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Behavior Problems and lack of services

  • 1.  Behavior Problems and lack of services

    Posted 11-29-2018 04:49 PM
    Hi fellow NAEYC members,

    I am a director of a small preschool in California. We are a half day program with the option to extend until 2pm.  We have Early Intervention through our local school district when we have children who may have a delay in speech, sensory/movement, self-help, social/emotional, and/or pre-academic skills (ranging from mild to severe). I currently have two students who are exhibiting behaviors that are not in line with typical development, and the behaviors are increasing in frequency and intensity. I have had several talks with the parents, and the teachers have offered support to the parents. We have tried to make modifications to our program to, and made modifications for the child individually. I have asked the parents to have their child assessed through early intervention to see if there are underlying issues that are causing the behaviors (and in both cases, I suspect there are a few underlying issues). Both sets of parents have been resistant to getting any help for their child. Anyway, when I talked to Early Intervention of the phone, they said that often, behavior isn't enough for services. It needs to be coupled with another delay. Early Intervention has been very helpful and has answered lots of my questions and seem to wish they behavior alone would qualify these kiddos for help.  My frustration with the system is that behavioral issues don't seem to have programs for young children that are either readily available or affordable for families. The behaviors we are seeing (hitting, kicking, scratching adults; throwing furniture; biting (4 year old with excellent speech)  or injuring peers; defiance;  unable to transition without tantrums; yelling or screaming continuously; and the list goes on) will likely cause a whole host of issues in the kindergarten classroom, so why can't we get these student's services through the district now? I guess I just want to find these students help that would be similar to the help we would find for a student who is having speech apraxia (just for an example). Triple P parenting has been recommended as a good resource to pass on to these families, but what other kind of help can I suggest (not that they even want it, unfortunately)? Any information you might be able to pass to me would be much appreciated!

    Annette Walters
    Sonshine Preschool
    Ventura CA

  • 2.  RE: Behavior Problems and lack of services

    Posted 11-30-2018 12:26 AM
    I have had a few children in my program like this. what exactly have the parents said when you have briefed them on the behaviors? I am in Lancaster (Military Base) So I totally understand not having the resources. In Maryland we had a program that would come out and help us with tips and observations of ways to help the child through simple routines and teacher modifications. But the child I had here I had to move him on to TK instead of him staying with me. His temper has improved, since then and it was the best thing for him even if it was sad.

    Have you figured out anything that triggers the episodes in the children?

    Temesha (Ms. Tessie) Ragan
    Family Child Care IF Facilitator
    Perfect Start Learning
    Family Child Care Provider
    Edwards, CA

  • 3.  RE: Behavior Problems and lack of services

    Posted 11-30-2018 06:05 AM
    Hi @Annette Walters,

    I can understand your frustration.  I know that managing challenging behaviors and getting the parents on board with a plan of action can be difficult at times.  This is a situation I have found myself in before on a several occasions.

    I understand that you have tried strategies for both the classroom and the individual child.  Have you tracked the behaviors for each child to identify potential triggers for the behavior as @Temesha Anjel Ragan suggests?  The behaviors you describe (hitting, kicking, biting, throwing furniture) are being used by the children for a reason.  The challenge is to find out the reason.  If you tracked the behaviors using an ABC chart noting the time of day the behaviors are happening, what the child was doing, how the teacher responded, and what was the child's reaction, you can usually find a trigger for the behavior (transitions, social conflict, not wanting to participate in a particular activity, etc.).  Once you find this trigger, the teachers can act proactively during these times to assist the child with managing the trigger before they are in a full tantrum.  I also recommend you track and observe any strategies being used to assess their effectiveness.  By noting how the child reacts to a strategy every time it is used, you may find that it works in certain situations and times of the day, but not in others.  Then, you would simply need to adjust your plan for those times in which the strategy did not work.  I have listed some books that I have found helpful when working with children with challenging behaviors in the past.  The strategies are listed based on the specific social skills you are helping that child learn.

    Based on the behaviors you have listed, it appears that these children need help recognizing and controlling their emotions (most likely frustration/anger).  These are strong emotions that even adults have challenges controlling at times (as evidenced by challenges we have in our country).  It is important for us to teach children to recognize their emotions and provide them with appropriate outlets for what they are feeling.  Being angry is not the problem, it's the hitting, throwing furniture, and biting.  CSEFEL have great resources for talking about emotions with children, including feelings charts and faces for teachers to use with children as a form of communication.  However, these resources need to be introduced when the child is calm by telling him/her what it is, how it will be used, and when.  The website for CSEFEL is here!

    In working with the families, how have you talked to them about the behaviors?  Are these behaviors that they see happening at home?  Sometimes, parents may be resistant to our calls for support because they don't see it at home, don't understand the severity of the behavior, or feel that they are being blamed.  Parents may also not know what to do and project unwillingness to help as a protection against admitting they don't know how to handle the behavior as well.  When working with families, a strategy that I have found helpful is talking to parents about the goal I have for the child and not focus on the behavior.  I have said, "I would like to help your child learn to control his/her emotions when they are angry or frustrated" and tell them the things I have planned to help their child learn the skill (go to calm down zone, breathe 10 times, etc.).  Then, I would ask them if they are able to do any strategies at home to further this goal for their child.  By framing the conversation in this way, I have found parents to be less defensive and more engaging in the discussion.  I am attaching a resource I have shared with families from CSEFEL.  I have given this article to families when asking for their support in helping their children learn about and control their emotions.  (Teaching Your Child to Identify and Support Emotions)  They have other tools and articles that are good things to give to parents when you are discussing social goals for their children.

    As for the support from Early Intervention, they are looking for children with developmental delays that could impact later abilities to learn or function in society.  While the behaviors may be a sign of a developmental delay, they also may not be a sign.  If the parents reach out to them or ask the pediatrician for a developmental referral, the results of this assessment would be what triggers supports from Early Intervention services (at least this is my experience here in Maryland).  I do know there is an organization called Kids Included Together (KIT) based in San Diego, CA.  They have done site visits, recommendations.  They could be a resource for you.  They also have a extensive online training center with social emotional assessments, environmental assessments, and trainings for challenging behaviors.

    I hope this helps you in your search for support!  I agree with you that helping these children is a necessary school readiness skill.  Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you.


    When Nothing Else WorksWhat Early Childhood Professionals Can Do To Reduce Challenging Behaviors by William DeMeo, PhD (Gryphon House)
    Beyond Behavior Management:  The Six Life Skills Children Need (2nd Ed) by Jenna Bilmes (Red Leaf Press)
    So This Is Normal Too? (2nd Ed) by Deborah Hewitt (Red Leaf Press) - also provides resources for communicating about behaviors to families​​​

    Tiffany Smith
    Teaching Foundations, LLC
    Columbia MD

  • 4.  RE: Behavior Problems and lack of services

    Posted 11-30-2018 08:42 AM
    Dear Annette, I feel your frustrations.  Negstive behavior is a tough thing to deal with.  What I have to say may seem fruital but in my own experience, it has helped.  I believe that children who lash out need love and positive attention. They need their imner dispositions fed by experiences they are passionate about. At the beginning of each school year, educators really need to know their students...what do these children love to do? What calms them and brings them joy,?  Help these children feel good about themselves within the class room and school. Share what you are discovering with the parents.  Now everyone can begin working from strength to strength.  Does this make sense to you,?

  • 5.  RE: Behavior Problems and lack of services

    Posted 11-30-2018 02:38 PM
    As someone who evaluates children to determine eligibility for Early Intervention (birth through two) and Early Childhood Special Education (3 through 5, until they are eligible for kindergarten), I understand your frustration.  It is often a very fine line between a "developmental delay" versus a medical/mental health issue (and/or trauma).  While I am a developmental specialist, I'm not necessarily behavior/mental health specialist.  I can conduct an evaluation that shows a significant delay in the area of social-emotional skills but if I'm using a "Developmental Delay" eligibility, then IDEA requires a 2nd area of development to be delayed.

    There is an eligibility called an "Emotional Disturbance" (for 3 and older) which may qualify a child for services if the child meets the eligibility requirements.  May be worth noting here, too, that each state may have slightly different criteria for eligibility for EI/ECSE services (different qualifying scores, for example).  This is also a harder eligibility for some families to accept when compared to the "Developmental Delay" eligibility.  Personally, I feel like it's a bit of a heavy "label" but it fits some children well who have a long documented history of receiving mental health treatments, etc. (and those parents welcome the eligibility as it describes their child's needs more accurately, especially if transitioning to kindergarten).

    If families are interested in evaluations, then I agree with all the great advice and resources mentioned from others.  The CSEFEL website and TACSEI are two of my favorites:

    The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning:

    TACSEI & Pyramid Model are updating their website; I'm having a little trouble finding some of my favorites but you can start here.  It looks like some of the CSEFEL resources are at this website too: 

    The National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) (includes TACSEI):

    Behavior Support Resources (routine support guides for home and school):

    Backpack Connection (handouts for parents):

    I also love the "Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for Young Children" book for helping solve a behavior issue and/or develop a behavior plan; you can browse it on Amazon.

    Lori Burkart
    EI/ECSE Assessment Specialist
    Columbia Gorge ESD
    The Dalles, OR

  • 6.  RE: Behavior Problems and lack of services

    Posted 12-02-2018 01:38 PM
    I saw that someone already mentioned CSEFEL and linked to their website.  I just wanted to say how amazing this resource is, I work at a center that is training to become a CSEFEL lab schools so we have had personal training for almost two years now and it has made such a huge difference with our children.  The strategies are simple and easy to understand and implement.  The children really respond well to the different activities.  The website also has a lot of resources for parents as well. I would highly recommend looking into CSEFEL!

    Ashley Byers
    Flint MI