Author: Sarah Bilewich

I. Introduction

 Lester is a 6.1 year old boy in my kindergarten self-contained special education class.  He presents with social/emotional issues and is classified as Emotionally Disturbed.  My classroom consists of a 10:1:1 ratio with the majority of my students classified as either PDD or Speech and Language Impaired.  Lester is an integral member of the class because cognitively he makes great strides and serves as a strong model of language for his peers.  Teachers often depend on Lester to “keep a lesson going” because cognitively he remains strong and is able to express his ideas in a clear manner.

II. Desired Behavior and Final Goal

 Lester has a tendency towards aggression and violent behavior.  He has a low tolerance for frustration and often tantrums during transitions and times when his wants are unmet.  During these tantrums he often becomes physical resulting in his removal from the classroom.  He needs consistent one on one attention to model appropriate coping strategies and emotional modulation during both structured and unstructured times.  The biggest issue with Lester is his tendency to tantrum even before his teachers are aware of what is upsetting him.  The desired behavior and final goal for him is to use his words to express his feelings during times when his wants are unmet.  Using a calm voice, he must verbally express his frustrations and approach his teacher with his feelings.  The goal is directly related to Lester’s tantrum problem because it focuses on a series of steps leading to the eventual elimination of the explosive behavior that is the source of the disruption.

III. Present Level of Performance

 Lester’s present level of performance is poor.  He continuously resorts to screaming, throwing chairs, kicking, headbutting, biting, jumping on tables, and running around the room to avoid restraint.

IV. Steps to Reach Using a Calm Voice to Express Feelings of Frustration

1. Ability to identify frustration and anger in modeled social situations
2. Ability to identify frustration and anger in his own personal situations by keeping a calm body in his chair (even if he screams)
3. Identify feelings of frustration and anger by remaining calm in his chair and requesting a squish toy, requesting the use of his anger management notebook, requesting a break from the room
4. Identify feelings of frustration and anger by keeping a calm body and voice and verbally expressing the cause of his feelings

V. Results

3/28/05 -  Lester’s Shaping Plan Is Introduced in the form of his Star Chart
   Before we actually implement the Star Chart to achieve the desired behavior, his teachers model a mini-lesson about identifying feelings of frustration and anger.  We encourage Lester to observe what the angry person’s face looks like and what kind of body language they are using.  Although I’ve included this as step one, it is more of a precursor to the concrete behaviors that Lester must master in his own personal situations.
  Lester’s Star Chart is introduced the same morning.  He is working towards keeping a calm body in his chair during times when he feels anger or frustration.  If he can remain in his chair (even if he resorts to screaming) he will earn a star on his chart.  Gaining enough stars will result in earning something at the end of the day (ie: time on the computer, listening to his favorite song from the Disney CD, etc.).  We want Lester to display this behavior 5 times before moving to the next mini-goal.

4/1/05 – End of week one.
 This was a difficult week for Lester because of the many changes and times of disappointment.  He had a difficult time understanding why he earned his reward at the end of the day, and why he didn’t.  The stars were really motivational, as was the bigger reward at the end of the day.  At first his progress was sporadic and unpredictable.  Finally by midweek he understood the concept and although difficult, he began to catch himself as he felt his anger rising at certain times in the day.  By the end of the week, he was able to keep a calm body in his chair for five successful times when he could have resorted to the explosive behavior.

4/4/05 – Beginning of week two

 Monday morning his teachers introduced his new goal; we wanted Lester to identify his feelings of frustration or anger by requesting a calming device or a break from the room while remaining in his chair.

4/8/05 – End of week two

 Lester was pretty quick to catch on to the desired goal.  Only three times did he resort to total explosions, reverting back to his old ways.  Lester was able to remain in his chair twelve times over the course of the week.  Out of the twelve times, Lester requested a squish toy, requested time to take calming breaths, and requested the use of his anger management notebook.  These requests were made sporadically during the beginning of the week and more consistently towards the end of the week.  By Thursday morning, Lester displayed the desired goal a total of five consecutive times.

4/11//05 – Beginning of week three

 This was the big push for Lester.  Identifying anger and frustration, keeping a calm body, and requesting alternate choices to channel his anger were all huge accomplishments; however, using his voice to express why he is angry or frustrated will be a difficult task.  His teachers are proud of him and have high hopes that the stepwise progress will continue.  His expectations were defined on Monday morning and Lester was fully cognizant of his new goal.

4/22/05 – End of week three

 Lester’s progress was inconsistent.  Initially he had no problem continuing to remain in his chair and request a squish toy or use of his notebook, however by Tuesday afternoon he had spiraled downward.  We met as a team and reassessed the situation.  We decided that the activities he was working towards earning were not motivating enough.  Sure enough, as soon as we chose something highly motivating (we negotiated lunch with the Head of School), his gains again became evident.  By Friday morning he was back on track and continued requesting the squish toy.  We will continue to chart his progress through next week.

4/25/05 – Beginning of week four

 Reminders were provided for Lester and thus, the week began.  He continued to remain successful in remaining in his chair and requesting an alternate choice.  He even asked to take a break from the room twice.  During lunch on Wednesday, Lester was upset by a peer at the lunch table and was finally able to reach his goal.  His friend Mike had two cookies with his lunch and did not wish to share them with Lester.  When denied, Lester verbally expressed that it frustrated him that Mike refused to share his cookies.  We were so proud!

VI. Reflection

 It was very interesting to use the shaping plan with Lester.  The most challenging part seemed to rest in forming the shorter goals that progressed with difficulty.  The subjective opinions of different team members also posed complexities.  For example, while some of us might determine to a behavior to be “uncalm,” others might look the other way.  It was difficult as a team of professionals to function as a group attempting to shape a specific behavior to achieve a desired goal.  Overall Lester was eventually successful and was able to reach the point of expressing his feelings in a calm, rational manner.

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Thanks Sarah!