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Behavior Today Newsletter 40(1)

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From the President’s Desk

Timothy Landrum

For as long as I can remember, the change in weather that comes as summer turns to fall, and winter approaches, makes me wish I could visit someplace warm and sunny. And for nearly thirty years (for me anyway), I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Tempe, Arizona each fall, usually just as the weather turns pretty uninviting where I live. But please know I’m not just providing a plug for tourism. The Teacher Educators for Children with Behavioral Disorders (TECBD) conference has been one of the most informative, constructive, and valuable professional opportunities I have ever encountered. This year’s conference is scheduled for Nov 17-19, 2022. The in-person version of course is in Tempe, but there IS a virtual Saturday option. Most years, you’ll see luminaries in our field like Steve Forness, Jim Kauffman, Mary Margaret Kerr, or Mike Nelson presenting (and challenging one another at times), or just lunching in the courtyard. I’ve consistently found them, and most everyone who attends or presents at TECBD, to be generous with their time, and especially interested in mentoring and supporting the next generations of special education scholars and practitioners.  In fact, TECBD should be congratulated on regularly scheduling a dedicated strand of presentations focused specifically on mentoring— drawing most often on ‘veteran’ scholars, teacher trainers, and other professionals to offer advice and guidance to those who may be just entering our profession.

Another reason for my affinity for TECBD is their ongoing support and partnership with DEBH. Informally, our Executive Committee will meet for an extended time in Tempe this November. Part of that time will involve a strategic planning session, first at a breakfast meeting to which we have invited all past Presidents of DEBH(CCBD). We hope to gain insight from them on where we have been as an organization, and what initiatives and strategies we have, or should be, prioritizing and investing in. We also hope they can help us identify current and looming challenges or obstacles to our continued vitality, growth, and presence in the field. Some of these challenges are obvious, as the pandemic has only exacerbated the needs of children, families, and the professionals who work with them. But some may be less obvious, as we grapple with ongoing concerns about maintaining and serving our own members. 

Following the breakfast, we will roll straight into our Executive Committee meeting, where we hope to at least begin the process of identifying specific strategic targets. Not unlike an IEP planning process, we want to identify long-term goals—where we want to be—and then intermediate steps or short-term objectives that will help us plan concrete action toward progress on those goals.  Of course, we hope to build on our existing strengths and capacity as an organization (our PLAAFP, if you will…). I note too that this is not a one-and-done process, and we will continue in our monthly Executive Committee calls to refine and update this strategic plan. As we do in the coming months, we will not only keep members informed, but will seek their input as well.

A more concrete part of our partnership with TECBD has involved workshop offerings. Though we have largely retuned to in-person events in a (nearly…) post-pandemic world, you may know we had success in offering virtual workshops on the TECBD Saturday for the last two years, and this year we will do the same. In addition to a number of DEBH-sponsored panel sessions at the in-person conference (one on disproportionality, one on school violence and school shootings), we have two virtual workshops scheduled for Saturday, Nov 19. These virtual workshops include Ready Player Everyone: Building Student Engagement through Gamification, led by Gwen Deger, and another is entitled, Cool Is in Session: Incorporating HipHop into Behaviorbased Strategies and Interventions, led by JT Taylor and featuring Will Hunter and LaRon Scott.

Please visit the TECBD site to see all the necessary details, and to register: And note—if you can’t travel to Arizona in November, the virtual option, including the workshops noted above, is very affordable.

The next time I write, I’ll hope to provide an update on successful meetings, sessions, and workshops at TECBD, and specifically on steps we’ve taken on strategic planning.  As always, please reach out to me or any Executive Committee member if you have questions, comments, or simply thoughts to share.

Tim Landrum


DEBH and DEBH Foundation Awards 2022

The Division of Emotional and Behavioral Health (formerly the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders) is pleased to announce the following call for awards. Each award application may be submitted at the links below by Friday, December 9, 2022. Awardees will be recognized at the DEBH Business Meeting at the 2023 Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo on March 1-4, 2023 in Louisville, KY.

  • Carl Fenichel Award
  • Interventionist Award
  • Outstanding Leadership Award
  • Regional Teacher of the Year
  • Professional Performance Award
  • Doctoral Interventionist Scholar Award

Please see below for descriptions, eligibility, and requirements for each award. For further information, contact Tia Barnes, DEBH Awards Committee Chair by emailing her at All applications may be submitted via the links below.

The DEBH Foundation is excited to announce five awards dedicated to supporting practitioners working with students with behavior disorders and students pursuing degrees with an emphasis in behavior disorders.

The Dr. C. Michael Nelson Professional Development Support Grant The purpose of the Dr. C. Michael Nelson Professional Development Support grant is to encourage the professional development of all persons involved in providing education or related services to children and youth with emotional or behavioral disorders (E/BD) consistent with the mission of DEBH. Professional Development Support will provide funding up to $500 to enable practitioners to attend professional development activities that are supported by DEBH (e.g., TECBD, CEC conferences).

The Dr. Frank Wood Practitioner Grant The purpose of the Dr. Frank Wood Practitioner Grant is to recognize the professional application of knowledge and skills to improve academic, social, emotional, and community employment-based outcomes for children and youth with behavioral disorders. The DEBH Foundation will award funding of up to $500 to implement ahigh quality practice or program that directly serves students in their educational setting.

Academic Scholarship Program Dr. Eleanor Guetzloe Undergraduate Scholarship Dr. Douglas Cheney Graduate Scholarship Dr. Lyndal Bullock Doctoral Scholarship

The purpose of the DEBH Foundation Academic Scholarship is to support undergraduate and graduate study in the area of emotional/behavioral disorders. The DEBH Foundation will award a $500 scholarship to one undergraduate, one graduate, and one doctoral student towards educational expenses.

Interested in applying? Applicants must be employed as an educator working with students with EBD or be registered to attend/attending undergraduate or graduate studies at an accredited institution of higher education. The following link will provide access to the applications. Download your application today and get started!

Application deadline: Completed applications should be mailed to by December 9, 2022. Awardees will be notified in late January 2023.

Questions? Email Sue Kemp, DEBH Foundation Secretary at


Take a SIP of Active Supervision

Michele L. Moohr, Shawnee State University

Jonte’ C. Taylor, Pennsylvania State University

Trends in behavior management over the past several decades have focused on the importance of positive student-teacher relationships as part of creating a safe and respectful classroom environment. Research over the past several decades shows that positive interactions between teachers and students are predictors of student happiness and success (Myers & Pianta, 2008), but how can you be positive and build relationships in the midst of a seemingly overwhelming and chaotic setting? Active supervision includes several effective, proactive, easy to implement strategies teachers can use to create a positive classroom environment and improve student-teacher interactions (DePry & Sugai, 2002; Haydon et al., 2019) one SIP at a time.

The best way to manage challenging behaviors is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. During active supervision, the teacher SIPs (scan, interact, and praise) as a means of antecedent intervention. Specifically, SIP takes the form of the following teacher behaviors.

  • Scan: teacher actively and often looks/gazes around the classroom for signs of appropriate and inappropriate student behaviors. After explicitly teaching and having students practice the desired skills and behaviors, scanning, or examining the environment frequently shows that you’re “with-it.” Teacher with-it-ness is the ability to notice the behavior of all students and unemotionally respond quickly and efficiently using both verbal and non-verbal responses. Students are more likely to misbehave when they think the teacher is not looking. Making frequent eye contact and keeping your head on a swivel shows students that you are aware of all classroom activity.
  • Interact: teacher engages with students through proximity or via verbal or nonverbal cues /contact. Strong, supportive relationships are one of the strongest predictors of school success for students (Hamre & Pianta, 2006). Taking advantage of opportunities to interact with students both in and outside of the classroom can help build mutual trust and respect. Greeting students and having a brief interaction (such as a secret handshake) before they enter the classroom, is a quick way to connect. During instruction, teachers can move throughout the classroom, using proximity control to help students attend to tasks.
  • Praise: teacher emphasizes positive prosocial behaviors through recognition and verbal reinforcement. During scans and interactions is a great time to “catch students being good.” Providing frequent feedback using behavior specific praise (BSP) reinforces desirable student behaviors and may cue others to check their own. This “boomerang” praise is a great way to provide behavioral reminders to students without calling them out, shaming or blaming. While BSP has been shown to reinforce expectations (Markelz et al., 2022; Riden et al., 2022), it is not always prudent to interrupt class with verbal statements. In these instances, non-verbal feedback using a thumbs-up, smile or head nod lets students know you see them and appreciate their efforts.

As a form of active supervision, teachers can scan and interact with students to prevent unwanted behaviors and praise the exhibition of specific desired behaviors (Lane et al., 2011). For both new and veteran teachers, it is essential to approach classroom management as a process of building and maintaining an effective learning environment for you and your students. Taking behavior management in SIPs helps build a foundation for managing disruptive classroom behaviors while letting students know you are an ally. See Figure 1 for a visual depiction of the SIP Model of active supervision.


DePry, R. & Sugai, G. (2002). The effect of active supervision and pre-correction on minor behavioral incidents in a sixth-grade general education classroom. Journal of Behavioral Education, 11, 255-267.

Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2006). Student-Teacher relationships. In G. G. Bear & K. M. Minke (Eds.), Children's needs III: Development, prevention, and intervention (pp. 59–71). National Association of School Psychologists.

Haydon, T., Hunter, W., & Scott, T. M. (2019). Active supervision: Preventing behavioral problems before they occur. Beyond Behavior, 28(1), 29-35.

Lane, K. L., Menzies, H. M., Bruhn, A. L., & Crnobori, M. (2011). Managing challenging behaviors in schools: Research-based strategies that work. Guilford Press.

Markelz, A. M., Riden, B. S., Morano, S., Hazelwood, A. L., & Taylor, A. M. (2022). The effects of varied and non-varied praise on student on-task behaviors. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 0(0).

Menzies, H. M., Lane, K. L., Oakes, W. P., Ruth, K., Cantwell, E. D., & Smith-Menzies, L. (2018). Active supervision: An effective, efficient, low-intensity strategy to support student success. Beyond Behavior, 27(3), 153-159.

Myers, S. S., & Pianta, R. C. (2008). Developmental commentary: Individual and contextual influences on student–teacher relationships and children's early problem behaviors. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37(3), 600-608.

Riden, B. S., Markelz, A. M., Ruiz, S., Kent, S., Pavelka, S. K., & Chitiyo, A. (2022). The nature and extent of component analyses for improving or mitigating behavior: A systematic review. Behavior Modification, 46(1), 230–253.


My Most Memorable Student: Voices from the Field

Jim Teagarden & Robert Zabel, Kansas State University

janus project

The Janus Oral History Project collects and shares 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 Janus Project has also invited special educators to record their responses to three questions about especially memorable students:  Who is your most memorable student? What did you learn from the student? How has that student impacted your career or life? This is the story of Adam as told by Matthew McNiff, long-time special educator who is currently Director of Special Education for Nebraska’s Educational Service Unit 5.

* * * * *

What Adam Can Teach You

by Matt McNiff

I started working with BD kids when I was 18 years old. I was hired at a residential facility in Iowa. I came from a town of 300 people, and I was working with inner city kids from Chicago and Detroit, trying to change their behaviors. I had no idea what I was doing. Like many people, I slipped into this field on a banana peel. 

It wasn't until I became a public school teacher that I learned quite a bit. At the residential facility the approach was "you do what I say and if you don't, we'll make sure you do." When I went to a public school, it was not that way. I had been a history teacher but my wife got another job so I needed a job. They said, “We've got a job for you in a BD classroom in Nebraska.” I said, "I will do it for one semester, I will not like it, and I will leave." I was wrong.

Like many great experiences, the first time is always the best, and my very first student, Adam, is my most memorable student. Adam was given to me by the other BD teachers in my school as a welcoming gift. My introduction to Adam was him running into the classroom to the window, banging on the window and screaming as loud as he could, “Kiddies!" There were children outside climbing off a bus, and he was banging on the window.

In the residential school I knew what to do, but in a public school I had no idea what to do. I got Adam to sit down, but I knew I was in trouble. So I started taking special education classes at the university. One of my professors, as an example, talked about kids making animal noises. I chuckled to myself because kids in the high school don't make animal noises.

A week later, Adam made animal noises. He howled. He howled like a wolf as loudly as he could. Nobody could figure out why or what to do. Once I started to look at it, I noticed that he'd howl, and the teacher would come over and say, "You stop that." He'd say, "I need help on my work,” and they’d say, "Oh, okay." That is where I learned about functions of behavior. A simple intervention fixed the howling, and I was hooked. 

Adam wasn't the most severe kid I ever worked with nor was he the most pleasant. When I'd give him positive praise for bringing back his homework, he would tip over my pencil jar to show me he was still in control. I kept hearing advice to “use positive praise, use positive praise,” so I kept at it. That didn't work, but I was committed to changing his behavior, so I tried writing notes to Adam. Every time I saw him do something positive, I’d write that on a note and shove it in his locker. Adam never mentioned my notes.

When Adam was a senior, the day before he was graduating, he came in and said, “I’ve got something for you." He had this box and I wondered what was in it. He threw it on my desk, and I opened it up. He had saved every note that I'd written to him in the past 4 years. That is when I learned that the single most important thing we can do to help kids is to develop a relationship with them. They don't have a lot of people out there to do that. That is what I learned from Adam, and I take it with me every day.

* * * * *

This story is a part of the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders video series My Most Memorable Student which allows educators to share experiences with memorable students and what they learned from them. The Matt McNiff’s video is available at: And more than 40 stories of other memorable students can be found at


Recreational Reinforcement


Working It: How Musical Connections Help Us Access Reinforcement Across Social and Non-Social Environments 

Erin F. Farrell, M.A., BCBA, University of St. Thomas

Jonte’ C. Taylor (JT), Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

Recreational reinforcement is a column that celebrates the recreational and leisurely pursuits of educators and professionals supporting the multiple needs of children and youth who engage in challenging behavior. Each column highlights a recreation or leisure activity (or product) and discusses the applied behavior analytic principle or technology in play. In this month’s column, we explore the different contexts of access to reinforcement through engaging in musical behavior.  We discuss the variety of social and non-social reinforcement that can be accessed through the musical behaviors of listening to music, singing, and dancing. We (Erin and JT) write this as aficionados of singing, dancing, and listening both in public (via karaoke) and in private (probably in the car).

Keywords: Singing, dancing, listening, socially meaningful, musical behavior

2022-2023 Call for Papers:
Recreational Reinforcement is a bi-monthly (6/year) column dedicated to discussing recreation or leisure pursuits (or product) in connection to behavior principles and behavior change tactics. We need to spend time away from our computers to develop new recreational pursuits and thus are looking for guest writers for the next academic year. Please send inquiries and/or submissions to Directions for manuscript preparation: (a) article title, (b) names of author(s), (c) author’s affiliations, (d) email address, and (e) 700-1500 word manuscript in Times New Roman font.


cartoon man break dancing

For most of us, music has been a thread through the fabric of our lives.  As a sensory tool, music can help us become inspired, recall a memory, or evoke an emotion.  Music has often been considered the soundtrack of poignant moments in time. Regardless of our background or individual histories, for most of us, music has been woven through our existence. Some significant collective events that evoke reactions include:

  • Hank Williams release of the song "Hey Good Lookin'"
  • Dylan’s first time using an electric guitar
  • The Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan show
  • Jimi Hendrix playing the national anthem at Woodstock
  • Disco
  • “Rapper’s Delight” being the first rap song to be considered a hit song
  • Madonna’s live performance of “Like A Virgin” on Music Television (MTV)
  • The release of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
  • Any Super Bowl halftime performance of the last 30 years
  • Lizzo playing James Madison’s crystal flute at the Library of Congress

What do all of these events have in common?  They are all musical moments that not only evoke memories and emotions but have also been known to influence behavior. They are all also music events that are social markers of our human connections to each other.

cartoon woman listening to music

Bigger questions related to our connections to music can be asked. How do we make social connections? How do we gain access to reinforcement opportunities in social environments? How do we access reinforcement in alone conditions? What is something that can give us access to social or non-social reinforcement across almost any environment? We would argue that music is one of the ways we can connect to reinforcement across environments in both social and non-social environments. While not a comprehensive list of possible musical activities, we propose Table 1 as examples of reinforcing musical behaviors that one can engage in individually or socially.

Environment Musical Behavior Social Reinforcement & Engagement Opportunities or Non-Social Opportunities
Alone Conditions with Access to Music (working alone, exercising, basically any activity doing alone) Listening to Music
  • Alone in the car
  • Working out alone with headphones in
  • Working alone
Alone Conditions (anytime alone e.g., in car, shower, with or without music available) Singing (with or without music playing)
  • Literally any time you are alone and feel like singing
  • In the car
  • While cooking Hot Dish
Alone Conditions with or without Access to Music *Dancing (with or without music playing)
  • Literally any time you are alone and feel like dancing
  • Celebrating turning that big writing project in
  • While cooking some more Hot Dish
Social Conditions with Access to Music Listening to Music
  • Car Pools
  • Concerts
  • Music Festivals
  • Working and listening to music while writing
  • Anytime you are with other people and music is playing
Social Conditions with Access to Music and/or a Microphone (e.g., karaoke night, getting together with friends who bring a microphone everywhere) Singing (with or without music playing)
  • Karaoke (as discussed in detail in previous Recreational Reinforcement columns)
  • Carpool Karaoke (or anytime you are in the car with other people and feel like singing)
  • Choir groups
Social Conditions with or without Access to Music *Dancing (with or without music playing)
  • Dance clubs where dancing is allowed and/or encouraged
  • School Dances
  • Weddings
  • Anytime you are with other people and feel like dancing

*Warning: do not engage in this musical behavior where it is outlawed like in the movie Footloose or in Maui (which is surprising like a real life Footloose) unless you are engaging in dancing approved contexts. Failure to abide by this warning may lead to loss of access to social or non-social reinforcement opportunities by being kicked out of a venue or arrested.

cartoon people flying by music notes

There are many possibilities for accessing additional social reinforcement simply by discussing what activities in Table 1 you enjoy and with what type of music. If you are a teacher wanting to access social reinforcement with your students or allow them to gain social reinforcement from you, discussing the musical activities that you enjoy sets up the opportunity to make that happen. If you want to access social reinforcement with colleagues or coworkers more often, you can play musical games like Heardle, or have a theme song of the week where you all contribute to a collective playlist.

We hope this article and the table help you to explore musical behaviors that will allow you to have access to socially meaningful reinforcement for you. We understand not everyone is reinforced by public listening to music, singing, or dancing (in fact, some find it very aversive). But hopefully this will illustrate some options you have to engage in additional musical behaviors you may or may not find socially meaningful. If you want to engage in any of these behaviors publicly, we encourage you to attend social events at upcoming conferences where both authors will likely be engaging in all of these musical behaviors (probably poorly…but enthusiastically) :-)…

Author Bios

Erin Farrell is an adjunct professor and doctoral candidate at the University of St. Thomas and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who wears many hats professionally and personally.

JT Taylor is Associate Professor at Penn State University and is the co-author of The Mixtape Volume 1: Culturally Sustaining Practices Within MTSS Featuring the Everlasting Mission of Student Engagement.


Dear Miss Kitty: Advice Column

Dear Miss Kitty: 

I have been a resource special education teacher and inclusion specialist for the last five years in a K-3 school building. This year the kindergarten teacher came to me in tears because she has a five-year-old male student she does not know how to reach. I offered to assist and have observed in her classroom at least seven times already for an hour each. The kindergarten teacher is very structured, has her rules posted with pictures around the room, and provides a lot of positive recognition for children who are engaged and behaving appropriately. Brandon is not responding to her. 

I asked her if Brandon had been in pre-school, and she did not know. He had moved in, and his mother will not take phone calls. During my observations, he threw his desk across the room at least a total of five times, choked another student on six occasions, and ran out of the room at least 10 times. On those occasions the social worker was alerted by the teacher and was able to get to the student before he left the building, but half of the time he would throw himself on the ground and kick and scream. The kindergarten teacher and the social worker went to the principal for assistance, and the principal said he couldn’t do anything and suggested they collect data this year because he could not be evaluated until the behaviors persisted at least a year. The kindergarten teacher says she won’t stay in her position if something is not done, and she wants me to take him into my special education resource room. I don’t think I can do that because he has not been evaluated for special education.  What can I do to help?

Concerned Carol


Dear Concerned Carol:

I am glad you are there to assist the kindergarten teacher because she does need help with Brandon. I hope that, together, you and the social worker will support her and work to get assistance for the child. You are right, you cannot pull this child out for special education because the child has not been evaluated to see whether he is in need of services. However, you can take him on a walk when he is doing well in the classroom and can get to know him better. You can also work with him in the classroom to give the teacher a break. You can find out what he likes to do so you can reinforce him with those activities. Here are some other actions you can take:

  1. Work with the social worker to gather information about the home situation. If the mother is not willing to come into the school, see if you can reach her and meet at a neutral site.  Maybe she had a bad experience in school and does not want to come in or she probably knows that her son is having problems and doesn’t want to face any negativity. If she is willing to meet at a neutral site, try to maintain as positive as possible and ask non-threatening questions—what does Brandon like to do? Is there anything you need our help with? does Brandon seem to like school, what does he say about his new school?  If you can establish a positive relationship with her, you can then find out why she moved here, whether there are other children in the home and whether Brandon has any medical issues.  If she is not willing to meet you in a neutral site, consider doing a home visit with the social worker.
  1. Your observations in the classroom are very important. Collect as much data as possible and try to meet with the teacher and social worker as often as you can. Write down your observations and provide those to the principal so he can see what behaviors are occurring. Do informal functional assessment trying to determine what times of day are better for Brandon than others, what are the antecedents of the behavior, and why you think he is engaging in the behaviors.
  1. Look for the times that Brandon is doing well and reinforce him and work with the teacher to ask her to give him extra attention when he is behaving. Suggest that he be allowed to engage in a preferred activity when his behavior is appropriate.
  1. Brandon may not know how to behave so it will be important to put a plan in place to systematically teach him social skills and then recognize him when you see him engaging in socially appropriate behavior.
  1. Involve the principal and the social worker in a crisis plan that does not involve suspension or sending him home but involves having a safe calming place at school where Brandon can go when he engages in harmful behavior such as throwing furniture or choking other students.
  1. If the behavior continues after the interventions, you and the teacher and social worker are implementing, make the request in writing to the principal that Brandon be referred for a case study evaluation and keep a copy of the request.

When school district personnel have suspicion or knowledge of a disability, they have the obligation to conduct a case study evaluation. Work together with your team to develop appropriate positive strategies, support the teacher, engage in frequent observations, and learn as much about Brandon as you can to make his time in kindergarten a success.


miss kitty
Posted:  27 October, 2022

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