Meet Allie and her therapeutic day school classroom!
My classroom is run on a point/level system, as this is the PBIS modification that my school has made to meet the needs of our students. My students receive positive behavior tickets for showing expected behaviors, and can lose points on a daily points sheet for unexpected behaviors. While our points sheets are mainly used for data collection related to Behavior Intervention Plans/IEP goal tracking, they also give students a visual idea of their behaviors. Their daily point totals allow for student privileges – as they show more positive behaviors and less negative behaviors, students gain access to weekly snack cart, more times they can visit the school store, walking through the school independently, etc. My classroom has the same schedule each day, which incorporates literacy, math, social skills, and science/social studies. Students are split into two groups based on academic levels so that more explicit and direct instruction can occur.
Each day, we start our morning with 20 minutes of Morning Choices. I found that our mornings were easily our most chaotic time – bus drama, “I didn’t eat breakfast!”, dysregulation, and more. CHOICE has been so powerful for my students, but I needed it to be structured and contained. I created a simple clip chart with student names and a variety of choices they can pick from to engage in for their first 20 minutes during the day. With the paraprofessional supervising, I can put out small fires, take attendance, and do morning check-ins with each student while they are easing into their day.
The Master Schedule
We use one schedule at the front of the classroom. This master schedule is held up by magnets and changed daily to reflect small changes, like social work group, specials classes, and the days we have our therapy dogs. Setting up the schedule is a daily job that is incorporated into a student behavior plan – this kiddo really craves power and control – setting up the schedule has been such a positive way for him to gain some control and feel in charge of something important! I have three students that also have individual schedules. Two are written, one has supported picture symbols. This allows these students to have their daily schedule right at their finger tips.
Class wide and Individual Behavior Plans are key!
In addition to our school wide PBIS/points & level system, I have individual behavior plans running in my classroom. An example of a successful plan was with one student who was majorly regressing with toileting. She began having accidents in school which was causing a whole slew of related problems. We discovered the main issue was a desire for independence – she did not want to be told when to try going to the restroom, but was getting distracted and not using the restroom independently when she needed to. We started a new plan with an iPad – every hour, an alarm went off which indicated to her that she needed to try using the restroom. Every time that she used the restroom, or tried to, when the alarm went off, she received a sticker. This student is reeeeeeally (aka: obsessed) into Michael Jackson, so I made some quick and easy Michael Jackson stickers using 3M labels that she got to choose from. Sooner than later, she was starting to make the connection that she could use the restroom independently again. We still use the iPad timer, but have been able to decrease tangible reinforcement slowly.
Paraprofessionals that do it all!
My paraprofessionals do it all. They assist with behavior management, taking students for planned and/or needed breaks, provide proximity during independent work times, give prompts during academic tasks, and more. I have three paraprofessionals who rotate through my classroom each week, with one in my classroom at a time. While it can be logistically tricky to rotate between individuals, it does help my students become familiar with other adults and not reliant on one person, as I have seen happen in other special education settings. The most valuable task my paraprofessionals assist with is our points sheets/data collection. The struggle of attempting to really teach a lesson while diligently taking data is REAL. Training my staff is crucial to making sure data collection is taken properly. I make it a priority to go over data collection every other week to ensure we are on the same page with what each behavior looks like, for each child, in real time.
Color coding kids! Having boxes, bins, binders, labels color coded is so helpful for staff, students, and me! Students always know what materials belong to who, and it’s easy to grab what you need when you’re just looking for a color. I’ve also found a key to organizing the room is keeping wall space functional ONLY! The more “noise” that’s added, the more visual clutter and chaos.
My students need an alphabet line, as they often struggle with letter formation, alphabetizing, etc. I created an alphabet line that could also double as a coping skill choice board, another piece necessary in our classroom. This does take up a huge portion of a wall, but allows for more open space across the remainder of our classroom.
Words of wisdom:
Try not to sacrifice yourself for what you think a perfect classroom looks like. It takes years to have a fully functioning classroom. Figure out what you need to be at your best, and give yourself that. If you need sleep, SLEEP! If you need healthy foods, carve out time to meal plan. Make yourself a priority!
Hi! My name is Allie Szczecinski. I’ve been a special educator for 8 years. My mom was a special education teacher for 25 years, and apparently it’s a family trait! I have my undergraduate degree in Special Education, and a few years later I got my masters degree in Behavior and Multiple Disabilities. I taught children with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities and autism for 6 years in an inner city school district. When my husband and I moved, I changed school districts and began working at a public, therapeutic day school for children with the primary disability of Emotional Behavior Disorder. Many of my students have mild intellectual disabilities and are on the autism spectrum in addition to their main challenge of behavior. I absolutely love my job because I know I make a difference every day. Not everyone can do this job, and I know that I can, and I can do it well. My TPT store is here, Facebook here, blog is here, my Instagram is @_missbehavior.