CA Dept. of Education


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Behavior Archive 2015-16


Tara Zombres, M.Ed.
Education Specialist

Tara Zombres, M.Ed., is an Education Specialist at the Diagnostic Center-North.  She is a special education teacher who has taught students with a wide variety of disabilities. She has a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Special Education with the Moderate/Severe population.  Her areas of expertise are providing engaging and appropriate instruction for students with complex needs, developing educational programs for students with severe emotional and behavior disorders, teaching students with Autism using Evidence Based Practices and designing comprehensive programming for students with Emotional Disturbances.  At the Diagnostic Center, she provides trainings in Behavior Basics, and in Creating Student Success: How to Provide Meaningful Access to the CSS for Students with Moderate/Severe Disabilities. She is a BCBA candidate and a member of PENT (Positive Environment Network of Trainers) and CAPTAIN (California Autism Professional Training and Information Network).   


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  • Resources for Implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Support for Behavior


What are current resources to support teams in implementing a multi-tiered system of support for behavior?


The implementation of a multi-tiered system of support for behavior is the intervention framework that has been adopted by the California Department of Education. The 13th Annual International Conference on Positive Behavior Support that was recently held in San Francisco focused on how to support teams in developing comprehensive universal behavior supports in all classrooms, as well as how to intensify supports for students who need additional intervention. Below are several key resources that provide free, evidence-based, user friendly and comprehensive supports for both teachers and those who support behavior in the classroom.

This data-based individualization (DBI) for selecting and implementing intensive interventions for students with severe and persistent learning or behavioral needs is an interactive model; it helps teams to design and implement interventions.

This site outlines how to select evidence based interventions and provides specific intervention suggestions, a brief description and a video that models the intervention being used.

The Florida PBS project has created a comprehensive MTSS Coaching Guide with vast resources to support teachers in their implementation of classroom management strategies.

This site houses a seven module training course on implementing a basic functional based assessment. It also provides forms and videos to help team develop plans and interventions from information gathered from the basic FBA.

Tara Zombres

  • Social Emotional Learning Curriculum


Social Emotional Learning Curriculum


There has been increasing discussion on the implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum within the classroom setting.  This is an exciting development, especially when considering effective interventions for students with emotional and behavioral difficulties. There is strong research that supports the DAILY implementation of curriculum that is designed to teach students social-emotional skills. 

PENT (Positive Environment Network of Trainers) recently sent out this list of resources that may be helpful in supporting schools in beginning implementation of SEL curriculum.

Tara Zombres

  • Creating a User Friendly Data Sheet with Lots of Information


The creation of individualized data sheets is always so daunting. I am working as a behavior specialist within the school district and am trying to create a user friendly data sheet that I can give to teachers. The problem is that I always want them to collect so many different types of information, (i.e., antecedents, duration, frequency, responses), and sometimes I want them to collect this information about several different behaviors. I end up creating so many different data sheets that it becomes overwhelming, or I over simplify what I ask for and don’t get enough information. Help!


This is such an important question! So much of creating effective behavior change is in the determination and collection of the right type of data.  I have found that creating a single form that targets the simple, objective collection of several different aspects of behavior is the most straightforward way to ensure that there is more than enough information to inform decision making. 

Below is an example of a “forced choice ABC” form. 

What this form tracks:

  • Antecedent conditions – the setting and activities are the antecedent conditions that have been determined likely to produce undesired behaviors.
  • Type of behavior – The specific behaviors that the student exhibits are each listed – in this case a “FERB” or replacement behavior is also added (i.e., Asked for a break)
  • Duration – each behavior incident is timed and the number of minutes is recorded

Below is another example:

This form tracks:

  • Antecedent conditions – again the situations that are likely to produce the undesired behaviors are included
  • Frequency of SIB – This student engaged in self-injurious behavior (SIB) for which he wore a helmet. The goal was to reduce the SIB and his wearing of the helmet. So this form was used to track the frequency of the SIB both with and without the helmet.
  • Response (consequence) – Staff were using varied response methods and so this form was used to help determine if any one type of response was effectively decreasing or increasing future or ongoing instances of behavior.

Creating this type of data form can be easily adaptable to be individualized and meet the needs for most students. The collection of several different aspects of behavior (i.e., antecedents, duration, frequency, and/or responses) allows for ample data to analyze either function of behavior or effectiveness of an intervention.
Tips for use:

  • Make sure that all of the desired information in on a single line to streamline collection
  • Include the date on every line
  • Record each behavior incident on a separate line – even if there are multiple on the same date
  • It is ok for more than one item to be circled under each section
    • For example: the student might engage in aggression and crying in the same incident – circle them both!

I hope this helps. Good luck and be creative with how to track data effective data points. Remember that data is what drives decisions about the effectiveness behavior intervention – so make sure the data that is collected is smart, efficient and accurate.

Tara Zombres

  • Supporting students with Prader Willi Syndrome


I have a student with a diagnosis of Prader Willi Syndrome in my class. He has been a very difficult student to manage, behaviorally, and I would love any suggestions about how to support him within the learning environment.


Individuals with Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS) have a complex set of symptoms that make up who they are as learners within the school setting.  It is important that any individual with PWS be under the care of medical professionals to ensure that their health is being adequately managed. 

It is highly typical that learners with PWS struggle, often, with extreme maladaptive behaviors.  While managing those behaviors is a difficult task, there is a large body of information regarding “Best Practices for Students with Prader Willi Syndrome.”  These strategies are vitally important in providing the appropriate supports for these students to be successful.

The following is an outline and highlights of best practices for individuals with Prader Willi Syndrome. Comprehensive information can be found at:

  • Consistent routines – Individuals with PWS will benefit from a very controlled environment. The basic principles of managing individuals with Prader Willi are centered on creating an environment that supports every part of PWS symptomology.  Daily routines should remain as consistent and constant as possible.
    • A daily schedule should be visible within the learning environment at all times. It is important that the daily schedule be followed with consistency. All activities should be explicitly stated on the daily schedule (including breaks, scheduled meal times, preferred and non-preferred activities).
    • Use of reinforcement schedules – Individuals with PWS respond very positively to being provided with access to desired activities and items for engaging in desired behaviors.
      • Keep the reinforcement routines simple and easy to understand.
      • The earned activities or tasks can vary
      • Create a “living reinforcement inventory” that keeps track of any items or activities that are motivating. Communicate between home and school.
      • Avoid using food reinforcement. 
  • Clear rules – Expected behavior rules should be taught and prominently posted within the classroom. It may be necessary to create visual depictions of the rules for individuals with PWS so that they has increased understanding and retention of the rules. Rules will need to be explicitly taught, through discussion modeling and in the moment coaching on how to follow the rules. The rules should be positively stated so that they outline what students should do, not what they shouldn’t do.
    • I.e., Safe hands and clothes on instead of no hitting or no taking clothes off
  • Clear boundaries – Individuals with PWS struggle to understand, generalize and employ appropriate boundaries with peers and staff. All of the people whom interact with students should use consistent language and expectations around physical and behavioral boundaries.
  • Calm environment – Individuals with PWS have difficulty regulating emotions and are often highly reactive to the environment around them. The educational environment should model consistent and appropriate levels of excitement and activity.
  • Principles of food security – Food security can be viewed as the state of having reliable access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods, accompanied by the assurance that adequate food can be acquired through socially acceptable means. Three principles which are used in describing food security include:
    • There will be No  Doubt about when meals will occur and what foods will be served
    •  No Hope that the person with PWS will get anything different from what has been planned
    •  No Disappointment caused by unrealistic expectations about food.

These three principles are most likely to be achieved when access to food is controlled acrose     all settings (i. e. no unauthorized access to the refrigerator, freezer, pantry, vending machines or any outside food source), avoiding any spontaneity with respect to food (i.e. no snacks on demand, no left overs to munch on, no “free” foods or beverages, and absolute portion control; to include condiments).  The person with PWS must be carefully supervised during all potential exposures to food. The schedule for mealtimes and snacks is to be posted, and social situations where the temptation to consume food in excess of caloric requirements are to be avoided.

  • Supervision – Individuals with PWS should have high levels of supervision with trained staff that can support the implementation of proactive and positive supports. This is particularly necessary in any environments that food is present.  Staff should be used, primarily, to provide reinforcement, positive interaction and praise.
  • Non-contingent reinforcement – Individuals with PWS are often highly motivated and tuned into social interactions. The use of non-continent reinforcement can be very powerful in providing an ongoing level of satisfaction within the environment. These are moments and activities that should not be removed or earned based on behavior. Instead, Individuals with PWS needs to learn that attention and praise are available at all times. This can come in the form of authentic social interactions and attention from peers and staff.
  • Supported social situations – While Individuals with PWS enjoy socialization,  this is often times when unsafe behaviors can arise. Therefore, they need to be set-up for success by engaging in social opportunities that are engineered and arranged for the teaching of skills specific social skills.
    • Teach Individuals with PWS explicit social skills to use with peers. This may include what to say and how to respond. These skills should be coached, role played and modeled with individuals with PWS before taking them into a “live” social situation.
    • Unstructured social time is opportunity to make inappropriate social and behavioral mistakes. An example is lunch. Instead of unstructured lunch, a “lunch bunch” could be created where a small group of students, including typical peers, would eat in a small environment together. This would provide perfect opportunities receive non-contingent reinforcement and practice social skills.
  • Scheduled exercise – A regular part of the day for individuals with PWS should be time to engage in physical fitness. This should be on the daily schedule, and implemented with the utmost consistency. As lack of stamina during physical activity is a real problem for individuals with PWS, it may be necessary to provide extremely high “value” reinforcement to create motivation to engage physically.

Good luck and remember that there are many strategies to try that work!

Tara Zombres

(Written with contributions from Dr. John Digges,  M.D., Ph.D,  Behavioral Pediatrician)