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About Alex

Alex is a sophomore at Red Rock High School. He is a student with high functioning autism. He uses sign language, the computer, and an augmentative communication device to communicate.

His current schedule is:
Language Arts 10
World History
Physical Education
Graphics Technology

Alex does well in school much of the time. He is expected to pursue college or community college after he finishes high school. A major concern for the team is that Alex struggles to remain calm when he feels his work will not be completed on time. When he is upset, he tips over desks, yells, and leaves school grounds. He is currently completing 50 % of the work in Language Arts.

Alex’s High School
Red Rock High School is in the second year of school-wide positive behavior support implementation. The school’s three school-wide rules are: “Respect ourselves and others,” “ Education comes first,” and “Dedication to our goals is paramount”. Other universal supports available to all students include homework posted on the school website, tutoring before school, and social work/counseling support, as needed.

In addition to these general supports, there are also more targeted supports in place for Alex. He has a circle of friends that is supported by the social worker. This group gets together twice a week at lunch independently with the social worker engaging the group once every six weeks. Alex also has drop in meetings with the one of the vice principals to discuss social concerns he has. This has been very effective in the past in mediating confusion about social situations. Recently, Alex has been referred for individual social work support for depression. This has been going well.

To address the specific behavioral concerns that Alex exhibits when he feels his work will not be completed on time, Alex’s IEP team(including the parents and Alex) agree that he needs a positive behavior support plan in addition to the school-wide supports available to him.

Understanding Alex’s Behavior
Alex’s special education teacher and the parents took the lead in suggesting that the team complete a PATH for Alex. As a part of this planning process, Alex indicated he would head for college at age 21, taking advantage of the transition process available at the high school. He would like to take computer tech classes in college. Alex’s parents stated that he was likely to either continue to live with them or receive live-in support in his own apartment during the rest of high school and into college. Through the discussion of Alex’s dream for his future and goals generated in the PATH process, the staff supporting Alex in the high school reported that they understood him better and felt more unified in what they were doing.

A functional behavior assessment was conducted to determine the stressors associated with Alex’s outbursts. One interesting finding was that Alex’s degree of concern and level of discomfort varied depending on the class. It also appeared that Alex acted out for attention as opposed to acting out to escape the situation. The team hypothesized that the pressure was increased for Alex in subjects that he took pride in (Science and Language Arts), rather than for math or electives. A competing pathways model was used to determine setting events, antecedents, replacement behaviors, and alternate behaviors for Alex. Based on this information, a multi-component plan was developed to address Alex’s stress around deadlines.

Designing Strategies for Alex
The replacement behavior for tipping desks, yelling and leaving school grounds was to inform a trusted person (to be identified by Alex) and develop a plan for extending the timeline for the assignment. During this process, it became clear to the team that Alex would need some skills development in order to accomplish this. Alternate behaviors that resulted in the same outcome (increased attention to Alex, so that he could vent and plan) were also developed. Alex can use a break card when he realizes he is stressed out. He can also go to the counseling office and talk with someone about what is bothering him.

The team then realized that Alex may not recognize all of the signals that his body sends that he is stressed. By having his support person and teachers learn these signals, the staff can cue Alex as he is learning them himself. In addition, the team also addressed the setting events and antecedents that precede problem behavior.

Is the Plan Working?
After one month of taking data on the support plan, Alex was having significantly more time in class without leaving because he was upset. After three months, the Language Arts teacher reported that he was completing 25 % more of his assignments and was maintaining a passing grade. In addition, Alex’s parents reported at the plan evaluation meeting that Alex was also less stressed at home and more able to complete his assignments.

Example of Alex Brainstorming Session Results













Setting Event Antecedent Problem Behavior Consequence
Approaching deadline for an assignment Discussion of assignment Tipping desk, yelling, leaving school grounds Alex escapes the situation; others provide alternate deadlines to him.
Setting Event Interventions Antecedent Interventions Replacement Behavior & Other Related Social and Communication Skills Consequence Interventions
Reminders of assignment deadlines

Teacher check in the week before assignment is due

Learn body signals of stress

Create and teach break card use

Inform trusted person; create new timeline for assignment

Alex can take a break if stressed by the conversation

Identify trusted person

Create timeline adjustment process with teachers

Alex knows when he is upset and needs to seek support

Alex chooses to take a break when he needs one

Alex chooses his new timelines

Alex can complete his work and see himself as capable

Adapted from:

O’Neill, R. E., Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., Storey, K., & Newton, J. S. (1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior.

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