As the new school year begins, those of us in K-12 education undoubtedly have a few students in mind who tend to struggle behaviorally.
Have you ever stopped to think about what makes behavioral challenges unique? When you think about all the disabilities and learning challenges students present with in schools, behavioral challenges are just a different breed. Think about it. When a student has a disability in math calculation, reading fluency, or speech and language, the skill deficit is clear and the interventions fairly straightforward. School staff tend to maintain an empathetic understanding and even compassion for the student while they provide accommodations and specialized instruction to address the disability. The student’s progress is tracked, and interventions continue across content areas as long as needed.
When school staff interact with a student exhibiting behavioral challenges, on the other hand, something else is happening. Different responses and emotions arise in staff members when they encounter seemingly rude, oppositional and disruptive behaviors. Regardless of the reasons behind it, behavior often elicits responses from adults drawing from their own experiences and standards for conduct. Further, when children exhibit behaviors, it often affects the learning of others so there may arise a sense of injustice on the part of staff. It tends to be harder to have compassion for students with challenging behavior, even though the reasons behind the behavior may be no fault of the student (just like a student with a learning disability is not at fault for his or her disability).
All of that said, it is vital that we as educators strive to understand our students and employ research-based strategies to support our students with behavioral challenges. Our efforts should lead us to understand what our students are communicating to us through their behavior. Over the coming months, I would like to provide resources to equip educators and parents to effectively support behaviorally-challenged students.
A comprehensive resource hub with many links from school-wide supports to plans for individual students. There is a lot there – take some time to look around!