Distal setting events are sometimes called slow triggers or setting events. They are setting events that can trigger challenging behavior but don’t happen immediately before the behavior occurs. These are things such as:
Lack of food (hungry)
Got in a fight before school
Lack of sleep
Conflict at home
Missed medication or medication issue
We can help a student’s behavior when we know the distal setting events
Imagine this scenario: How do you feel if you have not eaten and you have to do a strenuous task? On top of that imagine that, you got bullied in the hallway going to class and you only got three hours of sleep last night. All of these factors add up to distal setting events that can set a child up for failure.
Teachers respond to challenging behaviors all day long. We often forget about the distal setting events that can lead to behavioral challenges. The focus is usually on what happens immediatly before behavior happens. A functional behavior assessment can take into account these distal setting events to help us get a full picture. This assessment will give us a better idea of “why” or the function behind the problem behavior.
Keep lines of communication open
Open lines of communication between home and school are vital for us to pinpoint the distal setting events. Having a morning check in around wellness can also help us get a “pulse” on how the child is feeling and their general wellness. A community circle is a great way to do a group check in if you don’t have time to do individual check-ins.
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Here is another great article written about setting events if you would like to read more!
*As we continue to discuss behavior support strategies, sometimes we forget about actually TEACHING social skills. We can’t assume students know how to take turns, manage interpersonal conflict and act appropriately in social situations.
*Social behaviors need to be taught just like any other skill. Finding time in your school day to teach social skills will pay off. Please watch my YouTube video and read the image from High Leverage Performances.
Students with autism
Students with autism can lack social awareness. They may not be able to take the Point of View (POV) of their peer which can result in social behavior that is atypical at times. Students with autism still want friendship so teaching social skills will help with bridging some of the gaps in social behaviors skills.
Early childhood literature as social support
One of my favorite tools for addressing social behavior issues is to use early childhood literature to help support social learning. One practicum student in my class shared how she had students teasing one another. Her mentor teacher pulled a bin full of books about teasing into the classroom to read to hear students. As she read she asked questions, checked for comprehension and encouraged students to pair-share ideas for using kind and supportive language with one another. The book my student pulled to share with our class is called Just Kidding by Trudy Ludwig. Here is the link for the book online:
Please watch the YouTube video which shares more about this positive behavior support strategy.
How do you feel after receiving positive and constructive feedback?
As an adult, how do you feel when your coach, supervisor or boss gives you positive and constructive feedback? Does it encourage you to continue working hard or make you feel demoralized? Most likely it will make you feel amazing! You have a clear understanding of what you are doing well and what you need to work on.
Make the feedback specific…
When a student get’s specific positive and constructive feedback, it is not just a “good job”. With the student’s goals and targets in mind you are helping inform them with the feedback. The feedback will give specific information how to improve and what is going well.
How do I give feedback?
Feedback in written or verbal forms are both great ways to give feedback. Make sure the feedback comes relatively shorty after the student performs the task and provide ongoing feedback until the student reaches his or her goals.
This behavior support strategy comes from High Leverage Performances…Here is a screenshot of the High Leverage performances number 8. I reference this in my YouTube video.
Well thought out routines and procedures help create a calm, organized classroom. Students know what to do and how to do it. Without positive, routines and procedures, a classroom can easily fall into total chaos. Examples include: how we manage materials, enter the classroom, transition, and turn in work.
How do we teach routines and procedures?
Teaching routines and procedures starts at the beginning of the school year with explicit instruction. Just like academics, routines and procedures need to be taught, and reinforced. Establishing routines and procedures is one of the High Leverage Practices for special education and will be the bedrock for your classroom environment. I have linked more information about High Leverage Practices here. https://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/portfolio/ccsc-2017-high-leverage-practices/
Things to think about when setting up routines and procedures
Consider the age of the students. What is age appropriate for them? For example if you teach Kindergarten, the routine for entering and leaving the classroom will look different from a fifth grade classroom. Can your students handle materials being on the desks in tubs or do they need to be stored out of reach? There are many considerations but speak to your team, observe other classrooms and know it is ok to change a routine if it is not working for your class.
Support for students with special needs
Students with autism or other special needs respond well to classrooms with well established routines and procedures. Students with autism feel safe when they know what to expect. Focus on the transition routines for students with autism. Transitions are when we often see behavioral challenges from our students with autism. One great way to teach routines to students with autism is by using a social story. Here is a link to my YouTube video sharing what a social story is. https://youtu.be/lKl6cafmdVY
Consistent routines provide structure for students with autism which makes them feel safe secure and helps them understand what is going on during the school day.
Support for all students
Positive behavior support strategies such as this are helpful for all students. Students will be productive, calm and organized with these routines in place. Watch your mentor teachers around you and see how well run their classroom are. What would you do the same? Also think about what you would change or do differently? All of this reflection is important in developing safe and well run classroom routines and procedures.
I went to a great local training where Dr. Ashley Brimager, a clinical psychologist shared some tips for creating success at dinner time. She referenced support strategies from Dr. Marsha Linehan who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Check out more about DBT here: DBT therapy Information .
Long Term Goal:
The goal is for children to learn to internalize healthy eating habits and develop a healthy relationship with food.
What does “drama” look like in your home at mealtime?
Some parents have shared: food refusals, crying, acting out, meltdowns, throwing food etc.
Be mindful of the “setting events” before, during and after dinner. Make sure your child is not too hungry or too full when you attempt dinner routine. Do the best you can and every meal is a chance to work on creating harmonious mealtimes where kids work towards the long-term goal.
Use your voice as a tool: As teachers, one of the best tools we have is our voice. Ensure that all students can hear you by projecting your voice. You can make your voice louder or softer as needed. Work on developing a ‘stern’ teacher voice to use when you need it, but be careful not to overuse it. If you use a soft-spoken or quiet voice while teaching, students may talk over you and start to take over the lesson. Practice using your voice as a tool in your car on the way to school, at home, and during lessons to see the impact it has on your teaching.
Pre-teach behavioral expectations BEFORE starting the lesson:Be pro-active rather than reactive. Spend a few moments before teaching your lessons being explicit about your behavioral expectations. What do students’ bodies, voices, and eyes need to be doing during the lesson? Be specific: “Eyes on me, hands in your lap, bottoms on the floor.” Use the same language as your motor teacher so students hear the consistency.
Notice or ‘catch’ students who are following through on the behavioral expectations:During the lesson make sure to ‘catch’ or notice the students who are following the behavioral expectations you explained at the start of the lesson. This can be as simple as saying “I notice Johnny has his hands in his lap, thank you Johnny.” Follow through on the same language your mentor teacher uses to praise student behavior for consistency. Do you have a classroom-wide behavior incentive in your classroom? If so, follow through and use the plan throughout the lesson.