Techniques for controlling behavior of children w/ learning disabilities

Richard Lavoie


Stopping bad behavior: out of control kids; not playing by the rules

Negative reinforcement does nothing to change the behavior. Positive reinforcers change the behavior in successive approximations. Think about how children learn language. Language improves through rewarding each step of the behavior, grows and improves through reinforcement. Recognize the reward and reinforcement and steps toward the behavior. Reinforce the steps toward the behavior.

Things that don’t work:

1) Physical contact with the child.

2) Time-out, which is oftentimes used incorrectly. That is, to isolate kids. Time-out was never designed to be a punishment. Time-out should be used as not reinforcing a negative behavior.

3) Sarcasm- children are extremely literal.

4) Taking things away. Children learn moral values based on what they see us do (restrictive). By the end of the class, the child can get the toy back, again. You gradually make it tougher for the child to get the toy back by making the child get it in the principal’s office or getting it back from a parent.

5) Using homework for punishment- school is seen as a bad thing. This is inherently bad and you don’t want to have to do this.

Things that do work:

1) Being proactive rather than reactive prevents problems from occurring in the first place. A child is environmentally dependent and like a chameleon, takes on the color of the environment. You need to try to change the environment in which the child exists. Set up for success. Do things in an organized way, structure that is predictable is provided. Children don’t deal well with surprises. Have posted rules, a routine established. Posted rules may include passing out paper, collecting work, and tardies. These rules should be established on the first day of school. Consistency leads to children memorizing the structure and having more appropriate behavior. Anxiety also decreases. By setting an agenda, behavior and attention are maintained. Children should enter a learning situation by knowing the objective (dynamic of the classroom)/agenda/what doing that day. You and the kids are working against the list. There is an urgency to get finished. Children respond well to a deadline. Manipulate the child in starting a lesson. This is preventive discipline.

2) Manage the behavior with your voice- hearing the message and getting an instantaneous response. Effectively use your voice and do not argue with the child. The child has 3 reasons to argue: 1. power and control, 2. positive reinforcement/attention from peers, & 3. derail a lesson. A good technique to use is called the broken record technique in which the teacher repeats the rules 3x to the child. In a matter of 6 seconds, reasons for arguing are vanished.

3) Describing the child’s performance; being proud of something the child did; preventive discipline.

4) Collective rewards- rewarding the group for when the child does something right.

5) Effective conferencing techniques: begin the conversation positively and end it positively, planning when and where to say it. Pick the right time to talk to them for a better exchange with the child. Enjoy the child’s company by picking a place of neutral turf. Children will respond to the environment in which they are in. Manipulate the environment in which the child can be successful.


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