Thursday, February 18, 2016

Teachers, Good Job!

“What about the parents? If they spoil their child at home there is nothing we can do here. When student become a problem in the classroom the root of the issue is poor parenting.” I often hear these comments from teachers. “Blame them, not us. We can’t do miracles and undo parents’ mistakes.”

There is no doubt that good parenting skills are crucial to quality education. And that’s why I write in these blogs about parenting all the time. There are indeed selfish, absent and neglectful parents. Some parents belligerently take their children’s side in any dispute: “My son is being picked on.” “The teacher is not fair.” “The classroom rules are stupid.” Sometimes, they threaten lawsuits and show up on campus shouting and demanding to talk to the Principal, which creates a climate of fear.
But other parents are just overwhelmed or lack quality education themselves. Therefore, I think it is not fair to blame parents for any student who frustrates teachers and school aides.  I believe that the “blame the parents” approach doesn’t move us forward.

In my every day work I visit a number of classrooms each week and it’s great to see effective teachers who don’t need to blame the parents. They understand that sometimes, the school is the only stable space in struggling students’ life and so, what happens in the classroom can be a life-changing experience.

Teachers are expected to teach, of course. But also tend to the social needs of children wrapped by instability, poverty and family dysfunction. Only good teachers succeed in this challenging mission.

So, what makes good teacher?

-        Patience, for sure, and lots of it.
-        Knowledge. It is be very helpful when they master the art of motivation and the power of stimulating and structured instructional routines. Instead of forcing the kids to fit their way of teaching, they have to be able to change their way of teaching to fit their students’ needs. Children with special needs do not learn the way we teach, so we need to teach the way they learn.

But more than anything the good teachers share a crucial feature: passion. They are passionate
about their jobs. They wouldn’t change it for anything else.

I’d like to contribute with a few of suggestions:
1.      Teachers must be carefully selected.
2.      Teachers must be trained and supervised on an ongoing basis.
3.      Teachers have to be motivated by competitive salaries.
4.      Teachers must be supported by favorable work environments.

The system should reward good teachers. Parents should acknowledge and thank them. And fight for these teachers if their kids have one of the others.  

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

Monday, February 1, 2016


Motivation as a Teaching and Behavior Management Tool

Children with special needs may not be as motivated to work as other children are. A solid behavior management program builds motivation by rewarding desired behaviors with reinforcement (edibles, toys, time to play, preferred activities, sensory stimulation, etc.). 

We can’t teach if we can’t motivate”.

The student is given rewards only for desired behaviors in response to those stimuli so that eventually he comes to understand that certain stimuli are probably more deserving of his attention than others.
This way, the instructor achieves instructional control when student’s responses to his/her instructions produce reinforcement more often than responses in the absence of the instruction.
        Instructional control plays a fundamental role in education and behavior management.
        Instructional control is achieved by reinforcing the desired responses.

Reinforcement, a simple behavior-consequence principle, is the fundamental building tool for teaching behaviors. The teacher or parent is in control when she pairs herself with reinforcement.

Guidelines for delivering reinforcement
-        Delivery of reinforcement should be paired with praise, eye contact, high fives, hugs, brief games. Some kids with autism do not yet find many of these things very reinforcing. It is our job to teach them to enjoy these things as much as possible.
-        The reinforcer (prize, reward) should be exclusive for the target behavior.  If the child has free access to computer, for example, he doesn’t need to emit the desired response to get it.
-        Needless to say, reinforcement must be motivating to the child. If she doesn’t care when you praise her, praise is not reinforcing.
-        Reinforcement must be delivered consistently; and therefore, the criteria for the response need to be planned out in detail, understood, and used consistently by everyone involved in the child's program.
-        Reinforcers vary and by definition are considered reinforcing only if they increase the likelihood of the response in the future. In other words, reinforcers must be reinforcing to the individual and thus varies from individual to individual.

Catch them being good. If you wait until the child misbehaves to provide attention or play with her you are reinforcing the bad behavior.

Remember, you change the child’s behavior by changing the behaviors of the adults that interact with that child. Pure and simple, right?

Daniel Adatto, BCBA