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March 2021 - vol. 37 no. 4

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From the President’s Desk

Dear Members and Friends of CCBD,

Thank you for attending the CEC Convention and Expo March 8-13th, 2021 I hope you enjoyed the many sessions including the CCBD showcase. A Deep Dive in Understanding Student Behavioral Across Cultures. What is working, what isn’t and why led by Whitney Hanley and Richard Williams. Thank you to our leaders and leadership team.

I’d like to also extend a welcome and appreciation to all those who ran for CCBD office this year, demonstrating your commitment and leadership to the students, families and teachers we all serve.  If you or someone you know is interested in leadership participation at the national level, please reach out to us.  We will begin recruiting and soliciting nominations for the next round of elections soon.

Meanwhile congratulations to our new officers:

Vice President: Robin Parks Ennis

Secretary: Richard Williams

Treasurer: David Royer

Student Member-at-Large: Aimee Hackney

Representative B: Daniel Poling

Nominations and Elections Committee: Rebecca Sherod

The EC of CCBD announced on January 8th in the newsletter, emails, Facebook, and on our webpage the intention to discuss and vote on the name of the organization.  The membership then discussed, voted, met virtually at CEC, discussed, and voted again. The results of both elections were consistent in the desire for an updated name for our organization. The Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders (CCBD) will be renamed as the Division for Emotional and Behavioral Health (DEBH) with a majority vote. 

This name is consistent with our constitution & bylaws: The primary purpose of CCBD shall be to promote the education and general welfare of children and youth with behavioral disorders or serious emotional disturbance (Article II, Section 2). CCBD shall encourage research, promote professional growth, and support those who serve children and youth with behavioral disorders or serious emotional disturbance (Article II, Section3)

While I am personally saddened by the loss of an organization name that is familiar to me, I am energized by the community of practitioners and scholars who participated in the process of visioning and selecting a name that inclusively captures the spirit of what we do and the programming and intervention work that we believe to be so important. 

I am hopeful that the name change will signal this inclusivity to the educators, families, and community support providers we wish to attract.

Thank you.

Kimberly Vannest, PhD
Chair and Professor,
Department of Education University of Vermont
CCBD President


Looking at What We Do: A Conversation with R. Kenton (Ken) Denny

Jim Teagarden & Robert Zabel, Kansas State University


The Janus Oral History Project collects stories from leaders in education of children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Participants 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 their advice for those entering the field. The Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders (MSLBD) supports the Janus Project and many of the interviews are available in video format at .

In this issue, the Janus Project shares excerpts from a conversation held with Dr. R. Kenton Denny, the Judith Walker Gibbs Professor in Education at Louisiana State University. Dr. Denny has over 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher, program administrator, researcher, and consultant. He has served as a Senior Research Associate in the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs and as a Research Scientist with the Schiefelbusch Institute for Lifespan Studies at the University of Kansas. At LSU he managed the Positive Behavioral Support Program and the Louisiana State Personnel Development Grant. 

JANUS: What do you see in the future of the education of children with emotional behavior disorders?
Denny: I think that we’re probably better served to look at what we do and what we’re trying to do as opposed to identifying or aligning ourselves with a specific disability or even a range of disabilities that we traditionally serve. So, when we talk about what people in our field do, and do extremely well, and are getting better at doing all of the time, we address kids that have a combination of behavioral and academic difficulties. We don’t necessarily have to make a judgment as to which one is worse or most prevalent, but those differences are present in all of our children. I think the future of our field—how we start to do that—will be based more on the types of services that we need skills to provide rather than on the nature or the specificity of the disability.
JANUS: When looking at training teachers, what kinds of skills do they need to work with these kids with both academic and behavioral challenges?

They need to be effective educators. They need to understand the requirement for the explicitness of instruction and the range of formats that requires, from a basic effective educational model using clear examples, prompting and lots of practice, to direct instruction for kids who need to learn to read and kids who need to improve math skills. Teachers have to be skilled in those areas. They have to have knowledge of the curriculum. We’ve moved beyond the point where we can just be clinical.

In our programs, all of our teachers are dually certified. They are trained to be elementary education teachers with a minor in special education. They come out well-versed in the curriculum, understanding the process of teaching reading and supporting math, especially in the elementary grades. They have a basic understanding of positive behavioral interventions, fairly good data collection skills. When they come into a master’s program, we specialize in those areas.

Once you’ve got the basic skills, we want teachers to add the ability to work with other teachers, to support their instructional programs and help them adopt more effective practices. In any co-teaching kind of environment, there are certain skills needed to work with the other teachers. You need skills in joint planning, and you need to establish parity for it to be effective. If you’re sitting at the back of the classroom beside a kid whose primary purpose is to control your behavior, then you’re not co-teaching.

On the behavioral side, we need teachers to have a firm basis in applied behavior analysis. As we move from basic universal training and start to talk about targeted groups of students, and certainly when we get to students who have individualized support needs, there has to be a level of knowledge and skills that teachers can bring to bear on those kids. PBIS has provided a structure for identifying and supporting kids, but we’re missing that expertise, that competence in behavioral analysis that will help support those kids with more extensive needs.

JANUS: What advice would you offer to those just entering the field?

I’m going to quote my longtime friend and colleague, Phil Gunter. Phil was asked to share where he was after 35-years in the field. On the way to give that address, he told me, “I think I’m just gonna' tell them, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” As a beginning teacher, you believe that you know enough. You’re very quickly confronted with the harsh reality that most often you don’t. Even the things that you believe in may not survive the test of time. When you start as a teacher, it’s the beginning of a journey. In no way is it close to a completion. Learning about the things you may not even know that you need to learn about is part of being able to stay in the field and be productive.

The other thing that I would tell people entering the field is if they have the opportunity to find a friend and colleague, cherish them.  Support from other folks who work with children with academic and behavior problems is critical to who you will be as a professional, because you never know where it’s going to end up. You may be perfectly happy, and you may be in a classroom for 20 years, you may serve lots and lots of kids, you may end up training teachers, or you may end up as a researcher. I tell beginning teachers that they have the most important job in the world. Regardless of what anyone may say, working with kids who have the biggest problems, who have the world seemingly stacked against them, and making small changes in their lives, is a noble calling and the most important thing that anyone could ever do with their life.

The Janus project thanks Ken Denny for his leadership as a teacher educator and researcher helping teachers improve their practice and the lives of students with academic and behavioral challenges, and for sharing his experiences and perspectives with the Janus Project. The complete conversation with Dr. Denny is available at: 

Upcoming issues of Behavior Today will include excerpts of Janus Project conversations with other leaders in the field.


Dear Miss Kitty: Advice Column

Dear Miss Kitty:

I teach a cross categorical class of fourth graders and have three students who have significant behavioral and emotional problems.  This year we have been remote, but we are going back in-person during the first week of March. Parents have been notified and most of my students seem excited about coming back into the live classroom. However, I have one parent who is refusing to send her son back to school because she says she is afraid that he will catch the virus and also bring it home to other members of the family. Her son attends 100% of the time remotely.  My school administrator is telling me that I need to talk her into sending her son back to school. I am torn, I want my students back in class but don’t feel I should force this parent to send her son back to class.  What should I do?

Debating Dennis


Dear Debating Dennis:

The fear that this mother is voicing is a real one, and at least she is telling you about her fears. Her son has been home from school and on remote learning for almost a year. You cannot force this issue with her, but what is important is that you actively listen to this parent and let her know you understand what she is feeling.  She isn’t alone, understandably many parents have this fear. Here are some key points for you to remember:

  1. Contact the parent in the way that seems to work best for her—give the parent the choice of time and method to discuss the issue.
  2. Talk about how the child has been doing with remote learning and stress that you have been most appreciative of her cooperation in making the remote learning successful for her son.
  3. Provide the parent with objective information about the movement from remote learning to in-person learning. Refrain from any judgment.
  4. Ask the parent, “What do you think about your son returning to school?’
  5. Then engage in active listening. Listen to understand, not to respond. Refrain from interrupting.
  6. While you listen without interrupting, try to determine what might be the issue of concern:
    1. Is the parent afraid that the child will catch the virus? Even though the parent may be saying that, is it the real reason or is something else going on.
    2. Are there other individuals in the home that have compromised immune systems for which she is afraid that they could be exposed?
    3. Does the parent fear that she will lose control of her child if he returns to school?  Remember that he has been home for a year, and she has been in charge of what he is doing and maybe she doesn’t want to lose that control.
    4. Is the parent wanting the child to stay home with her because she may miss the student?
    5. Has the parent heard rumors that the school may not be clean or that students won’t have to wear masks?
  7. There are any number of reasons that the parent may not want the child to return to school, and your job is to try to figure out what the issue is and then to work with your school social worker or school psychologist to develop a plan for how you can assist with a successful return. Once you gather this information, reconvene the IEP meeting to develop a systematic and structured plan to help the student and the parent. Collaboration is the key, and it is based on gathering information and working together with everyone to meet the needs of the student.

I wish you the best in meeting all of your students’ needs and the information you gather to develop a meaningful plan for your student may also give you insight to help other students.


Miss Kitty


Recreational Reinforcement



Eric Alan Common, Ph.D., BCBA-D, University of Michigan-Flint
Erin F. Farrell M.A., BCBA, University of St. Thomas

Recreational Reinforcement is a column highlighting the recreational and leisurely pursuits of educators and professionals while also making connections and offering illustrations and examples related to applied behavior analysis. This month’s column discusses how to have fun with task analyses and chaining outside of the classroom. 
Keywords: task analysis, chaining, behavior cusp, snow, cold cold cold

2021-2022 Call for Columns:

Recreational Reinforcement is a bi-monthly (6/year) column dedicated to discussing recreational or leisurely pursuits, making connections, and offering illustrations and examples related to applied behavior analysis. The only rule is nobody wants to hear about work being your “recreational reinforcement.” Please send submissions or inquiries to Dr. Eric Common at  Directions for submissions: (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. Bitmoji, graphics, tables, and figures are optional. 

“Do You Want to Build a Task Analysis”

Have you ever noticed how complex recreation and leisurely pursuits are? This is in no small part partially due to the fact that many activities involving behavior chains. A behavioral chain refers to a series of behaviors and successive contingencies leading to a terminal outcome. In behavior chains, each individual behavior or response produces a change (i.e., consequence) that functions as conditioned reinforcement for that particular response as well as the antecedent (i.e., discriminative stimulus) for the subsequent response in the chain of behavior. Metaphorically, each stimulus change linking two sequential behavior responses is the glue that reinforces and antecedents every behavior response thereafter.

You can use chaining in your rec and leisure by breaking a complex skill into smaller, teachable units. The product of which is a series of sequentially ordered steps or tasks. The process of breaking down these complex skills is referred to in behavior analytic jargon as a task analysis. 

For instance, Eric and Erin both live in the continental United States' northern reaches (Michigan and Minnesota, respectively). Both have learned various behavior chains to ensure they are getting adequate fresh air, vitamin D, and are ultimately having fun throughout the winter. These behavior chains are different based on the behavior repertoires of a lifetime of living through winter (Erin) and a newcomer to the winter recreational experience (Eric).

Table 1. 

Eric’s Winter Outdoor Pursuits Erin’s Winter Outdoor Pursuits
Step 1: Review calendar and weather and find the warmest hour of the day. Step 1: Check the temperature now and the temperature forecast throughout the day.
Step 2: Find and move the scheduled work block to the next available opening. Step 2:  
-If temperatures will stay at or above 0 degrees, send kids to the bus stop and make plans to walk/play outside whenever it is possible to fit it in.
-If temperatures will be below 0 for the day, check the windchill to see if it will really be cold. If windchill is not in the double digits below 0, continue plans to go outside, run outside, but monitor the amount of time staying outside.
-If the wind chill will be below 0 degrees and actually dangerous, make plans for indoor activities for the day and drive the kids to the bus stop...then prepare for demands of the day with an indoor workout.
Step 3: At designated time, check inside and outside temperature and humidity levels. Step 3: For outside activities, layer up and embrace the cold. For indoor activities...remember to hydrate with the appropriate beverages to maintain healthy hydration and sanity.
Step 4: If below 40 degrees, terminate the chain and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate on the couch; if above 40 degrees, dress in layers in preparation for the great outdoors. Step 4: Watch and know where to step and how to step. When possible, walk on fresh snow rather than over ice or packed snow to avoid slipping and to get better traction. But beware of black ice hiding under fresh layers of snow. When in doubt, wear ice traction attachments on shoes.
Step 5: Walk for 5,000 steps, turn around, and walk another 5,000 steps to achieve 10,000+ daily steps.  Step 5: Walk or run with shorter strides, starting against the wind (you will be thankful on your way home). It is always a good idea to wear ice traction attachments on your shoes when running in winter. Run until feeling pretty cold, turn around and run home with a goal of getting home before feeling numb.

It is theoretically possible that Erin could introduce and teach Eric new skills for enjoying winter’s wonders by developing a socially acceptable behavior chain, targeting socially important goals around social-well-being, as well as physical and mental health outcomes.  

Table 2. 
Erin’s Proposed Winter Task Analysis for Eric

Step 1: Acknowledge. Acknowledge that it is going to be cold and prepare to move past this. It’s ok to complain about the cold the first time we do a winter activity, but we must find what is most reinforcing about each activity and focus on embracing winter activities. Winter lasts a long time for some of us, so it is best to find the things we can enjoy.
Step 2: Prepare. Prepare for the activity. If you are going to be outside for more than 5 minutes and there is snow, just wear your snow boots, coat, and hat at least (gloves, snow pants, and scarf are optional for lifers unless it is below 0 degrees). It is generally a good idea to wear long pants, above the ankle socks, and some sort of long sleeve shirt under your coat in the winter. Just do it.
Step 3: Pair. As we sample new reinforcement activities, try to pair with a friend, family member, or animal that you can enjoy. If you must socially isolate, find how you can enjoy some social isolation in your 10,000 steps. Listen to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality--your favorite podcast-and enjoy watching the birds and squirrels frolic in the snow while you enjoy your walk with boots and long socks.

Step 4: Sample. Try everything more than once. If you try ice skating only once, you won’t really know how much fun it can be on an open pond or skating to the neighbor’s house on your backyard ice road. You have to try it a few times to get the hang of it. If you are scared or there is a risk of injury in any activity, it’s never a bad idea to just wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet is socially acceptable in any kind of ice skating, skiing or snowboarding, sledding, or traveling between these activities on a snowmobile. When in doubt, wear a helmet!


Sampling Example: Build a snowperson

a) Ensure the snow is sticky enough to build a snowperson- try making a quick snowball or two to make sure the snow sticks together easily
b) Locate a suitable work area with enough snow to build a snowperson and have a scenic foreground and background for photo opportunities.
c) Assemble materials for key facial features (coal eyes and mouth, carrot nose) and accessories (scarf, gloves, hat, anklet)
d) Build a solid base for the lower body by making a large snowball. To do so, tightly pack and roll along the ground until it is tightly packed and is 2-3 feet wide. 
e) Build a second snowball; this will be the heart of the snowperson. Repeat step (c) but should be about ⅔ the size of the base. Place on top of the base.
f)  Build a third snowball; this will be the face of the snowperson. Repeat step (c) but should be about 1/3 the size of the base. Place on top of the other two snowballs.
g) Edit and clean up the snowperson as needed. Shape as needed and remove any twigs, leaves, or pebbles that may have been accumulated during the build.
h) Build the face display and expression using materials for eyes, nose, and mouth.
i)  Accessorize the snowperson using materials gathered to “put out a look.”

Step 5: Disseminate. Share with others the wonderful experiences that you are having! You never know what might inspire someone to try something new and embrace the reinforcement that is available to them. For instance, if you visited a snow castle or build a snowperson, strike a pose and post on social media to receive external validation (e.g., positive reinforcement: attention)

Once a task analysis is developed (see Table 2 for example), Erin can sequentially teach Eric (isn’t this so much more appropriate than saying Erin’s going to chain Eric; Becirevic et al., 2016). There are three main approaches to chaining or sequential teaching. This includes total-task chaining, forward chaining, backward chaining, and backward chaining with leap aheads (Cooper et al., 2020).


  • Total-task chaining: learner receives training on each step in the task during every training session. The trainer provides assistance for any step the learner is unable to perform independently. Training continues until criterion is achieved on the total sequence (i.e., behavior chain).
  • Forward chaining: learner receives training on the first step until criterion is achieved. After each successful mastery in the chain, successive criteria require all previous steps' cumulative performance in the correct order (e.g., Step 1; Step 1 and 2; Step 1, 2, and 3).
  • Backward chaining: initially, all behaviors in the task analysis are completed by the trainer except the final behavior in the chain, which is completed by the learner. When the final behavior in the chain is performed by the learner to criterion. After each successful mastery in the chain, successive criteria involve the last and next to last behaviors in the sequence (e.g., Step 3; Step 2 and 3; Steps 1, 2, and 3).
  • Backward chaining with leap aheads: learner and trainer follows similar procedures as backward chaining, except not every step in the task analysis is trained. Some steps are predetermined to be skipped or probed to decrease the total training time needed to learn the chain.

Across sequential teaching, reinforcement is delivered at the predetermined criterion level.

For those of us who have lived in cold weather winter our whole lives, we have found a way to enjoy or at least cope with the choices that we have in winter activities. For those of us who have been transplanted into a winter wonderland from warmer climates, it’s important to explore the new reinforcement available in the winter environment by developing new behaviors that can lead to new contingencies (e.g., behavior cusps). Whether you have many cold winters of experience engaging in recreational winter activities or not, we encourage you to get out and sample some new possible reinforcers! Don’t forget your helmet!


Becirevic, A., Critchfield, T. S., & Reed, D. D. (2016). On the social acceptability of behavior-analytic terms: Crowdsourced comparisons of lay and technical language. The Behavior Analyst, 39(2), 305-317.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied behavior analysis. Pearson.

Authors Bio

Eric Common is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan-Flint in the Department of Education and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the Doctoral Level. Eric enjoys sorting, classifying, and putting into boxes all of his favorite rec and leisure activities in his free time.
Erin Farrell is an adjunct professor and doctoral student at the University of St. Thomas and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who wears many hats professionally and personally. Erin enjoys discussing behavior analysis and recreational reinforcement activities with Eric and having the opportunity to explore these activities as Co-Editor of this column.



Developing Educationally Appropriate and Legally Sound IEPs

Mitchell L. Yell, Ph.D.

In previous newsletters I have addressed the importance of administrators and special education teachers understanding the three dimensions of the IDEA’s free appropriate public education (FAPE) requirements. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is not very specific about FAPE requirement; rather the federal law only defines FAPE in terms of what constitutes a FAPE. According to the law, FAPE (a) is provided at public expense and under public supervision; (b) meets the FAPE standards set by individual states (i.e., a state can provide more than the federal definition, however, states cannot provide less); (c) includes an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary education; and (d) is provided in conformity with a student’s individualized education program (IEP).

It fell to the courts to interpret what FAPE meant in cases brought by parents who alleged that their child’s school district had not provided FAPE.  In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the first special education case heard by the High Court: Board of Education of the Henrick Hudson School District v. Rowley.  In this important case, the Supreme Court created a two-part test that lower courts would need to apply FAPE cases. When administering this test, a hearing office would determine if (a) the school had adhered to the procedural requirements of the IDEA, and (b) a student’s IEP was reasonably calculated to enable the student to receive educational benefit. The Supreme Court’s test essentially divided the IDEA’s FAPE requirement into procedural and substantive components. 

When Congress reauthorized the IDEA in the Individualized Education Improvement Act of 2004, a brief paragraph was added that made the procedural and substantive distinction a part of the federal law.  According to the language, when hearing officers heard disputes about the provision of a FAPE, they were to base their decisions upon substantive grounds of whether a student received a FAPE (IDEA 20 U.S.C § 1415 [f][3][E][i]). In the amendments, the Congressional authors recognized that some procedural requirements are so important that if school districts violate these procedures it could result in a school district denying students a FAPE. These procedural violations included (a) impeding a student’s right to a FAPE, (b) impeding a student’s parents’ opportunity to participate in the decision making process regarding their child’s FAPE, or (c) depriving a student of educational benefits (IDEA 20 U.S.C § 1415 [f][3][E][ii]). This means that small, harmless procedural errors may not result in a denial of FAPE as long as they do not compromise to a substantively meaningful special education program or the parents’ right to an participate in the process.  

Thirty-five years after the Rowley decision, the Supreme Court took another FAPE case in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. In this case, the Solicitor General of the United States  asked the High Court to answer the following question: What is the level of educational benefit that school districts must confer on children with disabilities to provide them with a FAPE (Solicitor General, 2017)?  In their ruling the Supreme Court ruled that to meet the substantive standard of FAPE (i.e., the second part of the Rowley test) school personnel must craft an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances (Endrew F., 2017).

What exactly do these two decisions and the IDEA’s language regarding the provision of FAPE  mean for school personnel on students’ IEP team and a student’s specific program set forth in his or her IEP?  How can we ensure that our IEPs meet the procedural and substantive FAPE requirements?  The courts have continued to address these FAPE issues.  In future issues of this newsletter, I will examine post Endrew F. FAPE cases that have important implications for special educators in crafting IEPs that meet the procedural and substantive FAPE requirements of the IDEA.


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

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.

Solicitor General (2017). Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae to U.S. Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas City Schools.…


Remote Control:
Remote Academic and Behavioral  Extended School Year Services for Students with EBD

Jonte’ C. Taylor (JT) - Pennsylvania State University
Heather Beam - University of Northern Colorado 

Extended School Year (ESY) services are educational services provided to students who receive special education services as eligible under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004a).  That is, students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) can be eligible for ESY services. It is important to know that even if a student has an IEP, it is not required that the school district provide ESY services.  In fact, ESY services are in the IDEA statute but are mentioned in the regulations (IDEA, 2004b; Wright & Wright, 2007) . For students to receive ESY services they must be included in the IEP with a number of court cases providing guidance to school districts and parents regarding what mandates ESY inclusion.  Wright & Wright (2007) note the case of Reusch v. Fountain (1994) in which the school district appeared to be hostile to parents advocating for ESY services for their children.  The court established six factors to be considered in providing ESY as a related IEP services which can be answered with the following questions:

  • Is the child likely to lose critical skills or fail to recover these skills within in a reasonable time (regression and recoupment)?
  • How much progress toward IEP goals and objectives did the student make during the school year (degree of progress)?
  • Will a lengthy summer break cause significant problems for a child who is learning a key skill (emerging skills/breakthrough opportunities)?
  • Does the child’s behavior interfere with his or her ability to benefit from special education (interfering behavior)?
  • Does the severity of the student’s eligibility diagnosis warrant extended services (nature and/or severity of disability)?
  • Are there any circumstances that interfere with a child's ability to benefit from special education (special circumstances)?

Extended School Year Services and Remote/Hybrid Instruction

Recent global events have resulted in reassessing and readjusting how we think about and provide IEP services to students due to having to provide instruction remotely. Remote instruction for most school districts has been considered as somewhat of a spectrum of services. This spectrum has ranged from 100% home-based instruction delivered via teacher created packets for pickup or virtual device-based face-to-face instruction or some variation of hybrid instruction that is partially home-based with some in-person face-to face-instruction. Regardless of instructional method, most teachers, students, and families have agreed that remote/hybrid teaching and learning has been difficult. These challenges are easily extended to ESY services for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Navigating through the nuances of remote learning can be challenging for students with EBD. Broadly, remote instruction for students with EBD should:

  • Determine what the summer will look like in each student’s home.
    • If there is a difference, what adjustments can be made prior to ESY?
  • Reexamine goals and objects from the school year.
    • Based on the experiences of the school year, how can goals and objectives be adjusted?
  • Ensure what the lines of communication with parents and caregivers will be during ESY.
    • In review of the school year, does there need to be an adjustment to communication?

Beyond overall instructional considerations for remote/hybrid ESY for students with EBD, considerations are essential to maximize academic and behavioral learning.  

Behavioral Considerations

Many of the behavioral practices that held true during the school year or during times of in-person instruction still apply in ESY remote/hybrid instructional settings. Creating an individualized or group visual schedule may reduce anxiety, promote predictability, and enhance flexibility and acceptance should a change or alteration to the daily routine be needed. Routines and procedures should be clearly established with opportunities for student practice and rehearsal. Students should be provided frequent breaks and large pieces of information should be chunked into smaller, more manageable sections. Positive behaviors should be rewarded, and feedback should be purposeful, authentic, and beneficial. 

Academic Considerations

Academically, provide simple, clear, and concise directions while precisely outlining daily routines, procedures, and expectations. Student engagement will increase by incorporating response cards, online interactive games (e.g., Kahoot), or choral responses. It is important to provide opportunities for peer assisted learning through the use of Breakout Rooms or Google Meets. Student self-management should not be overlooked and can be achieved through goal-setting, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation. 

Final Thoughts

Supporting students with EBD during remote/hybrid ESY will not only be different from previous years but may also look different from the past school year. By making online resources available to students and parents, some of these difficulties may be avoided. During this unprecedented shift in teaching and learning, the most important thing to remember is to be safe and to encourage students to continue to their best. 


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2004).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 34 CFR § Section 300.106 (2004)

Reusch v. Fountain , 872 F. Supp. 1421 (U.S. MD. 1994).

Wright, P. W., & Wright, P. D. (2007). Wrightslaw: Special education law. Harbor 
House Law Press.


Listening to Our Students during Dual Pandemics of Racism and COVID-19 to Guide Our Teaching

Tiana Tassinari, Ed.M. & Lauren Bond, M.A., Boston Public Schools
Kristin Murphy, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston

The American Psychological Association (APA; 2015) defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event. These events can include physical and sexual abuse, neglect, or suicide. They also include experiencing or witnessing domestic, community, or school violence, suicide, natural or man-made disasters, or war. These events can take place individually, in the home, the school, the community, or even simply witnessing something via media (Cavanaugh, 2016). With the COVID-19 pandemic illuminating the depth of systemic racism in America and the impact both COVID and racism has on education, many of us would agree that this has been the most challenging school year of our modern era. The trauma inflicted on our students by a viral pandemic that compounds the established systemic racism students endure should be at the forefront of our minds as schools begin to open to full capacity and we begin planning for next school year. Trauma-informed teaching has been a part of many educators’ practice for years, and many more teachers incorporate these philosophies in their classroom unknowingly. 
The basis of trauma-informed teaching is building trustworthy relationships in order to create spaces where students feel safe and supported. These are spaces where students' feelings and experiences are honored, and teachers provide support to students so students are able to do their best. Although some teachers may shy away from trauma-informed teaching because they don’t feel professionally qualified, we want to clarify that trauma-informed teaching is not a therapy session; it is how we understand our interactions with students. As teachers, it is our responsibility to cultivate a learning environment that acknowledges the hurt and harm students may be experiencing in their lives. Our role is not to correct behavior but understand the why of the behavior so we can appropriately support students’ needs in the classroom. 

As we navigate supporting our students during an ongoing pandemic and the return to school, it can feel overwhelming as a teacher to think about how to best support all students during challenging times. There is power in truly listening to students' voices to understand and identify solutions. While there is extensive multidisciplinary literature documenting the vast inequities faced by students of color in low-income urban U.S. public schools, the voices and stories of the students themselves are seldom heard (Bautista et al., 2013). It is more important than ever that we as educators and researchers build avenues in which students’ voices can be heard, and that we embrace trauma-informed teaching.  We decided to ask our juniors and seniors to explain in their own words how they understand trauma, what they wish teachers understood about how racism and COVID-19 have affected their lives, and what recommendations they have for teachers on how to engage in trauma-informed care in the classroom. 

About Covid

“that everything right now is hard, and nothing is the same”

“I wish that teachers shouldn't be hard on students who have trouble doing school because they can have home issues and instead of yelling at them they should see if they are doing ok at home.”

“just because we say we are ok doesn't always mean that”

“some students have a lot of responsibilities in their home and trying to attend school on time could be difficult”

“Nothing will ever be the same again!”

Our big takeaway: We will get there together.

The clear separation of home and school has disappeared. The stressors of each are now intertwined and often in conflict with one another. Expectations are not clear or simply unreasonable. There is no game plan. There is no “this is what we have done.” There is only creation, and it is messy. Students need to know that we are their guides and that we are also navigating this uncharted territory, but we will get there together.  

About Racism

“it hurts, and makes some of us not what to go out because of the fear that we will be hurt or teased in some way”

“sometimes we are afraid to speak up on certain topics because we have a feeling a certain teacher could have a bad opinion”

“Understand students have their own beliefs might be different from yours but respect them”

“I wish teachers understood about how racism impacts students' lives is that students who faces racism has so much pressure, or that weight that could drag them down in life”

Our big takeaway: Acknowledge, validate, and listen to their experiences

 Especially if you are not a person of color. We can never fully know their experiences, but we can make it a priority to listen and understand. It’s quite literally the least we can do. 

About Recommendations for Teachers

When asked what recommendations they have for teachers in creating trauma-informed classrooms and safe learning environments, many students did not answer or simply said, “idk,” (I don’t know). The lack of responses led us to reflect about students’ sense of voice and empowerment. Do students feel like they have even less agency after this year? How does this translate into their sense of self-worth? How are we empowering and uplifting students’ voices in the classroom? When students come from a culture where authority, especially teachers, are not questioned, they may find it rude or disrespectful to offer any advice. Students may not know what support they need. Sharing negative experiences can also shine light on what a safe space is not. How can we help them understand that their experience and input is extremely valuable in this process?

The few students who did have recommendations were students who participate in program supporting a pathway into an education career. These students recommended:

“maybe speaking out about their own trauma and how they have learned to treat it”

“understanding the student and to show they really care”

“What teachers could do to create classrooms for ALL students to learn is to have patience, also understand everyone's emotional state is different each day.”

“let students know you are there to help, making sure the classroom is a safe space for students to share their experiences without being made fun of or teased” 

“to make every single student feel extremely comfortable” 

Our big takeaway: Be open. 

Establishing a relationship of trust requires being vulnerable ourselves. It is through this vulnerability that we become partners in the classroom culture. The students are saying loud and clear that if they are to trust you, you need not be perfect, but you must be patient.

What next? 

We acknowledge that each teacher has a different level of understanding and comfort when it comes to engaging in trauma-informed instruction. However, we also understand that trauma directly impacts student’s behavior and learning. We encourage teachers to ask their students similar questions about what they need right now and try to find ways to incorporate what you learn into your classroom. We encourage teachers to spend time thinking more about these questions to prepare for next school year. Building the foundation of a trauma informed classroom early allows students more time to develop their voice and share it in our classroom communities. 

Would you like to talk more? Email us:


American Psychological Association (2015). Trauma. Retrieved 

Bautista, M. A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). 
Participatory action research methods and city youth: Methodological Insight from the council of youth research. Teachers College Record, 115, 1-23.

Cavanaugh, B. (2016). Trauma-informed classrooms and schools. Beyond Behavior, 
25, 41-46.


Early Childhood Corner

Physically Distanced End-of-Year Celebration Activities

Marla J. Lohmann, PhD
Associate Professor of Special Education, Colorado Christian University

As we close out this school year, I want to start by thanking each of you for the work you have done for children and families this year. This has certainly been a year full of learning new skills for all of us! As we end the year, you are likely planning an End-of-Year party to say goodbye to your students and celebrate the learning that has occurred. But, with the current expectations to still ensure that students remain physically distanced from one another as much as possible, coming up with party games is challenging! Here are three fun and physically distanced preschool party games you can play:

Freeze Dance

Have the children spread out around the classroom and turn on your favorite party music (I personally recommend the Hokey Pokey). When the music starts, everybody should start dancing. Once everyone is busy dancing, stop the music suddenly. When children hear the music stop, they need to stop dancing. Once everyone has stopped dancing, turn the music back on and start the game over. I love that Freeze Dance is fun and provides the opportunity for physical movement!

Simon Says

Have the children spread out around the classroom or in a grassy area outside. Starting by saying “Simon Says,” give the children instructions for what they should do. Examples might include “touch your nose” or “jump up and down.” Occasionally, give instructions without the words “Simon Says” –  any child who completes the action in these situations is out of the game.

Noodle Tag

Get a few pool noodles. Choose one child to be “it” or you as the teacher can be “it.” Using the pool noodle, try to tag other children. When a child is tagged, he/she becomes “it” for the next round of the game.

Good luck as you conclude this year. Enjoy these last few weeks with your students and make sure to take time to celebrate you, your students, and the learning that has occurred. Even amidst this craziness, it has been a magical year and your work has made a lifelong impact on many children.

Ensuring Support for Educators: Expanding Trauma-Informed Practices to Teachers and Staff

Shanon S. Taylor, Ed.D., University of Nevada, Reno

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting the world in earnest in the spring of 2020, it  became clear that this event would be a mass traumatic event unlike any the world has seen in generations. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defined trauma (2014) as resulting “from an event, a series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s function and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being,” (p.7). With students being suddenly pulled from regular routines of school and daily activities, parents working from home and in some cases losing jobs, families impacted by significant illness and the large numbers of deaths, the loss of familial and social networks that would typically provide support and comfort during a traumatic event such as a natural disaster or past terror events, and finally, the uncertainty around when we would all be able to return to regular routines, researchers have already indicated that it is likely that students will be demonstrating symptoms of trauma for some time (Holmes et al., 2020; Horesh & Brown, 2020; The Childhood Trust, 2020).

It is clear schools that have not already begun implementing trauma-informed practices (TIP) must now begin doing so. Again, much of what we know about TIP has developed from the work of SAMHSA. There are four key components to implementing recommended practices that any school can use as a starting point: 

  1. realizing the impacts of trauma on individuals, families, and communities 
  2. recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma 
  3. responding to trauma and its effects by integrating knowledge about trauma into organizational policies, procedures, and practices 
  4. working to resist re-traumatization, utilizing principles of safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration, empowerment, voice, and being considerate of cultural, historical, and gender differences (SAMHSA, 2014). 

Schools can also take early first steps by ensuring that all staff are trained in what Stafford (2008) called “Psychological First Aid” (p.20). In Psychological First Aid (PFA), the primary aim is to create feelings of safety, connection, and self-help for those who have recently experienced trauma in order to begin steps towards recovery. Stafford described the process of doing this as look listen, and link: 

  1. look and assess for needs and concerns
  2. listen to individuals without pressuring them to talk about the event or their experiences, while also comforting them and helping them feel calm
  3. linking them to other community supports to ensure basic needs are being met.

However, while schools are taking these steps to manage the students in their care who may have experienced trauma, it will be important to remember that this has been a worldwide, mass traumatic event that we all have experienced. Whenever there are professionals in caring professions working with individuals who have experienced trauma, there is always a concern about vicarious trauma, also known as compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma (Hydon et al., 2015). This can be described as potentially harmful changes that professionals may experience in their views of themselves, their profession, and of the world, due to the exposure to the shared trauma of those whom they are helping (Baird & Kracen, 2006). Hydon et al. (2015) reviewed the connection between secondary traumatic stress and teacher burnout, defined by them as, “a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job,” (p. 323). Secondary traumatic stress does not always lead to burnout, but given the additional emotional stressors educators have faced in this last “pandemic year”, the potential should not be ignored. 

Many of the typical suggestions that have been provided in past literature to address secondary traumatic stress may not be as useful, given that teachers have also experienced the same traumatic event that their students experienced. For example, Hydon et al. (2015) suggested the use of a training from the U. S. Department of Education that informs educators on the concepts of secondary traumatic stress and how it can lead to burnout, and then facilitators leading the training help educators identify self-care practices for themselves. Educators are then encouraged to share their self-care plans with peers for support and encouragement. Reinbergs and Fefer (2018) also recommended several self-care strategies. One recommended strategy was the use of a nondiagnostic tool designed to assess the well-being of helping professionals, the Professional Quality of Life measure (ProQOL). The ProQOL is available online and free of cost to ensure provider resiliency by its developer, Dr. Beth Stamm, and now currently has available a “pocket card” with ten self-care tips for helping professionals to do every day to maintain resilience (available at On one side of the card is listed such common-sense reminders for self-care such as getting enough sleep and healthy eating, but also suggestions to vary the work being done, share a private joke, and learn from mistakes. On the opposite side of the card, there are suggestions for professionals on how to target empathy and how to be able switch between at-work and off-work modes.

While these have been accepted suggestions for avoiding secondary stress and perhaps leading to burnout in the past, indications are that this may not be sufficient for the current event. A recent report on National Public Radio (Cardoza, 2021) said that while school districts are often trying to address these issues with their teachers, some offering yoga classes, counseling sessions, and webinars on mental health, teachers are reporting that all of these things that are meant to be self-care feel like one more thing on a to-do list that need to be checked off. One teacher who stated her very first day of teaching was on 9/11 in New York City that this last year has been her most challenging year of teaching in her career. The complexity of changing teaching modalities, some teachers teaching from home with their own children in the home at the same time, along with the ongoing social unrest from the Black Lives Matter protests to the contentious election cycle have left teachers exhausted and often feeling isolated without their usual peer support (Cardoza, 2021).

So while we should encourage the usual self-care measures to avoid secondary traumatization, are there any additional suggestions researchers have identified in light of the current pandemic? A recent study has identified a practice that takes minimal time and effort and yet may yield positive results in mental affect. The technical name for the intervention is technical distancing, but the concept may not be all that unfamiliar, as teachers may have done this with students in a class exercise: it is writing a letter to your future self. The researchers had one group write to their self-one year in the future, talking about right now, while another group wrote from their self-one year in the future, telling their current self how they got through the current situation. Both groups showed an increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect, likely because the intervention allowed the participants to begin thinking in concrete ways about life after the pandemic (Chishima et al., 2021). Taking a few minutes to envision what summer 2022 will look like and putting it on paper may make a significant change to one’s emotional stress level.

With all that said, in the spirit of peer support and accountability to self-care measures, I believe strongly in the use of a good playlist and fresh air to get one through work and keep us going. There’s nothing that listening and dancing to “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire and sitting outside in a backyard can’t help improve. Start envisioning 2022 and take care of yourselves.


Baird, K., & Kracen, A. C. (2006). Vicarious traumatization and secondary traumatic 
stress: A research synthesis. Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 19(2), 181-188.

Cardoza, K. (2021, April 19). ‘We need to be nurtured, too’: Many teachers say 
they’re reaching a breaking point. NPR.…

Chishima, Y., Huai-Ching Liu, I., & Wilson, A. E. (2021). Temporal distancing during 
the COVID-19 pandemic: Letter writing with future self can mitigate negative affect. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Advance online publication.

Holmes, E. A., O’Connor, R. C., Perry, V. H., Tracey, I., Wessely, S., Aresneault, L., 
Ballard, C., Christensen, H., Silver, R. C., Everall, I., Ford, T., John, A., Kabir, T., King, K., Madan, I., Michie, S., Przybylski, A. K., Shafran, R., Sweeney, A., Worthman, C.M., … Bullmore, E. (2020). Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: A call for action for mental health science. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(6), 547-560.

Horesh, D., & Brown, A. D. (2020). Traumatic stress in the age of COVID-19: A call to 
close critical gaps and adapt to new realities. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(4), 331-335.

Hydon, S., Wong, M., Langley, A. K., Stein, B. D., & Kataoka, S. H. (2015).  Preventing 
secondary traumatic stress in educators. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 24(2), 319-333.

Reinbergs, E. J., & Fefer, S. A. (2018). Addressing trauma in schools: Multitiered 
service delivery options for practitioners. Psychology in the Schools, 55(3), 250-263.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). SAMHSA’s 
concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The Childhood Trust. (2020, June). Children in lockdown: The Consequences of the 
coronavirus crisis for children living in poverty. London, UK: The Childhood Trust.…

Posted:  29 March, 2021

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