Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why Children Misbehave —- Under Construction

“In his McKenzie’s book: Theory and Practice with Adolescents he understood that adolescent acting out was related to their search for love and structure not only in the outside world but within themselves”. (p138)”
What does this mean to you?
A1: This was a surprisingly tricky question/concept for me to address. (Note: As I am by no means an expert in child development I have quoted directly from others. )

I) Why do teens “act out”?:

a) Frontal Lobes:
“For many years it was thought that brain development was set at a fairly early age. By the time teen years were reached the brain was thought to be largely finished. However, scientists doing cutting-edge research using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, have mapped the brain from early childhood into adulthood and found data contrary to these beliefs. It now appears the brain continues to change into the early 20’s with the frontal lobes, responsible for reasoning and problem solving, developing last.”

b) The Prefrontal Cortex:
“Every parent of a teenager is familiar with the special behavior that puberty seems to induce – mood swings, slammed doors, rash decisions. Parents often blame such erratic temperament on surging adolescent hormones, but it turns out that the brain has something to do with it, too.
Silvia Bunge, assistant professor of psychology, tells about her research team’s work, showing that adolescent minds haven’t yet developed the same reasoning abilities as adults, and her hopes that this research can improve education methods, as well as the legal system.
Specifically, a teen’s prefrontal cortex – the piece of brain right behind the forehead that is involved in complex decision making – is not capable of the kind of reasoning that allows most grown-ups to make rational decisions.
Neuroscience research has shown that while teenagers’ feet may be done growing by the end of high school, their brains are not. The prefrontal cortex of a 15-year-old is very different from that of a 30-year-old, both physically and in how it’s used. For many teens, the output of their underdeveloped decision processing centers may be as mild as choosing a bag of cheese puffs for lunch or a new purple hairdo. But some youngsters take bigger risks – such as stealing a car or trying drugs. More 17-year-olds commit crimes than any other age group, according to recent studies by psychiatrists.”

c) The Amygdala:
“When looking at a picture of an individual expressing an emotion “(t)he teens were using a part of the brain called the amygdala, which largely controls emotions, while the most active part of the adult brain was the part controlling logic and reason. That means that if you are expressing an emotion—say, disappointment—a teen’s brain has a 50% chance of misinterpreting it as a different emotion, like anger. Then, since the emotional part of their brain is already active from making that (incorrect) judgment, they become more likely to react irrationally and over the top.”

d) Other factors may include:

  • hormones
  • family & peer relations
  • identification of the self
  • self-acceptance
  • executive functioning (development of) (i.e. managing frustration, monitoring & regulating actions, etc.)
  • media messages

II) The Search for Love & Structure:

Ultimately  “(a)ll behaviour serves a function’.” It follows then that, “that adolescent acting out was related to their search for love and structure not only in the outside world but within themselves.”
Taking the above into account, and keeping in mind that this is a time when both internal and external factors are ever changing, confusing, developing, etc., the need for love and structure, for acceptance and guidance, for affection and supervision may well be at an obvious high.

Q2: “How do you see evidence of this in your practice and/or the world around you?”  

A2:  In the classroom, students may act out in order to find and define that “line in he sand”; they are testing limits in order to establish boundaries.
At times they may be acting out in order to best impress others; to try to establish some kind of pecking order.

At times they may simply misinterpret the actions/messages of peers and or teachers (see: c) The Amygdala above) .
Students may have difficulty with the concept of “fair” vs. “equal”, and become quite “agitated” when it appears that someone is receiving special privileges. They may also confuse “tattling vs. telling”.
In my practice it is ever important for me to make accommodations that best provided a structured and supportive environment for my students … one in which students feel supported, valued and are able to take safe risks. In this way they are best able to achieve individual goals.

Our classroom accommodations include (but are in no way limited) to the following:

  • Timetable clearly posted
  • Classroom rules & expectations clearly posted
  • Alerting students to any changes our timetable
  • Structured breaks
  • Preferential seating
  • The use of a study carol if desired / or a “safe” time out space
  • Breaking assignments and concepts in manageable chunks
  • Having students repeat instructions in order to ensure for understanding
  • Allowing for additional processing time
  • A cueing system (i.e. before giving instructions, to redirect to task, etc.)
  • Modelling and reviewing organizational skills
  • Setting students up for success
  • Being consistent with expectations, rewards & discipline
  • Additional time for tests
  • Colour-code for binders and notebooks

Additional “Classroom Accommodations for Specific Behaviour” can be found here:

References (in addition to those sited above)


 A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to the teenage brain
“The Globe and Mail”
Published Thursday, Jan. 08, 2015 3:03PM EST
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 08, 2015 3:16PM ESTSource:

Inside your teenager’s scary brain – New research shows incredible cognitive potential—and vulnerability—during adolescence. For parents, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction


Rogers, K., Rose, H. (2002).  Risk and  Resilience Factors among Adolescents Who Experience Marital Transitions. The Journal of Marriage and Family.

Shapiro, Lawrence. (2010) The ADHD Workbook for Kids: Helping Children Gain Self-Confidence, Social Skills, and Self-Control.

Schab, Lisa M. (2013). The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals .



According to A. S. Masten and J. Obradović, “(r)esilience refers to the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstances..” (

“Some of characteristics or dispositions of resilience include:

  • Bouncing Back
  • Managing Emotions
  • Awareness of Strengths and Assets
  • Passion-Driven Focus
  • Resourcefulness
  • Sense of Personal Agency
  • Ability to Reach Out to Others
  • Problem-Solving Skills”


I personally believe that “(f)amilies and individuals are (more often than not) resilient and have strengths and resources that can be leveraged / used in building positive courses of action, (and) solution(s) (in order to achieve) client change”. (Pleaase note that I admit that I have changed the phrasing of the aforementioned!!!!!!) I further believe that in order to honour both the individual and the process, all those invested in an individual’s life (including – although not limited to – friends, family, health professionals, teachers, etc.) must rally around the individual in crisis. They must work together with the “client” in order to identify the cause(s) of “dis-comfort” and/or “dis-ease”. They ought to spend as much – and yet as little – time as possible on the identification process, and then move forward ASAP. The “team” must move on, and say to one another, “& …. So now what? Where do we all go from here?” Furthermore, in order to fully be there for an individual, the parent(s), health professionals, friends, teachers, etc. must come together to identify not only the “client’s” needs but also their individual strengths. For these strengths, these talents, areas of resilience, assets, gifts, strong points, etc. are surely invaluable; they are assets/integral parts of the healing process. They provide authentic/believable/trustworthy hope, optimism, anticipation, courage, confidence,

Those seeking to aid an individual must truly understand them/the strengths, value them, and use them in order to address individual needs. They are points of leverage. Furthermore, I do not believe that it is appropriate or healthy to “build a therapeutic alliance without” this “team” & their recognition firmly place.

Please indulege me in a little bit of personal refelction, as a result of living with a sister who is bipolar, and teaching children who are on the spectrum, have anxiety disorders, depresssion, ADHD etc. . Please know, that it is from what I have seen and felt first hand that I come to you with this:
If I were ever a patient – and was “ready”- I would want to feel a part of the recovery process -a strong, significant part of that process. I imagine that once “I was” ready, I would want to truly know/believe that I have some sense of control, some sense of value both during and after the process. I would want to be heard and respected (wrong or right I would want to be respected … it is my body, my experience, my life). I would want those professionals who support me to not simply view me as a “patient/illness”, but rather as someone who is capable of being a part of he process. I would want them to help me to identify, recognize and mostly accept my strengths and those who have my best interests at heart. I would want them to know both professionally and personally that “I have undeniable strengths – that I am not “a complete failure” (my sister’s words) – and that one day I will be able to handle this on my own”. Surely, this must be integral any recovery process — an undeniable inner strength. (Having said that, I know that for my sister who is bio-polar, rational thought can be difficult, and impossible at times. While on the one hand she knows that we are there for her, on the other …. she has moments of anger, distrust, irrational though, and even at times a sense of betrayal.)

Were I in her shoes, I would want those around me to understand my strengths and use them in order to address/build upon to “correct” my needs. I would want them to recognize those around me – on my daily life – whom I feel connected to and trust; who understand me and can support me without judgment.

3.Is there evidence of resiliency-based practice in your workplace? Explain.

As a teacher, I see “evidence of resiliency based practice in (my) workplace” all the time. Please find several examples below:

  1. instruction with regard to physical health
  2. social emotional education by professionals (& teachers who have had P.D.). These sessions address: Identification of strengths & needs; Type of Learner; Stress Management techniques; Self-regulation techniques; Goal Setting; Understanding/Developing Resiliency; TRIBES; Second Steps; Perseverance;
  3. Family involvement: Constant communication; “No one knows your child as well as you do.”; Understanding & respect for family dynamics, traditions & dynamics.
  4. “social Groups” lead by social workers.
  5. Social Workers, Psychologists, Language Therapists, OTs on staff to support students, families and teachers/staff.
  6. I also witness first hand (at my school) (m)any of the things that support healthy development in young children also help build their resilience. These things include:
    a secure bond with a caring adult
    • relationships with positive role models
    • opportunities to learn skills
    • opportunities to participate in meaningful activities “ source:



Helpful Sites (ultimately geared toward teachers such as myself):

Teaching Students the ABCs of Resilience
(approximately 21 “links to programs regarding student resilience and resources your can use in your teaching”

Resilience Guide for Parents & Children

Resilience and Grit: Resource Roundup

Explore a curated collection of videos, interviews, and articles from around the web for adults looking to build resilience and grit in young people.


Resilience and Learning


Resilience: The Other 21st Century Skill


Is Resilience the Secret to Student Success?

Educating the Heart: 6 Steps to Build Kindness & Resilience in Children (In this six-part video series)(Dalai Lama Center, 2012)


“Building Resilience in Young Children”

The You Matter Manifesto

Bolstering Resilience in Students: Teachers as Protective Factors

CAMH: Growing Up Resilient: Ways to Build Resilience in Children and Youth

Resilience for Teens: Got Bounce?

Resilience for Parents & Teachers

Screening & Assessment Tools

Screening Tools

The purpose of a screening tool is to determine whether or not an individual requires further assessment.
The screening “tools” that I use as a teacher alert me to the possible presence of a disorder or problem that may well require further attention, assessment, intervention &/or treatment. They indicate whether further consultations &/or outside intervention may well be warranted, following an assessment.

Assessment Tools

The purpose of an assessment tool is to gather as much information as possible, from as many significant individuals as possible (e.g. the client, parents, pediatricians, social workers, SLPs, OTs, teachers, etc.).

The desired outcome of any assessment is to identify – & if warranted – understand a diagnosis, and following that administer the appropriate treatment(s).

As a teacher I often refer students for psycho-educational assessments. These assessments “consist(s) of an assessment of psychological aspects of learning and of academic skills.” (Source:

& include the following/share the following characteristics/factors:

  1. Birth, biographical information, medical history, client self-report, parent observations, teacher observations, behavioural observations, validity indicator findings, recommendations for self-care, diagnoses, clear explanations of the various tools, classroom /testing/ environmental accommodations
  2. Honesty; a willingness on the part of the individual to be as honest, open and comfortable as possible.
  3. Parental, teacher, pediatrician “buy in”; honesty & openness;
  4. The team involved in the assessment process must ensure that all those involved feel comfortable. Ideally, there must be a sense of trust. There must be as little guilt, defensiveness, sense of denial, anger and/or sadness. Any of these in “the extreme” are counter productive, and must be noted/taken into account. (I have found this difficult to achieve at times.)
  5. Choosing the individual to administer the assessment must be done so with care. For example, I have a list of individuals whom I trust to complete psychoedcuational assessments. I am mindful when it comes to the “matching process”. I am careful to them with children and families.
  6. A good assessment takes diversity and family resources into account.
  7. Acknowledge & take into account any previous assessments.
  8. Goal: a clear, accurate diagnosis/explanation.
  9. A thorough follow-up with families. (As a side note: I have often found that parents come to me to “explain the results” as they are often in shock and the results are not presented in “parent/people friendly language”.
  10. A thorough follow-up in “person friendly” language. Too much jargon is confusing, counterproductive, and scary at times.
  11. A list of further resources and support that take into account the family resources
  12. Roundtable follow up meetings with all those concerned (i.e. the child, the parents, the teachers, the assessor(s), etc.)

A “good” (i.e. valid) assessment will point the client in the right direction in the shortest possible period of time. It will get the ball rolling so to speak.

As a teacher the screening and assessment tools that I use are both formative and observational. (It is important to note that teachers often refer to screening tools as assessment tools.) In addition, I find that with each passing year my observational notes (backed-up by concrete data) prove more valuable than any checklist could ever be when speaking with parents and staff.

The screening & assessment tools that I have been exposed to include – but are not limited to – the following:

Teacher rating Scales for ADHD:
Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Teacher Rating Scale
ADHD Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-IV)
Conners Rating Scale
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC)
SNAP-IV Rating Scale – Revised (SNAP-IV-R)

SNAP-IV Teacher and Parent Rating Scale

Autism Spectrum Rating Scales™

Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale (SCAS)

Self-Report for Childhood Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED)

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)

Depression and Anxiety in Youth Scale (DAYS)

Children’s Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (CY-BOCS)

Children’s Nonverbal Learning Disabilities Scale (C-NLD)

Conduct Disorder Scale (CDS)

Today’s Focus: The Child Behaviour Checklist

Today I have chosen to look further into The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) which “is part of the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA) & …(t)here are two other components of the ASEBA – the Teacher’s Report Form (TRF) … to be completed by teachers and the Youth Self-Report (YSR) by the child or adolescent.

How it works

The CBCL/6-18 is to be used with children aged 6 to 18. It consists of 113 questions, scored on a three-point Likert scale (0=absent, 1= occurs sometimes, 2=occurs often). The time frame for item responses is the past six months.

The 2001 revision of the CBCL/6-18, is made up of eight syndrome scales:

  • anxious/depressed
  • depressed
  • somatic complaints
  • social problems
  • thought problems
  • attention problems
  • rule-breaking behaviour
  • aggressive behaviour.

These group into two higher order factors–internalizing and externalizing.

The 2001 revision also added six DSM-oriented scales consistent with DSM diagnostic categories:

  • affective problems
  • anxiety problems
  • somatic problems
  • ADHD
  • oppositional defiant problems
  • conduct problems.

The CBCL (and the YSR) are also scored on (optional) competence scales for activities, social relations, school and total competence. In 2001, options for multicultural norms were added allowing scale scores to be displayed in relation to different sets of cultural/societal norms. Scales were also added for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “

According to Every Day Life, the pros and cons of such checklists are as follows:
Pro: Ease of Use…
Pro: Early Detection…

Con: Individual Differences…
Con: Reporter Bias…

(Source: “



camh Knowledge exchange: Selecting screening tools

camh Screening tools: Databases

Differences between screening and – diagnostic tests, case finding
McCabe, P., Altamura, M., (2011) Empirically Valid Strategies to Improve Social and Emotional Competence of Preschool Children. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 48(5), pp 513-540.


Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA)

Child Behavior Checklist Scores for School-Aged Children with Autism: Preliminary Evidence of Patterns Suggesting the Need for Referral

Pros and Cons of Child Behavior Checklists

The Pros and Cons of Child Behavior Checklists

Behaviour Management & Crisis Intervention: Definitions & Toolkits


Behaviour Management & Crisis Intervention:
Similarities & Differences

  Behaviour Management

Crisis Intervention


Focus Maintaining stability.

A process.

Acute; emergency.
A desired immediate outcome.
Timing Long term; a process. Requires immediate outside intervention; short term; a moment in time.
Approach Based on assessment & evaluation; based on more the known than the unknown; in conjunction with the individual. Based on more unknown than known variables; the individual is more managed/directed/acted upon.


Develops and uses

coping strategies with


Demonstrates the absence of coping strategies; acted upon.
Goals Setting the individual up

for success; self-reflection; preventing the recurrence of unhealthy patterns & behaviours; achieving stability for the individual & the environment over time.

Immediate safety, security & comfort; achieving stability for the individual & the environment ASAP.

Good teacher resourceSix Step Behavior Management Plan

  1. Focus: Mental Health:

“Addressing Mental health in School Crisis Prevention & Response”

Why mental health is important in crisis planning
Traumatic experiences can affect school staff and student mental health and the ability to teach and learn. Having a comprehensive system of school mental health services and supports already in place will assist schools to be better prepared to address the ensuing mental health needs that arise with any crisis. By preparing in advance, schools are more able to prevent crises and be ready to come to the immediate aid of vulnerable students, staff, and families should a crisis occur. It is important not to overlook the impact of these traumatic events on student and staff mental health. Failure to adequately address mental health issues may result in secondary trauma or even post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) that can result in the inability to focus, poor school performance, substance abuse, inflicting abuse on self and others, and even additional school violence (Sonoma Guide). Therefore, it is critical that schools understand and implement best practices to identify and address mental health issues.”

  1. A broader toolkit:
    Crisis Management Toolkit” “The purpose of the DoDEA Crisis Management Toolkit is to help families, educators, and community members understand how schools will ensure that children and personnel are safe and secure in the event of a crisis. It provides information for families and educators about schools’ crisis management policies and procedures, and makes available useful resources to help children and adults cope with the stress and anxiety associated with traumatic incidents.”

In a school setting, the physical environment is very important in terms of intervention strategies.

A secure school includes both the building itself and the surrounding areas.

A positive – secure – school environment includes the following:

1) The structure itself (i.e. maintenance, air quality, sunlight, etc.);
2) Technology – detectors, heating, air-conditioning, phones, alarms, etc.);
3) Visibility;
4) Ambient noise; noise pollution (little to none);
5) Classrooms & hallways: Clean, positive quotes/posters, rules posted in highly visible areas, “decorated”, high interest materials, supervised, etc.
6) Secure spaces for creative & physical activities;
7) Outside space that is well maintained & supervised;

If the above is in place, I feel that the following is more likely to be achieved with regard to intervention strategies:

  1. Intervention will take place in a timely manner.
  2. Any necessary “tools” (i.e. phones, alarms, first aid kits) can be accessed in a timely manner.
  3. Fewer stressors (i.e. noise, confusion, temperature, etc.).
  4. Visibility (i.e. finding the individual, “escape routes”, as pleasant & calming an environment as possible, etc.).
  5. A designated safe space for all is easily located (predetermined & adequately equipped).
  6. Final note: I am of the opinion that when students feel safe and secure in the physical surroundings, they are more likely to respond more readily to outside intervention.


Readings (online):



Classroom Behaviour & Purpose

All behaviours – be they positive or negative –are an attempt to meet a need. People behave in a certain way in order to “get” something or someone, or create a situation. People also behave in a certain way in order to escape something or someone, or a situation. Behaviours may often be about individual attempts to control situations and/or gain power.

A person my behave in a certain way for any of the (but not limited to) following reasons:

  1. For attention;
  2. To acquire something concrete/tangible;
  3. To avoid a situation/person/pain;
  4. For sensory stimulation.

As a teacher, this is an important concept for me to understand. In every classroom there are students who for whatever reason misbehave. “Behaviour problems” disrupt the flow of any classroom; they disrupt learning. It follows then that in order for me to spend more time teaching and less time on classroom management, I have to understand the very nature of my students. If a child is constantly “misbehaving” I must try to help him/her to have as positive and progressive a learning experience as possible. This is a necessary goal for the individual child, for his/her peers, as well as for my emotional well-being and sense of self. In order to do this I must first try to understand to goal of the undesirable behaviour(s). Once I understand this, it is easier for me to approach the student, and for us to come up with a plan, and realize the desired, positive outcomes.

In order to address & manage certain negative behaviours in the classroom I have recently held to the following acronym: “FAIR”. “FAIR” is best explained by Nancy Rappaport and Jessica Minahan:

“To help teachers remember the steps involved in deciphering behavior and developing an effective plan, we’ve created the acronym FAIR: F is for understanding the function of the behavior, A is for accommodations, I is for interaction strategies, and R is for responses.

By adopting the FAIR plan, teachers can discover that inappropriate behavior is malleable and temporary—and that they can help their students thrive.“ (source:

For example, years ago when a child was swearing in class I did the following:

  • We established “when & where” this was happening most: I kept observational records. There was a pattern. The swearing began before and during almost every writing class, which he told me he “hated”. (He would also a times “stab” his papers with a pencil &/or rip them up.)
  • His goal was to “escape”: Swearing disrupted the writing process. He got very little accomplished, and he “had to do” very little. We were spending the majority of our time on management and not on writing.
  • The Plan:
  • We calmly explained and reviewed the fact that swearing is inappropriate.
  • I started to work with the student outside of school hours on “fun” writing projects. We started small, l and they were always based on areas of personal interest.
  • Lots of genuine praise.
  • He kept a chart and monitored his own behaviour. We set goals. As the swearing became less frequent he received “rewards”.
  • We displayed his work and praised him whenever he wrote. (We didn’t however, “over do it”.)
  • We spoke with his parents and ask if they could “model” writing around the house. We also asked that he write at home e.g. shopping lists, postcards, etc. whenever possible, & that his parents were not to correct his work for any errors.
  • We put into place certain classroom accommodations: a quiet place to work, various writing tools, opportunities for movement and short breaks, tasks were broken down into smaller more manageable units, no correcting for spelling, the use of a lap top (see below), additional time, etc.
  • Finally, we showed his parents a typing programme for the purpose of practice, and encouraged him to use a computer at school (vs. pencil and paper).

Sources & Sites:

“Addressing Our Needs: Maslow Comes to Life for Educators and Students”. Dr. Lori Desautels.

“What Is a Functional Behavioral Assessment?”. Terri Mauro.

“ABA For Families”. Erin Oak Kids Centre for Treatment & Development (Autism Services 2012).

“The Function of Behaviour”. About Education

Cracking the Behavior Code

Nancy Rappaport and Jessica Minahan (October 2012 | Volume 70 | Number 2

Students Who Challenge Us Pages 18-25. ASCD

“Functional Behavior Assessment”. Centre for Effective Collaboration and Practice