying lengths of time (e.g., paying attention, tapping a pencil, in-seat behavior).

    Interval recording is a shortcut procedure for estimating the duration of a behavior.  In this method, the teacher periodically looks at the student atpredetermined (NOT spontaneously selected) intervals and records whether the behavior is occurring.  There are three types of interval recording.  In whole interval time sampling, you observe the student for a few seconds at designated intervals and notice whether the behavior occurs for the whole interval that you are looking for it (mark "yes" or "no" as to whether this behavior occurred for the whole time).  In partial interval recording, you mark whether the behavior occurred at least once during the short observation interval.  In momentary time sampling , you look up immediately at pre-designated points and notice whether the behavior is occurring at that precise moment.  In all three types, the teacher then figures the percent of observations that the behavior occurred.  Interval recording is used for the same behaviors as duration recording, but this procedure takes less time and effort and does not require that the student be observed continually. 

    How to Use Behavioral Recording

1. Define the behavior that you wish to observe.  Be very specific.  Be sure that your definition is so narrow in scope that others would observe only what you had in mind.

2.   Decide which type of behavioral recording is best suited to monitor the behavior.

3.   Decide when you will observe the behavior.  Do you want to observe the behavior in a number of situations or just one (e.g., math class, story time)?

4. Decide how long each of your observations will last. Ten to twenty minutes is usually adequate, but the more time you spend observing, the more accurate will be your results.  Repeat your observations at least three more times to give a more representative picture.

5. Observe and record the student's behavior.

6. If you used frequency recording, figure the average number of occurrences per minute, hour, or day.  If you used duration recording, figure the percentage of the total observation time that the behavior occurred.  If you used momentary time sampling, figure the percent of intervals when the behavior was occurring.  Plot the occurrence rate on a graph.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6. " 

  • Key Concepts in Understanding Behavior.

Hello out there in Cyberland! A holiday gift for my readers: a letter answered AND a free PowerPoint program I use to teach the basic concepts in behavior.

This month's question and answer is a double hitter! See below

Question 1:

Dear Dru,

I'm the lady that keeps pestering you at Redding trainings. I was wondering if you could email me a copy of your Power Point presentation on Key Concepts in Understanding Behavior. I was planning on presenting it to parents who have questions about their children's behaviors and how to work with schools to develop appropriate positive behavior plans. Thanks again for the great work you do. It inspires me and keeps me going strong just knowing that there are people out there that "get it".

Lynn Osa, Family Support Coordinator 
Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California 

Question 2:

I have a student in a second grade class that eats everything all of the time. He eats crayons, pencils, staples, anything available. We have tried to redirect him, keep things away from him, and spoken to his parents. His parents feel that this is normal 2nd grade behavior. I am concerned about his health and also because the other students are starting to tease him. Can you help?

Answer 1:

 Thanks for the kind words. Flattery will get you anywhere! Here it is!!!

To view presenation:

  • Click on picture below (Patience please, this file is large)
  • Then click on the "Slide show" icon (Bottom right corner of window)
  • Finally, click anywhere on the slides to advance presentation 

key concepts

Answer 2:

Your student is exhibiting a behavior called “pica”. “Pica is an eating disorder typically defined as the persistent eating of nonnutritive substances for a period of at least 1 month at an age in which this behavior is developmentally inappropriate (that is, between >18and 24 months).” (

Pica is a serious behavioral problem because it can result in significant medical problems if the craved substance is toxic or contaminated (intestinal infections and parasites are particular concerns), or if it blocks or tears the intestines (e.g., staples). While no medical treatment is specific in the treatment of patients with pica, involvement of the child’s physician is essential.

Although the etiology of pica is unknown, numerous hypotheses have been advanced to explain the phenomenon, ranging from psychosocial causes to causes of purely biochemical origin.

Although pica in children often remits spontaneously, a multidisciplinary approach involving psychologists, social workers, and physicians is recommended for effective treatment. Currently, behavioral strategies have been most effective in treating pica. An experienced psychologist or behavior specialist should be involved in determining the function of the behavior and in developing a program to replace the behavior. This is not something a class room teacher should be leading, but a team approach is helpful in creating a consistency once a program is developed.