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Behavior Today 39(2)


Bro, do you even praise specific?

David James Royer, PhD, BCBA, University of Louisville

When David moved to Kansas in 2013 the local chapter of Delta Tau Delta at University of Kansas reached out, needing an advisor. He initially declined, but they lowered the response effort by offering a co-advisor so he accepted, though the co-advisor never materialized. Ultimately a four-year experience full of reinforcement of behaviors (contributions of his time, talent, and treasure), a main focus of his advising was helping the chapter of young men shift from a purely reactive approach to challenging behavior, to a proactive approach that included reinforcing behaviors they wanted to see happen more often in the shelter.

Keywords: behavior-specific praise, college, fraternity, reinforcement, shaping

It doesn’t matter which way you go, as long as you go Greek. Maybe you heard this during your own undergraduate days or during Greek-life events portrayed in film and television as various sororities and fraternities tried to recruit new members each year... No? Oh, well it might surprise you to learn for many colleges and universities (definitely not all, data show mixed results) membership in a Greek social organization is correlated with improved academic performance (e.g., 0.30 higher average GPA; usually higher for females than males), much higher retention from freshmen year to sophomore year, and higher rates of graduating within 4 or within 6 years (Darvin, 2014; Jones, 2017). And while some fraternity’s chapters may live up to what is portrayed negatively in film and television, the vast majority are not at all like what is sometimes seen on the silver screen. I was a founding father of the Delta Tau Delta chapter at Chapman University because of the opportunity to shape the chapter’s values from the start, and proudly continue to volunteer with our central office’s educational programming because the organization’s efforts to build better men impress me more and more.

When I started my doctoral program in special education at University of Kansas, the College of Education building and the Delta Tau Delta shelter (chapter house) were separated by a parking lot, and it wasn’t long before they reached out in need of an advisor. In the chapter advisor role attending meetings in the shelter, I saw an environment that, like many of our K-12 schools, was based on a reactive system, with actions taken only after a problem occurred, and almost always with a disciplinary approach. It made sense of course, it was all the young men on the executive board (chapter leadership) knew from their K-12 school experience. Attendance at chapter is low, and seniors never come – let’s fine them for not showing up. Food and dishes are piled upstairs instead of returned to the kitchen – assign violators extra cleaning shifts. Some people aren’t paying their dues – charge them more. Because, you know, that makes sense. 🙄

I set out on a slow campaign to shift my brothers’ mindset, applying some principles of behavior analysis to, for me, a novel setting. Many of the concepts caught on, and I was able to share them at fraternity division conferences and biennial national conference (FYI, preparing for and giving a DELT Talk, aka TED Talk, was not reinforcing for me, at all... give me a standard conference presentation any day!). Here’s a few things I worked on with the chapter:

  • data-informed decision making: you want to have a higher chapter average GPA but recruit men based on likeability
    • implementation: (a) instituted 365 recruitment (vs. only recruiting new members during fall and spring “rush” periods) and set the recruitment chair up to use data when bringing potential new members to the chapter to vote for a membership bid – one star if their latest GPA was 3.5 or higher, one star if they hold a leadership position somewhere, one star if they’re on a sport team, etc. so they could list qualifications and show “this next guy is a 5½ star potential new member, with...”; (b) graphed chapter mean GPA as a whole and by class standing longitudinally, with fraternity and university minimums marked, which helped the chapter set a goal line for where they wanted to be (reviewed every semester), develop action items, and to institute policy that used data (vs. chapter vote on gut feelings) to expel members who had, for example, a 0.0 GPA or any consecutive semesters of a < 2.0 GPA
  • antecedent adjustments: you want brothers to show up to weekly chapter meetings in chapter attire, so make chapter meetings something they want to attend because what happens at each meeting reinforces their on-time attendance, proper attire, contributions to discussion, voting, staying to the end, and other chapter meeting behaviors
    • implementation: (a) leadership gave raffle tickets to people who arrived early, with drawings at the end for small prizes, access to house privileges, escape from low-preference duties; (b) leadership announced who was Delt of the week and what they did to earn the title; (c) made meetings more interactive with small group activities; (d) brought in guest speakers to the occasional meeting to present on relevant and high-interest topics; (e) ended every meeting with a Pass the Gavel activity where brothers could speak uninterrupted about anything on their mind, encouraged to share a success or recognize a brother for something they did to uphold the mission and creed of the fraternity; (f) closing every meeting with the singing of Delta Shelter, a common uniting element among chapters nationwide
  • reinforcement: instead of trying to “punish” your brothers into meeting chapter expectations, start reinforcing the behaviors you want to see happen more often
    • implementation: (a) the executive board began thanking people when brothers were observed taking dishes downstairs, picking up trash that wasn’t theirs, emptying a trash bin because it was full, organizing or otherwise cleaning the grande room; (b) seniors received discounted dues for meeting certain criteria for staying active, tutoring, or serving on the executive board; (c) a general culture of positivity was fostered by acknowledging brothers’ successes no matter the scale, praising little deeds heard about when encountering others in the hallways like passing a difficult test, earning an A on a paper, attending university-sponsored tutoring, a small increase in GPA, making varsity or junior varsity on a team, winning an intermural game, securing an internship, applying to grad school, and so forth
  • extinction: instead of accidentally reinforcing brothers’ high-risk or attention-seeking behaviors, plan to ignore them and shift your attention and reinforcement to desired behaviors
    • implementation: (a) removed chapter meeting award for weekly buffoonery; (b) executive board taught everyone the value of not paying attention to someone or talking about the incident when a house rule was violated (e.g., wall gets damaged and in the past a funny story would be spread about the incident) but instead ignoring it and acknowledging as soon and often as possible when the brother does something deserving of attention – this shaped their behavior away from inappropriate attention-seeking behavior toward appropriate behavior that received the attention they craved

One thing that really caught on was acknowledging brothers’ successes and just, in general, reinforcing behaviors the executive board wanted to see occur more often around the shelter. Specifically, using behavior-specific praise (BSP) was a novel concept that made sense. Sure, at first they used BSP with a sarcastic or mocking tone because, you know, gotta be cool, gotta be masculine, I can’t tell my bro that I think they did something great. But they quickly realized, “Wait a sec, it feels good to be acknowledged for doing good things around the shelter and for the university. I like hearing it from others, so I’m going to keep praising my brothers.” I’ll never forget one division conference session where I had the room of guys practice BSP by going around the room with cards that had both general praise and BSP on them, bumping into someone and reading a statement that the partner had to identify as general or BSP. Two brothers came up to me after and said, “We heard you present this BSP stuff at another division’s conference and we started doing it with our chapter. It felt a little fake at first, but we just had to get used to doing something different because it really works -- our shelter is so much more positive now all the time. In fact, whenever I hear or tell someone ‘great job,’ now that’s what feels fake! Great job for what, specifically?” Later at the following Karnea, our biennial national conference, was when BSP got rebranded as... wait for it... bro-specific praise. ... Sure, why not!


Jones, J. C. (2017). Does being Greek work? An analysis of the effect of Greek affiliation on grade point average and retention. [Master’s thesis, Eastern Illinois University] ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Darvin, A. J. (2014). To Greek or not to Greek? Impacts of fraternity and sorority involvement on academic outcomes. [Master’s thesis, University of North Carolina] ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Author Bio

David James Royer, Ph.D., BCBA is an assistant professor at University of Louisville in the College of Education and Human Development’s Department of Special Education, Early Childhood, and Prevention Science, where there has yet to be a Sd at UofL to get involved with Greek life, but volunteer activities with Delta Tau Delta continue almost every summer and semester.


What Disney Princess Are You? Making Complex Statistical Analyses Accessible for Nonacademics

Gwendolyn K. Deger, Ph.D.
Westminster College

As a teacher, professor, and researcher of special education my heart has always been with making what I teach and learn accessible to others. I felt that my dissertation should be the same, despite its challenging statistical analyses. When I went to state and national conferences as a graduate student, I would network and discuss my research. However, what I found was that most people I interacted with did not understand the difference between a person-centered approach and a variable centered approach. Further when I tried to explain what Latent Class Analysis was, people slowly inched away rather than engaging in. This prompted me to think carefully about how to prepare my dissertation defense for the audience I would have.

Besides my dissertation committee members, I had several of my eleven brothers and sisters, in-laws, extended family, future coworkers, and friends at my defense. I knew that explaining Latent Class Analysis was going to be challenging to explain and I needed to think of something that uses Latent Class Analysis that people have seen before. As I was playing on a Disney Princess quiz with my daughter, I had an epiphany. Disney princess quizzes could be how I could explain my statistical method!

As I prepped for my dissertation defense, I aligned my Disney princess modeling to my statistical results on the ways that parents of children with high-incidence disabilities are involved with their children. For one of the first times, I found people were understanding my methodology and did not run away. When one of my committee members joked about what Disney princess they were, I knew I found a way to make my statistics accessible.

Education has a significant research-to-practice gap, and it seems that we may not be explaining our research in a way that is understandable to them. Research is often written for other academics than the teaching population as a whole. The terminology is dense and field specific (general special education vs. applied behavior analysis). The research methodology has specific terminology and symbols that a practicing teacher may not have had experience with.

If we want to close the research-to-practice gap, we as researchers need to think about how we can make our research more understandable and easier for practicing teachers to implement. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I am an Ariel.


Failing To Implement a Student’s IEP

Mitchell L. Yell

In two seminal special education cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, Board of Education v. Rowley (1982) and Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (2017), the High Court fashioned a two-part test that hearing officers and judges were to apply to the facts of the case when determining if a school district provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The two-part test, which was developed in Rowley and clarified in Endrew F., is as follows:

Part one: Has a school district adhered to the procedural requirements of the IDEA? The first part of the test was from the Rowley ruling. In this part of the test, the hearing officer or judge determines if the school district followed the numerous procedures of the IDEA (e.g., membership of an IEP team, required components of an IEP).

Part two: Was a student’s IEP reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances? The second part of the test, which is the substantive or educational benefit component, is from the Endrew F. ruling. Whether a school district meets this standard of FAPE requires an examination made of the likely or actual results of a student’s IEP (Zirkel, 2017).

In addition to the procedural and substantive requirements of the IDEA there is also a third area that is important for school personnel to adhere to when conferring a FAPE: Implementing a student’s IEP as agreed upon by the IEP team. Although only a few circuit courts have examined the issue of a school district’s failure to implement a student’s IEP, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not heard a failure to implement case, nonetheless it is a very important area of which school district personnel need to be aware.

The primary assertion parents have made in failure to implement cases is that a school district denied their child a FAPE because the district failed to implement a portion or perhaps all of their child’s IEP. The positions the courts have been taking is that when a school district fails to implement an important or material part of the IEP, the district may be in violation of a student’s right to a FAPE, even in situations when the IEP was procedurally or substantively correct. In 2017, in a case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit, the court cautioned that “an IEP, like a contract …embodies a binding commitment and provides notice to both parties as to what services will be provided to the student during the period covered by the IEP (M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District 2017, p. 1197). The IEP is not like a contract in that it is not a guarantee of results, but it is like a contract in that school district personnel are guaranteeing to provide certain special education and related services to a student. To the extent that a school district failed to provide the services as agreed upon in the IEP, that could be a denial of FAPE.

Perhaps the most significant case to address a school districts failure to implement a student’s IEP was Van Duyn v. Baker School District 5J (2007). The case was heard in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which comprises the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The approach this circuit court took to ruling on the school district’s failure to implement a student’s IEP has been termed the “materiality-alone approach” (Zirkel, 2017). In a 2 to 1 ruling, the court found that, a material failure to implement “occurs when there is more than a minor discrepancy between the services a school provides to a disabled child and the services required by the child’s IEP” (p. 822). Thus, when a school district commits such an error, it is likely they have denied a student a FAPE.

Other U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, including the fourth circuit (Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) in Sumter County School District v. Heffernan (2011) and eighth circuit (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) in Neosho School District v. Clark (2003) have also used the materiality-alone standard when addressing failure to implement. In the most recent ruling out of the U.S Courts of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, L.J. v. School Board of Broward County, Florida (2019) found that “A material implementation failure occurs only when a school has failed to implement substantial or significant provisions of a child’s IEP” (L.J., 2019, p. 1211).

What do these decisions mean for special education teachers? A material or substantial failure to implement a student’s IEP will likely be a FAPE violation. Examples of such failures could include (a) not implementing a student’s behavior intervention plan; (b) failing to provide special education services, related services, supplementary services, or program modifications that were included in a student’s IEP; (c) providing fewer hours of services that were included in a student’s IEP; and (d) delaying the implementation of an IEP.

It is likely that Congress, the U.S. courts of appeals for the various circuits, and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually hear a FAPE case regarding a school district’s failure to implement a student’s IEP. In the meantime, school districts should adhere to the U.S Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s assertion that an IEP embodies a binding commitment between school-based personnel and a student’s parents. School district officials need to ensure that the special education services included in a student’s IEP be implemented as agreed upon.


Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982).

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, 137 S.Ct. 988, 580 U. S. ____ (2017).

L.J. v. School Board of Broward County, Florida, 927 F.3d 1203 (11th Cir. 2019).

M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High, 858 F.3d 1189 (9th Cir. 2017).

Neosho School District v. Clark (2003).

Sumter County School District v. Heffernan (2011).

Van Duyn v. Baker School District, 502 F.3d 811 (9th Cir. 2007).

Zirkel, P.A. (2017). Failure to implement the IEP: The third dimension of FAPE under the IDEA. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 28(3), 174-179.


Recognizing the Loss of a Leader: Gary Sasso

Jim Teagarden & Robert Zabel, Kansas State University

janus project

The Janus Oral History Project collects stories from leaders in education of children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). The project is named after the Roman god, Janus, whose two faces look simultaneously to the past and future. The leaders are asked to reflect on events and people that have influenced the field and their careers, the current and future state of the field, and to share their advice to those entering the field. Ongoing support for the Janus Project is provided by the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders (MSLBD). All of the interviews are available in video format at the MSLBD website.

This article features excerpts from Janus Project discussions with a leader in education of students with EBD, Dr. Gary Sasso, who passed away on March 27, 2022. Gary provided many years of leadership and mentoring as a faculty member at the U. of Northern Colorado, University of Iowa, and Dean of the College of Education at Lehigh University (2008-2018). Among many recognitions of his contributions, in 2016 he received the MSLBD Award for Outstanding Leadership in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.

What follows are some observations about the field that Gary shared during a conversation with Janus Project. They were included in a series of articles in the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders along with those of other leaders in the field (Kaff, Teagarden, & Zabel, 2011a, Kaff, Teagarden, & Zabel, 2011b, Zabel, Kaff, & Teagarden, 2011).

* * * * *

Janus: What has had the greatest positive impact on the field of EBD?

Sasso: I feel that most positive innovations in our field of special education and EBD have been spearheaded by parents. They are the ones that pushed for protection of their kids and initiated Public Law 94-142. They were the ones who pushed toward inclusion. It all came kind of from them.

Sometimes, I wonder if were proactive or reactive in a lot of ways. There are a lot of things about how to work with kids that we dont agree on. But, we all show up every day and try. We may not all be trying to do it the same way, but were all trying to get better and trying to figure it out. Weve always been kind of a 'family that you have to live with’ and its a really comforting family.

This EBD group is really supportive. Frank Wood is an example. We would sit around and talk, and Id be ranting and raving about something, and Frank would just take my rants and kind of frame them and make me understand better what I was talking about. He was always really good at that. I think thats huge—one of the most important things that weve been able to do is develop—if not a complete science of practice—at least the notion that what we do with kids is based on some kind of evidence. The evidence has kind of pushed us in the direction where we have a volume of stuff that we know is going to work.  Some of it is common sense and some of it was developed through research. What we do is much, much harder than the actual science, because we dont have control over the variables.

Janus: What has had the greatest negative impact on the field?

Sasso: It is the research to practice gap. And another overall trend in the last decade that has been horrible for our field, is zero tolerance and punishment. I think that grew out of a lot of different places. I think one is that there are many groups that instead of viewing special education as helpful for kids and what we are all bound to do, started looking at us like we were trying to punish kids. That is really disconcerting. When we hear that, it goes to our souls. Thats not what were trying to do. I think some people in regular education who dont agree with us, use special education as punishment and attack what we do in special education. 

Another negative impact has been our inability to communicate with regular education. We havent really been able to do that effectively, and in a lot of cases, our different philosophies and how we work with kids has kept us from even coming into a room and talking about what we think is important. We are as culpable in that as regular education. 

Janus: What do you see in the future for the field? 

Sasso: I think the future is so positive. We have a tendency sometimes to see the glass as half empty rather than half full. I think thats the function of being in the trenches. When someone says, “we have to do this, we have to do that…we havent been doing this well enough,” I think thats actually, really positive. We have people saying that no matter what were doing, we can do better. Often, what sounds negative—were not doing this, were not doing that—is really dedicated people saying, Yeah, weve done that, but it’s still not good enough.” I think our field needs that. I feel fine about the future.


In an interview shortly before his retirement from Lehigh in 2018, Dr. Sasso commented on his legacy: “… I spent most of my adult life trying to help children, and I did it as a teacher, as a researcher, as a consultant, as a faculty member and then a chair, and as a dean. And in all those positions, I always tried to keep one thing in mind, and that is, we’re here to make kids’ lives better, to teach them, to help them learn, to help them find the best path in life. If people will know me for that, that will be enough.”


* * * * *

The Janus Project staff recognizes Gary Sasso as a valued colleague who devoted his time, energies, and talents to helping those who need it most. He will be remembered for his dedication to his work, his students and colleagues, his ability to make those around him feel valued, and his great humor. Those who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Gary are indeed truly fortunate.


Kaff, M., Teagarden, J., & Zabel, R. (2011a). An oral history of first generation leaders in education of children with emotional/behavioral disorders, part 1: The accidental special educator. Journal of Emotional and Behavior Disorders, 19, 67-82.

Kaff, M., Teagarden, J., & Zabel, R. (2011b). An oral history of first generation leaders in education of children with emotional/behavioral disorders, part 3: The future. Journal of Emotional and Behavior Disorders, 19, 195-203.

Zabel, R., Kaff, M., & Teagarden, J. (2011). An oral history of first generation leaders in education of children with emotional/behavioral disorders, part 2: Important events, developments, and people. Journal of Emotional and Behavior Disorders, 19, 131-142.


Advice Column: Miss Kitty

Dear Miss Kitty:

I am a high school resource special education teacher.  I am feeling very frustrated and overwhelmed because I am working so hard to communicate with parents and I send messages and get no return calls or emails. I feel like they are no longer interested in what I am doing with their child and don’t care.  I want their cooperation, but I just can’t seem to get it and my students don’t seem to care whether their parents come into school. What can I do?

Candid Christine


Dear Candid Christine:

Thanks for writing. I am sure you are concerned that it appears that the parents are not interested in what their child is doing. I am glad you are seeking some possible solutions. This is tough at the high school level because the parents may have built up a resistance to working with the school because they may have had negative encounters with school personnel in earlier school years, especially if their children had behavioral problems. They are tired of dealing with the behaviors and with school complaints.

High school also may not have been a pleasant experience for them. They are then reluctant to get involved because it conjures up bad memories. Remember they are also dealing with their teenager at home who may not want them to have contact with the school. Your students think they may have outgrown having their parent come to school, and the parent may find it easier to just not deal with the situation. 

However, keep at it and let the parents know you are there for them by incorporating some of these ten ideas:

  1. Ask them how they prefer communications—email, text, phone call.
  2. Ask them what times of the day are best to communicate with them—for instance, you may call after school, but they may have just gotten off work and are tired and don’t want to talk to anyone. 
  3. Make a point to leave them a text or send an email or leave a phone message about something positive their teen did that day.  This builds rapport and they learn that you want to communicate with them for positive information.
  4. I used to keep a stack of postcards on my desk and every week I would set a goal for the number of postcards that I wanted to send to parents with positive comments about what their teen did that day or week.
  5. Check whether the parents come to any sports activities and whether you could connect with them at a ballgame.
  6. Check whether there is a neutral site where you could meet the parent for a conversation. Do they have time to meet for a cup of coffee at the local fast-food restaurant?
  7. Let them know that you are very appreciative for every effort that they make to work with you. I remember would have days when I would have to call parents and request that they pick up their child after school because the student had to stay for some reason. The minute the parent came in, I smiled at him or her and let them know how much I appreciated them taking time from their busy schedule to come in.
  8. If they come in upset about something, approach it as: “How Can We Work Together.” Again, thank them for coming in, remain calm, and engage in active listening.
  9. I learned that one of the best ways to get parents at the secondary level to come to school was to offer food.  With the coronavirus that might be more difficult, but you could get a store-bought cake or something like lasagna or spaghetti and serve it and have a get together in your classroom with families.
  10. I also learned that if I had the students do a special project and had their work on display that parents and the students were more likely to come into the school. I combined that with food, and it worked for me. The students were proud to show something they had done.

I wish you the best and keep at it. Just like with students and recognizing them for all they do that is positive, we also need to recognize parents for all they do to cooperate with us.

miss kitty


Behavioral Consultation and Educational Staff Training

Heather Jones EdD, BCBA, LBA
Autism Specialist
Hoover City Schools
Doris Adams Hill, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
Associate Research Professor
Auburn University

Behavior analysts are often called to provide professional development to educators and staff, which usually consists of a workshop (half or whole day) in a classroom-like setting. Many times, this training does not translate to use in the classroom. To address this issue, a study by Reid et al. (2018) recommended that trainers (1) ensure the workshop content relevant for trainees, (2) provide specific examples and demonstrations that are well prepared prior to the training, and (3) provide repeat opportunities for active trainee responding (e.g., role plays or other practice activities) as well as opportunities for trainees to interact with the trainer and each other.  While this can be helpful for general behavior management strategies, individualized interventions with teachers and students may be necessary.

Staff training in applied behavior analysis (ABA) strategies becomes acutely relevant when a teacher is dealing with challenging behaviors such as aggression or self-injurious behavior. When students demonstrate these challenging behaviors in the classroom (general education, resource room, or self-contained) the special education teacher is often considered the school’s behavioral expert. Occasionally, the behavioral needs of a student can exceed the knowledge and skills of the teaching staff (Reed et al., 2018). It becomes necessary to provide training and consultation to teaching staff in order to facilitate behavior change and implement interventions with treatment integrity and procedural fidelity (Cooper et al., 2020). Behavior analysts use several strategies in various settings when working with teachers.  These include training, coaching, and mentoring (Bailey & Burch, 2010). Behavior consultants are often tasked to perform in each of these roles while providing services to schools and districts.  To foster successful outcomes in classrooms, a model with two components (initial training followed by ongoing support) was developed to support teachers (DiGennaro et al., 2014).

The use behavioral skills training (BST) is important to this training and ongoing support model.  BST consists of instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback. This evidence-based training intervention has been shown to improve teachers use of behavioral teaching procedures to reduce problem behavior (Lalli et al., 1993; DiGennaro et al., 2018).

BST is important to the training and ongoing support to paraprofessionals as well. Hall et al. (2010) evaluated the effects of training paraprofessionals through a workshop coupled with classroom feedback on the implementation of effective behavioral strategies for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The workshop was one-day long. Master’s level teachers then provided corrective feedback on implementation of ABA strategies in their typical classrooms and generalization settings. The findings show that generalizing strategies taught in a workshop are enhanced when feedback is provided in the settings where they are used daily.

Bailey & Burch (2010) describe BST as consisting of four steps:

  • Step 1: Instructions and Motivation. Keep verbal instructions to a minimum and motivate the learner to want to participate by providing concrete examples of how the strategies being taught are effective.
  • Step 2: Modeling. In person, role play with a confederate, or using video modeling.
  • Step 3: Practice with Feedback. Use of SD and SDelta (when to give and not give reinforcement)
  • Step 4: Follow-Up, Corrective Feedback, and Maintenance. As soon as possible after the training, observe the learner in their environment using the newly trained skill and provide feedback and reinforcement.

For behavior analysts, collaboration across disciplines is likely (speech language pathologists, special educators, psychologists, occupational therapists, physicians, administrators, and other professionals) and a big part of Behavioral Consultation and Educational Staff Training. Collaboration is important to client outcomes (BACB, 2022; Broadhead et al., 2018). For schools to develop capacity, training from professional behavior analysts may be a good place to start. In addition, this training is more successful when the board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) uses fewer technical terms and uses teacher friendly language (McMahon et al., 2021). When a system or school sends a few school professionals to a training and hopes that capacity to serve students will increase, it often fails to realize the importance of ensuring the professionals are trained to mastery to implement interventions with fidelity, as well as the importance of using follow-up, corrective feedback, and maintenance as part of BST (Bailey & Burch, 2010; National Autism Center, 2015; Stokes & Baer, 1977).


Training Content

Professional development workshops were created by the authors (who are also BCBAs) based on evidence-based techniques found in the literature for dealing with problem behavior within public school classrooms. Behavioral skills training: verbal review, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback was used to review the following training options based on school district choice.

Five different workshops were created to fulfill the needs of school systems:

  • The first, titled Filling Your Behavioral Toolbox, covered the following topics: the ABCs of Behavior, understanding behavior, using reinforcement, differential reinforcement, token economies, antecedent interventions, self-monitoring, functional communication, introduction to discrete trial teaching, dealing with severe behavior, and an introduction to Data Collection.
  • The second training option, titled Data Driven Decision Making for Classroom Management, covered the following topics: how to choose a behavior to measure, how to write operational definitions, ways to measure behavior such as frequency/rate, latency/duration, scatterplot, and interval recording, skill acquisition, accuracy and validity, case study example, reporting data, and datasheet template sharing.
  • The third training option, titled Functional Behavior Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans, covered the following topics: indirect measures (questionnaires), direct measures (analyzing antecedents and consequences), creating the FBA document, function-based treatments, and inputting information in the BIP template.
  • The fourth training option titled, Discrete Trial Training, involved the steps of DTT: preparation, prerequisite Skills, discriminative stimulus (SD), student response, consequence (Reinforcement, Error Correction, Prompting), data collection, generalization and maintenance, and materials.
  • The fifth training focused on preschool aged children and covered the following topics: core deficits of Autism, the ABCs of behavior, understanding behavior, using reinforcement, differential reinforcement, token economies, antecedent interventions, three step guided compliance, dyad/triad training, social stories, functional communication, introduction to discrete trial teaching, dealing with severe behavior, and introduction to data collection.  

NOTE: These trainings were tailored to district needs and preferences.

Implications for Practitioners

There continues to be a need for individualized behavior specific training as well as training on evidence-based strategies for students with disabilities in the classroom (general and special education setting). The unique partnership provided by the example provided includes a component where trainers are also consultants working with teachers in their classrooms. This partnership allows for follow-up and hands on training in the classrooms based on specific student and teacher needs. Student/teacher dyads are important to implementing data-based interventions and the coaching on evidence-based strategies and data collection by the consultants providing technical assistance are important to fostering successful outcomes for students with disabilities.

Training in the classroom was based on needs. Teachers were taught to implement behavior plans written by the consultant/trainer and collect data daily. Consultants graphed data (and/or trained teachers to graph data) and changes to interventions were made based on data collected. Additional training opportunities were identified based on progress within the schools after consultant collaboration with teachers, administrators, parents, and other IEP team members. In some districts, administrators participated and benefitted from training and how these interventions/strategies fit into a PBIS framework. This collaboration model can benefit all stakeholders working with students with disabilities.


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Posted:  28 April, 2022

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