While we all know of students who actually do bang their heads to relieve stress, it should be our goal as educators to find more safe and suitable solutions to relieving the stress and academic strain that our students with conduct disorders often feel. Response to intervention (RTI) strategies are tools for supporting learning difficulties that enable educators to target instructional interventions to children’s areas of specific need as soon as those needs become apparent (IDEA, 2007). This model is currently being extended to our work with students with emotional, behavior, and conduct disorders. As with RTI for academics, “struggling students receive support as soon as possible; multiple tiers of progressively intensive support are provided to students based on need; a problem-solving, data-driven process is used to determine interventions; interventions are research-based; and students are monitored to determine progress” (CEC, 2011).
RTI for emotional and behavioral disorders contains the same basic elements as RTI for academics. Both involve a multi-tiered pyramid plan of more interventions that become more intense as needed. The most popular system of RTI involves three tiers. Observation of student performance is used to inform a problem-solving approach which is used to determine appropriate interventions and accommodations for students. A teams of teachers and professionals is often used for analysis of student progress and problem solving. Following is additional information on these components.
Tier Services in RTI for E/BD
In Tier 1, all students receive explicit instruction in behavioral expectations and a system is implemented to encourage, reinforce, and acknowledge appropriate behavior. Also, all teachers implement effective, research-based classroom management practices. Additionally, in Tier 1 all students are screened to identify those who need Tier 2 support.
For Tier 2 services, schools provide targeted interventions to students who did not respond to Tier 1 interventions or were identified through screening as needing additional support. These research-based interventions are often geared to small groups and can be easily implemented.
For Tier 3 services, schools provide intensive supports to students with the most significant behavioral needs. These supports are individualized based on the student’s specific needs. Some students may require wrap-around services, which include community services.
(from CEC, 2011)
West Virginia University (2007) offers a host of strategies for helping students with conduct disorders. Preventative measure which teachers can take to create an environment that encourages appropriate behavior such as grouping students with conduct disorders with students who display proper behaviors, having preestablished consequences for misbehavior, determining whether medication is being taken and whether the timing of the medication is affecting student performance, acknowledging the contributions of the student to the class, developing a contingency plan with the student that outlines what kind of good behaviors are supposed to replace bad ones, praising good behavior and performance often, finding out what kind of reinforcement works for the individual, and treating the student as worthy of respect and consideration.
Specific reactionary strategies include making sure punishments fits the level of misbehavior and is never harsh, giving the student time and a place to cool off after an emotional reaction or episode, enforcing classroom rules consistently, and reacting immediately to the misbehavior so that the student sees that the modification or discipline is tied directly to the unwanted action.
We also know that student with conduct disorders often struggle academically as well. Teaching skills such as self-control, self-reinforcement, self-monitoring, self-management, problem solving, cognitive behavior modification, and metacognitive strategies are as important to the academic achievement of these students as are teaching specific reading, math, science, or social studies strategies. Closely reviewing steps for individual assignments or writing the steps down helps students avoid the stress of miscommunication. Giving options for showing competency and allowing students with conduct disorders the ability to have any needed testing accommodations can also reduce anxiety and obstinacy toward completing assignments and showing competency (West Virginia University, 2007).