Linking Intervention to Thoughts, Feelings and Actions

Working with challenging children can prove difficult because we cannot always determine the triggers strictly through observation and data collection. We need to incorporate other methods that may provide insight into the student's motivation to behave inappropriately. Remembering that intervention requires a look at both internal and external factors that guide a child's behaviour. The perception and interpretation of events, may influence the response to various situations by the child. Irrational beliefs can play a part in the actual response by the child to an event or circumstance. An individual's behaviour and the context in which it occurs can effect cognition and vice versa. Intervention should then target cognition, feelings and behaviour. Biomedical factors (sensory, neurological) may also be a factor that needs examining.
Interviewing the student can be a tool to understand the student's motivation to engage in inappropriate behaviour. Forms can be found here:

Nichols (2001) advocates the interview should first ask questions about the behaviour then shifting to how the student feels about the behaviour and finally concentrating on the thoughts behind the feelings that triggered the response. The interview will be altered depending on the students chronological age, ability to recall facts, expressive language and willingness to divulge essential information.

It is important to note that the "behaviour that has the greatest probability of acheiving what the student wants becomes the most dependable and in turn, most likely response" (Gable, 2004). With this in mind the adults working with challenging children need to find the "pay off" for the student when he/she is acting inappropriately. Peer recognition can be a very powerful motivator versus the child changing their behaviour because you want them to.

Neurologically if the student interacts or engages often enough in inappropriate or appropriate behaviour the constant transmission of that behaviour strengthens the neurological connection with that behaviour. A physiological response occurs in the body and the brain which again chemically reinforces the inappropriate behaviour and the student may actually become "addicted" to the feeling they receive from the behaviour (Gable, 2004). An error in learning could also be responsible for inappropriate behaviour.

Success hinges on persuading the student that he/she can have their needs met by choosing new and appropriate behaviour. Intervention then requires the mixture of cognitive, affective and behavioural domains. However, don't forget that students emotions will tend to outway their cognitive processing so change in emotion or perceived interpretation of an event takes time and commitment.

1. Alternative thinking - more than one solution to the problem.
2. Means-ends thinking - the ability to recognize it takes a planful approach and multiple steps to get to the desired goal.
3. Consequential thinking - the ability to predict what will happen when one acts, and to do so quickly enough to change that plan if consequences likely will be negative.
4. Teach ways to help the student subject their thoughts to critical self-analysis, the presence of tension, what triggered the tension, and negative or self defeating thoughts with the tension, ways to confront the tension, and ways to substitute a positive thought for the original negative thought.

1. Teach ways to identify internal "early warning" signs: sweaty palms, flushed, heart rate
2. Stress inoculation exercises: deep breathing, relaxation techniques
3. Concrete strategies to cope with environmental stressors: breaking eye contact, walking away.
4. Teach the student how they behaviour looks and sounds (facial and verbal expresssions)

1. Teach the student to recognize potentially volatile situations.
2. Teach "placeholder" behaviour: Ways to stall or buy time to think of an appropriate response
3. Teach more than one response to a situation.
4. Teach the student to maintain appropriate behaviour through self-assessment, self-reinforcement, and self-monitoring.

1. Engage in "Perspective Taking" or "social role taking" exercises. Have the student put themselves in someone else's shoes.
2. Need 12 or more treatment sessions and booster sessions at regular intervals
3. Frame instruction so it aligns with student needs and realities.

1. Teach the student how to respond to naturally occuring events like: Peer put downs
2. Intervention strategies should depend on the student's strengths and weaknesses in relationship to the nature of the problem and its environmental context.

Encourage all students to prompt and reinforce acceptable behaviour and ignore unacceptable behaviour (taking into consideration the level of safety)
Research shows that students with emotional/behavioural disorders prefer peer-mediated to adult-mediated behavioural supports (Gable, 2004).


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