Taking Data on Extreme Behaviors

Categories: Data | Interventions

When it comes down to it, you have one major goal that should be bouncing around your head every single day. It’s not take data. It’s not progress on IEP goals. It’s maintaining safety. Above everything else, you need to keep your students, your staff, and yourself safe. With some of our caseloads, that is an immense undertaking. When safety is on the line, nothing else matters. Your lesson plans don’t matter. Your new cool phonics activity doesn’t matter. Teaching social skills doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you keep those students safe. There is absolutely nothing worse than having to make that phone call. That dreaded phone call to a parent that their child had been injured or their child injured someone else. I’ve been there more times than I prefer to think about. Many times these situations are out of our control and the stars align to create a perfect storm of chaos. But above all else – we work to maintain safety.

So how does data play a role in this all? We already said safety is the first priority, not data. Well, data is the best friend of this safety endeavor you are taking on. Data is the key to unlocking the mystery of how to keep those disastrous days from happening again by learning from them. Data will help you figure out interventions, strategies, and solutions to decreasing the behaviors that threaten our safe environment. But you will likely only take this super important data if it’s easy and doable. Trust me, mid-meltdown you won’t have time for a detailed data or to count slaps to the face as you are being slapped. Taking data is essential to maintain safety, but we need to figure out systems for taking data that are straightforward and manageable within what already is a high stress situation.

Negative behaviors can be extra challenging to take data on because these are often high-stress, crisis situations. When a student is engaging in aggression, we immediately go into crisis mode. It’s important to plan your data system keeping this in mind!

1) Prioritize

Take data on the most extreme and disruptive behaviors first. You can’t tackle everything at once, my friend.

2) Create simple data sheets.

Think doable. Think quick. Think easy. The less writing the better. I suggest using data sheets that already have the behaviors you are tracking written in. Break up the day into time intervals to easy sort when the behavior is occurring most often. Use tallies whenever possible because tallies are quick. Use a counter for high frequency behaviors. Take detailed ABC data after the behavior is done or at the end of the day when it is still fresh in your head.

3) Keep in central location.

These data sheets need to be easy to grab and in a spot that you can always get to somewhat quickly. After you get bit, you aren’t going to say, “Hey would you mind pausing this meltdown one moment so I can go grab my data sheet from my binder over there.” Uh. No.

4) Involve the whole team.

Yes, you are a superhero, but even Batman had Robin. You can’t do this alone. You just can’t. You need your team. You can’t be implementing an intervention, trying to keep your student and class safe, and take data by yourself. You need to train your staff to help you. Have a plan prior to a major behavioral episode occurring. Assign roles. Who is taking data? Who is moving students if necessary? How many people should be with the student who is aggressive? Discuss different scenarios when using the data system. Give feedback following major behavioral incidents. And most importantly, share the data! Share the progress. Or share the lack of progress to explain why you are changing interventions.


  1. Do you have these data sheets available somewhere?

  2. Do you have the staff crisis procedure located somewhere on your TPT site?


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