Jacquie Bezo is a consultant at the Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders (POPARD). She was approached by a British Columbia school district in the spring of 2010 to assist staff in managing transitions from pre-school to kindergarten for children with special needs. POPARD consultants had recently begun to provide implementation support, as part of their services, and Jacquie decided to gather data on the effectiveness of implementation service. The district undertook to identify three or four students who would be entering school in the fall and to ask school staffs to participate. It was a complex task, because the identified students were not yet enrolled in schools, and operational details could not be clarified until the fall. Jacquie worked with teachers and education assistants at three different schools and with three district consultants.
Not all students who receive POPARD consultative support receive implementation support. POPARD implementation support is a supplement to consultation that involves follow-‐up for students identified by districts or schools as needing extended support by POPARD staff. An Implementation Plan developed at a student consultation may include the POPARD consultant in providing support to the school team to aid in effective and accurate implementation of strategies chosen by the team. The rationale for Implementation reflects the recognition that a one-‐time visit and discussion of best practices may not be sufficient to enable the team to follow through and successfully implement changes. The intention is to support teams in actually implementing the plans they co-‐develop because it is understood that consultees can benefit from additional support in making these changes. Implementation support is similar to having a coach who works with athletes provide a helping hand or scaffold as needed.
support is a supplement to consultation that involves follow–up for students identified by districts or schools as needing extended support by POPARD staff.
Depending on the needs of the school team and the time that can be provided, implementation could involve supports such as modeling a strategy or approach; co–teaching; creating needed materials or resources; or ongoing coaching in person, by phone or video-‐conference. The specifics of implementation support are planned by the consultant and the school team.
In this project…
Three children who had each been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and had previously been enrolled in pre-‐school programmes were enrolled in kindergarten classrooms in three public schools In a British Columbia School District. The school district had assigned an Education Assistant to support each teacher, but teaching staff and district staff were concerned as to how they could best meet the needs of these children who were new to the school system. In consultation with school district staff, Jacquie identified five goals for this project:
Jacquie provided Initial consultation – observation and report (a full day for each student), attendance at team meetings, data collection, and design of the implementation support plan. She assisted each team in selecting behaviours to be targeted and advised on the intervention strategies chosen by each team.
Implementation support from Jacquie included:
- Six half–day sessions to provide implementation support (coaching, modeling, etc.)
- Total of four days provided for each team at each school
Jacquie and each school district consultant who assisted in the project tracked their use of time during the project phases. Jacquie found that allocation of the time she spent in implementation varied across schools (Figure 1). For Student A she reported that about 25% of her time was spent in coaching (green), while for Students B and C, coaching consumed about 20% of her time. Observation and feedback to staff (purple) occupied about one-fourth of her time for Students A and B, but almost half of her time for Student C. Time spent in modeling (orange) ranged from 10% for Student C to 25% for Student B. Creation of materials (red) did not consume any time with Student C and only about five percent with Students A and B.
Not only did the characteristics of the students vary, but the characteristics of skills possessed by staff varied across classrooms in many respects. While some types of activities were common to all classrooms, Jacquie “tailored” the use of her time to respond to the unique needs in each circumstance.
Implementation support included time from POPARD and from the school district consultants who participated in the project. Comparison of Figures one and two shows differing portions of time for different implementation activities for the consultants across classrooms. Jacquie reported that the district consultants supplemented and amplified the time that she spent in each classroom.
The school district provided implementation support, as well, through provision of materials, assistance by district staff at team meetings and assistance in collecting data. School District consultant coaching time (Figure 2) ranged from 10 % for Students A and C to 60 % for Student B. Observation and feedback by a district consultant was not needed for Student B but occupied 20 % of time for Student C and 30 % for Student A. Data collection consumed half of a district consultant’s time for Student A, but much smaller portions for consultants who supported Students B and C.
A Functional Behaviour Observation Form was completed three times during the project for each student. As well, staff members were surveyed twice to evaluate changes in perception, confidence and satisfaction. Behaviour observation allowed Jacquie and district staff to evaluate students’ behaviour issues and validate changes in staff perceptions.
Student A. Functional Observation: the student:
- Did not comply with simple instructions from staff.
- Did not reference peers or adults.
- Frequently engaged in stereotypical behaviours.
- Had frequent tantrums.
Student B. Functional Observation: the student:
- Displayed minimal interaction with peers.
- Interacted very little and displayed limited focus at circle/carpet–time.
- Was kept at carpet with peers by transitional objects (books). These were his focus during carpet–time.
- Used minimal functional communication. Often engaged in delayed echolalia and scripted language.
- Frequently refused adult commands.
- Screamed and attempted to run out of class.
- Threw chairs and objects when placed in time-out.
Student C. Functional Observation: the student:
- Was non-verbal.
- Did not use visual supports during initial observation.
- Did not show joint attention.
- Indicated needs / wants by crying, whining, biting own hand, hitting others.
- Wandered around room.
- Showed attachment to a limited choice of materials-1 book, a couple of toys, preferred objects only
- Stayed on task for 5 seconds – varied according to his own agenda.
- Did not follow any directions of adults
- Engaged in a limited variety and number of tasks.
- Preferred tasks of own choosing.
- Did not use transitions – walked away to the next activity when he wanted to leave.
- Did not interact with peers
- Seemed minimally awareness of others.
- Did not reference others
- Was not included in class activities
After her observations, Jacquie met with each team, including the district consultant, at each school to report out and to assist each team in constructing a plan to respond the issues that were identified in her consultation.
The school team identified the following three challenging behaviours:
- “No–no” protest to adult directions
- Pushes an adult’s hand or object
- Drops to floor
A Functional Assessment of Behaviour form was completed to determine the function of the challenging behaviours:
- The “no–no” protest behaviour was perceived as avoidance of demands or requests from adult staff or to avoid transitions.
- Pushing adults’ hands or objects was to avoid an interruption to his activity.
- Dropping to the floor was perceived as avoidance of transitions.
Interventions selected by team A included:
- Visual support – first/then
- Transition support – countdown strip
- Transition objects
- Break choices Student B:
The school team identified three challenging behaviours:
- Yelling “NO”
- Running away
- Throwing objects
Using the Functional Assessment of Behaviour form, the team described the function of the challenging behaviours:
- The perceived function of yelling “no” was to avoid demands or requests from adult staff.
- Running away was to avoid demands from adult staff.
- Throwing objects was perceived to avoid demands and obtain attention.
Interventions selected by team B included:
- With-in activity schedule (white board & checklists)
- Breaks (short time away)
- Closed (limited) choices
Team C identified four challenging behaviours:
- Bites hand
- Throws objects
- Leaves activity
The functions of the challenging behaviours included:
- Biting was believed to avoid demands or requests from staff.
- Pushing adults away was to avoid an interruption from staff.
- The purpose of leaving an activity was not determined.
For interventions, team C selected:
- Work/choice format using first/then visual
- Work system (basket activities)
- Transition countdown
- Toileting plan
For all students at all schools, Jacquie and district staff provided direct and indirect implementation supports to staff to facilitate integration of these three students into their kindergarten classrooms.
An additional goal for this project was to enhance the abilities of staff to manage transitions. Subsequent to the end of implementation, staff members were asked to rate their satisfaction with the implementation support that they received from 1 = not satisfied to 5 = highly satisfied (Figure 3). In each classroom, staff members indicated high levels of satisfaction with the support provided to them by POPARD and district staff.
Consistently high satisfaction was noted across the three classrooms with regard to coaching (green) and debriefing (olive).
Satisfaction with observation and feedback (purple) was also elevated in two of the three classrooms.
Staff members had also been asked before the project began in the fall to rate their confidence in dealing with problematic issues with regard to behaviour and development. They were asked to rate themselves again in the spring. As shown in Figure 4, Education Assistants rated the severity of the behaviours with which they were dealing as less problematic in the spring than in the fall. Ratings for having confidence in their ability to deal with problematic behaviours showed an increase in confidence; ratings that reflected their level of comfort in dealing with challenging behaviours and in having a child with challenging behaviours in class also showed positive changes.
In Figure 5, ratings by Classroom Teachers are described. The changes for teaching staff are less emphatic (teachers indicated higher levels of confidence from the beginning of the project) than are those for Education Assistants, but also suggest positive outcomes. Perceptions of severity of behaviour declined, as did those made by Education Assistants; confidence in their ability to manage challenging behaviour improved, and the median rating of their self-‐report with regard to their skill level in managing behaviour showed improvement.
The results of repeated functional behaviour observations are shown in Figure 6.
For Student A the frequency of saying “No, no” rose at the second observation, midway through the project, but declined sharply at the third observation. With regard to pushing away an adult’s hand, the frequency declined from the first to the second observation and remained low at the third observation. For the third behaviour that was targeted by the school team, dropping to the floor, the frequency declined to zero after the first observation.
For Student B, the frequency of yelling “no” declined to zero at the second observation and rose slightly at the third but was still well below that of the first observation.
The frequency of running away declined to zero at the second observation and remained at zero for the third observation; the same pattern is shown for throwing objects.
For Student C, the frequency of biting his hand declined from the first to the second observation but continued to occur, at a lower frequency, in the third observation. Pushing an adult away declined to zero after the first observation, as did throwing objects and leaving an activity by simply walking away.
At the conclusion of the project, one EA remarked that she had “grown more” in the past year (with regard to her ability to manage behaviour) than she had in the previous 10 years. Some staff members felt the “feedback” meetings after observation were the most helpful feature of the service provided; others felt that the coaching component was most important. These accounts suggested to Jacquie that implementation support needed to reflect classroom needs. (The changes in behaviours were a kind of “bonus” at the end of the project.) Jacquie was able to answer her own questions about the implementation model and how to deliver support.
These outcomes are consistent with teaching staff reports of declines in the severity of challenging behaviour that occurred in their classrooms. Targeted problematic behaviours declined to low levels or to zero in all instances. While it is possible that maturation of students or simple exposure to classroom expectations contributed to the improvements reported directly through observation or indirectly through ratings, the nature of the characteristics of the students with ASD who participated in this project, the specific behaviour targets identified, and the overt connection with the particular interventions applied suggest that the implementation support provided by Jacquie and school district staff may well have been at least an important contributor to improvements in the education of these three children.
The results obtained from the surveys administered to staff support the effectiveness of the implementation model in enhancing staff skills and illustrate the importance of framing organization, planning and adequate support for implementation within the context of specific classroom needs. Different classroom contexts require different mixes of support to enhance the capacity of all staff in addressing the needs of exceptional children in a classroom.
POPARD Website: https://www.autismoutreach.ca
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