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May 2018 - vol. 33 no. 3

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From the President’s Desk

The CEC Conference has come and gone and I want to personally thank everyone that stopped by the CCBD booth, attended the General Business Meeting, or joined us at the CCBD social event. The Executive Committee continues to work on you behalf to ensure stability of the organization and that we remain driven by our mission. I recently sent everyone the CCBD response to the recent school shooting in Florida and our commitment to increasing access and quality of mental health services. We hope that these statement begin an ongoing conversation among practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers to continue to search for prevention strategies to decrease the likelihood these events happen in the future. In addition, CCBD signed on a national prevention statement, "Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America” available at I would also like to call attention to CCBD’s position on guns in schools that has been on since the tragedy in Newtown, CT (

Lastly, I would like to put a call out to all CCBD members to consider joining a new effort I am leading. After conversations with regional CCBD leaders, it became clear that there needs to be a repository list of CCBD experts that can present or keynote at local and regional CCBD conferences that have limited resources. Therefore, I am starting a campaign and developing a list for that have presenters willing to attend and present on behalf of CCBD and forgo any honorarium, only asking that travel costs be covered. The list and the details are still in development, but if you are interested, please send me an email at

Thank you again for everything that you do!!

Nick Gage
CCBD President

How to Attend the 41st Annual TECBD Conference

Nancy Cline, M.S. Ed.

Coordinator, West Virginia Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education

So you say you want to attend the conference. Sending staff to national conferences is an investment for your school district. In this era of limited funding for professional development, administrators want to be sure that each dollar spent has a high rate of return. To obtain approval to attend the TECBD Conference, help your administrator understand the benefits of that investment.

Illustrate the ways what you learn will enhance your and your colleague’s ability to do your job even better. Use facts about the conference to show the valuable information you will learn. Noting that some of the country’s top behavior experts will be there is not enough. Focus on relevant topics, notable presenters, and keynote speakers. If your school has relied upon the work of one of the presenters or keynote speakers, explain your plan for how you will share with that author or researcher the work your school is doing and pose questions to them from your staff.

Use the conference agenda to outline which sessions you will attend. Connect those sessions to your work, your goals, and the school’s goals. Explain how having a face-to-face connection with experts in the field will allow you to gain firsthand insight into current research based practices.

Explain that you will share what you learned with your school’s staff that will enhance what you all are doing. Be specific with your plan of how you will share what you learn with the rest of the staff. Here is where the investment will pay off on a larger scale. Submit a written plan with your request that states when and how you will convey the information to the staff. In your plan list ways you will demonstrate strategies or ideas you learned. For example, if you plan to create a Podcast from the exchanges, interviews, or discussions you had with the experts, present that

idea in your proposal for approval to your administrator. If your school has technology platforms or processes that the staff uses, explain in your plan how you will use those tools to share what you have learned.

Follow the rules to obtain approval. Know your school’s protocol for seeking approval to attend a national conference. Each school district has its own procedures for travel approval. You could inadvertently delay paperwork or even insult your principal by not following the appropriate steps. Most school administrators have a pre-approved professional development plan for their staff for the year. Submitting forms to attend a conference outside that plan without first conversing with your school’s administrator could convey an unintended message of disrespect. The administrator may perceive that as you trying to bypass his/her approval or you not finding value in the plan that is already established for the staff.

Almost the End of Endrew F. v Douglas County School District

Mitchell L. Yell & Mickey Losinski

In a previous issue, we addressed the recent special education case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (2017). The case dealt with the definition of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA, specifically answering the question: What is the degree of educational benefit that the IDEA requires that school districts provide to students with disabilities to meet the FAPE standard of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This case involved a young boy with Autism and ADHD, Endrew F., Endrew’s parents had pulled him from the Douglas County Schools because they believed he was not making academic or behavioral progress in the school’s special education program. They placed Endrew in a private school called the Firefly Autism House, where he made progress, both academically and behaviorally. Endrew’s parents then sued the Douglas County School District asserting that the district had failed to provide Endrew with a FAPE and requesting tuition reimbursement for his placement at the private school. The Douglas County School District refused to reimburse Endrew’s parents for the tuition. The parents then requested a due process hearing and eventually brought the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The parents lost at both the hearing and the district court. They then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, where they also lost. The hearing officer and both courts ruled that the Douglas County School District had provided sufficient educational benefit to Endrew to meet the FAPE standard of the IDEA. The parents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a unanimous ruling that was issued on March 22, 2017, the High Court overturned the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that a school district had to provide an education that was conferred merely more than de minimus (a little more than trivial) educational benefit to meet the FAPE standard of the IDEA. In fact, in the decision, Justice Roberts wrote that an educational benefit standard requiring merely more than de minimis benefit was so low as to not provide any benefit at all. The new higher educational benefit standard required by the Court was that a student’s IEP must be reasonably calculated to enable a student to progress appropriately in light of his or her circumstances.

The Supreme Court remanded or sent the case back to the tenth circuit court to reconsider its ruling in light of the Supreme Court's new higher standard for educational

benefit. Subsequently, the tenth circuit court did not issue a new ruling; rather it remanded the case to the lower court, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The district court had made the first ruling on the Endrew case in federal court, affirming the decision for the Douglas County School Board at the due process hearing. On remand, the judge in the federal district court of Colorado had to reconsider his decision based on the new educational benefit standard announced by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued its decision in Endrew on February 12, 2018. The judge reversed his original decision in favor of the Douglas County School District and announced its ruling in favor of Endrew and his parents. According to the judge, the Douglas County School District had failed to provide a FAPE to Endrew in light of the Supreme Court’s new higher educational benefit standard. The judge ordered the Douglas County School District to reimburse Endrew’s parents' tuition and related expenses incurred when they removed their child from the Douglas County School District and placed him in a private school, the Firefly Autism House, at their own expense. The judge also ordered the Douglas County School District to pay Endrew’s parent's court costs and attorneys’ fees. Although the amounts have not yet been determined the final price tag will be large. Drew is now 17 years old and has been attending the Firefly Autism House since he was in 4th grade. At a tuition rate of $70,000 per year that will be a significant expense although it will not come close to the amount that will be owed in attorneys’ fees and court costs. That amount could easily be 2 million dollars! Except for the determination of these fees, the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School System has reached its conclusion.

The Denver Post published an interesting account of this decision. It is available at…. The educational blog, Chalkbeat, has a fascinating entry on Endrew’s parents journey through the legal system. It is available at….

Recreational Reinforcement

Eric Alan Common and Kathryn A. Germer

We are delighted to launch a new column here at Behavior Today. Beginning with the May newsletter, “Recreational Reinforcement” will be a bi-monthly column exploring and analyzing leisure - particularly the ways in which practicing behavior analysts reinforce their behaviors as they manage that thing we all call life. Each column will highlight a recreation or leisure activity (or product) and discuss the applied behavior analytic principle or technology in play. All views may or may not be shared by both Eric and Kathryn and are expressly not the views or endorsed by CEC and the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders, although we certainly appreciate this space. In this first column, we will explore Eric’s publicly disclosed reinforcement contingency of earning a $6-10 bath (bomb) for achieving a writing goal.

Keywords: positive reinforcement, reinforcement contingencies, immediacy of reinforcement, self-monitoring, response effort, going public, bath bomb

Reinforcing a behavior increases the likelihood it will occur again in the future. In operant conditioning, schedules of reinforcement are an important component of the learning process and can be strategically employed to help shape an individual’s behavior. A schedule of reinforcement is basically a rule—an established contingency—stating under which circumstances a behavior will be reinforced. Sometimes reinforcement is provided for each occurrence of a behavior (continuous reinforcement), other times only select occurrences of the behavior produce reinforcement (intermittent schedules of reinforcement). Reinforcement is often included as part of package intervention consisting of multiple intervention components. For example, reinforcement can be included with self-monitoring interventions to help increase the probability of the behavior being monitored. Self-monitoring is designed to shape one’s behavior through self-observation and recording procedures.

In grad school, Eric and Kathryn’s mentor, Dr. Kathleen Lynne Lane, encouraged them to record the number of words written per day, not the amount of time spent writing. Data recording sheets and self-graphing cumulative records were made and daily, monthly, and yearly goals set. Not surprisingly, Eric found the creation of these systems to be more satisfying than the actual recording of the behavior. For him, the response effort of tracking word count and transferring to a spreadsheet was too arduous (despite the simplicity of word count tracking in word processing programs).

Kathryn: How many words did you write today?

Eric: I didn’t keep track, it takes too much time.

Kathryn: Your writing is only going to suffer if your self-monitoring system is aversive.

Clearly, a new self-monitoring system with a stronger reinforcement component was warranted. Enter the bath bomb contingency. Around this same time, for his birthday somebody bought Eric a bath gift box. Included in this gift box was a sphere of essential oils and fizzy fun (he later learned the term “bath bomb”). To him, the bath that night smelled like “lavender in cartoon form.” He was disappointed when he found out the cost of a single enhanced bath (e.g., $6-10 bath bomb) would be a financial burden, but none the les he did identify a powerful stimulus to reinforce his behavior in the process.

Eric determined the least amount of effort to document his writing productivity needed to be incorporated in developing a self-monitoring program. These procedures also needed to be socially acceptable to the intervention agent (Eric) to promote his fidelity of treatment. If the intervention agent finds the procedures to be socially acceptable he or she is more likely to follow the intervention as planned. A new behavior objective was set, and behaviors associated with completing a section of manuscript (e.g., the method section) were targeted. This would provide on average four opportunities to reinforce his behavior (i.e., introduction, method, results, discussion) per manuscript. The behavior was later shaped by changing the reinforcement density and going from continuous reinforcement for each section to continuous reinforcement of completing each manuscript (singularly). Overall the reinforcement system was successful— despite reinforcing task completion, a known limitation (that is, the literature recommends to reinforce actual behavior(s), not outcomes/products of behavior [e.g., completion])—though it did have its comedic moments.

Eric: I finished the Method chapter of my dissertation today.

Kathryn: Awesome! Does this meet criteria for a bath bomb?

Eric: Yes, but it’s 2am and I’m too tired to take a $8 bath tonight. I’m going to save it for tomorrow.

Kathryn: Eric, you have to use the bath bomb. The temporal relation between a target behavior and its consequence is a critical aspect of reinforcement. Don’t lose this opportunity and jeopardize your future writing behavior. Immediacy of reinforcement following the behavior, not how long you spend in the bath, is what matters now.

Over the years, Eric has learned to tread lightly in publicly disclosing the details of his self-monitoring and reinforcement intervention package among colleagues—a delicate balance (particularly for him). Going public is a powerful tactic of self-management programs, it sets the stage for potential consequences associated with success (praise) or failure (condemnation). Despite successfully shaping his behavior, being asked in professional settings if he’s earned a bath bomb lately has highlighted the need for discretion with going public with some intervention components.

As we complete this first column of “Recreational Reinforcement” we hope our readers had fun. The ultimate goal of this column is to bring applied behavior analysis to everyday living, from thinking about principles and technologies and how they shape our students’ behavior in the classroom, to the fun ways we can identify them throughout our recreation and leisure pursuits.

ReThinking Behavior

James Teagarden

A new online free magazine is available for professionals servicing children with behavior needs. This magazine is published three time a year by the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorder.

To subscribe or read the past issues can be located at

If you have an idea for an article read the submission guidelines. Share your story or idea with other teachers.

Dear Miss Kitty

Dear Miss Kitty,

I have a student in my third-grade class who does not accept praise. As a matter of fact, when I praise him he starts acting out and throwing things on the floor. I am pretty sure I need to quit praising him because it backfires on me. Is that the thing to do? Please advise me.

Confused Carol


Dear Confused Carol:

Thanks for asking this question. I hope you will continue to praise this student because, even if he acts out, he needs to be recognized for what he does right. Here is probably what is happening because I have experienced it myself. I used to name the student of the week for my class on Friday and guaranteed on Monday the student’s behavior problems would escalate. I was ready to quit awarding student of the week when it occurred to me what was happening. Some of our children are what I call “reprimand magnets,” meaning that they set themselves up to be scolded and not reinforced. What is occurring is that they are not used to anyone saying anything nice to them. They do not know how to accept a compliment. Compliment acceptance and compliment giving are social skills that must be taught.

Have you ever known an adult who, when you approached them and complimented them on something they were wearing, would say: “Oh, it’s just some old thing.” When they respond that way, you pull away from them and don’t want to say anything else nice. However probably these individuals never learned how to accept a compliment and it has impacted their relationships with others.

Here are a few strategies you can utilize to teach the acceptance of and the giving of a compliment:

1.    Compliment cup. Each day when your students come in your class, have them draw a popsicle stick out of a cup. That stick has one classmate’s name on it. When a student draws that name they are responsible for giving that classmate at least two compliments throughout the day. Students are giving and getting compliments. In the classrooms where I have seen this used, I have seen generalization to other students and to people outside the classroom. The students felt good when they gave a compliment and got a compliment.

2.    This only works if you have a specific time where you teach students what is and isn’t a compliment, how to give a compliment, and how to receive a compliment. You have to teach them what a sincere compliment is and what is not sincere. You have to directly teach this skill.

3.    You also need to model compliment giving behavior so students see how you do it sincerely.

4.    Finally, every time you see students giving another a compliment, you need to reinforce them for doing so. In another instance, when our school had awards assemblies and some students would get awards and some wouldn’t, we saw some students getting upset. As a result we started having a brief lesson before the assembly about being happy for other students when they got awards. We talked about the importance of clapping for other students (prior to that we were seeing students with their arms folded and not clapping). After the ceremony, I would talk to students privately and let them know how I liked seeing them clap for other people who received awards.

In the process of teaching this skill, the students have focused on the positive aspects of someone, they feel better about themselves, and the other students who are the recipients of the compliments feel good. We are more likely to have a good day with our students when teachers and students are recognizing others for positives.

Happy Complimenting!


Where Did My Mentor Go? Strategies for Post-Induction Educators

Nate Marsden, Canyons School District

Although numerous states have worked to increase supports for new teachers, many educators access induction or mentoring programs for one to two years, or if they’re lucky, a third year. This can leave relatively new teachers in a “sink or swim” position, which, in spite of an educator’s best intentions, can potentially put students in a similar position. Several years ago, I found myself in these very circumstances, and I’ve found it useful to consider the following strategies:

  • Join a professional organization- This is an effective way to access unique professional development, engage in networking with other professionals, enhance areas of strength, and build confidence in emerging skills.
  • Look around, not just above- Although supervisory staff and coaches can provide invaluable support, new and experienced teachers can find ways to enhance their practice by collaborating with teachers whose practices yield positive results.
  • Ask those questions!- As you’re looking around and above, you’ll inevitably have questions about what you see. Ask them. Ask them all.
  • Get a second opinion- So, you’ve been looking around (and sometimes above), and you’ve asked all the questions, but you’re still not feeling completely confident. At this point, it can be beneficial to ask another professional for advice. In most cases, you’ll likely get some clarification, and in some cases, you’ll walk away with two effective strategies, instead of one.
  • ●    Take advantage of elective professional development opportunities- Even if you say to yourself, “I already know this,” or “this isn’t really my thing,” you might find that the information is packaged in a way that illuminates a particular concept for you.

    ●    When possible, be a mentor to other teachers- Now that you’ve been looking around at other teachers, asking questions, and accessing professional development, you have something to offer, particularly when another teacher is looking to you and asking questions. By providing them with your perspective, you’re likely adding tools to their tool box, and more importantly, you’re setting the stage for ongoing collaboration.

    ●    When feasible, say “yes” to new opportunities- Whether your principal asks you to be part of a student support team or a colleague asks you if you’d like to co-present during the next staff training, you can learn a great deal by taking advantage of those opportunities. A feeling of uncertainty is almost inescapable in these circumstances, but you’ll probably find that you have something to offer and a lot to gain.

Executive Functioning Skills and Students with
Emotional and Behavior Disorders

Alice Cahill, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Executive function (EF) is a term used in education signifying behaviors that are self-regulatory in nature and are needed to direct actions and behavior within the framework of school and societal expectations. Looking at executive function must be done through the lens that it begins early in childhood and involves more than one learning structure (Zelazo, Carter, Reznick, & Frye, 1997). Students with emotional or behavioral disabilities often struggle more with EF (Anderson, 2010) than their ‘typical’ peers. As such, it is critical for educators to provide these students with activities to strengthen their EF skills. Diamond and Lee (2011) purport that creating opportunities and repeated practice that are wide-ranging in expectations, such as preparing work on a computer, ‘seat work’ out of the seat at a standing desk, playing non-computerized games, meditation and mindfulness, and structured physical activities such as exercise classes and training improve children’s EF.

Where do we start? Strengthening visualization skills (as a support to working memory) is a good place as it is seen across all aspects of life. Have students read a small passage, picture what it looks like in their mind, draw it and turn to a partner to explain what they ‘see’. This helps solidify what they are learning by making it multi-sensory and there is immediate use of the information, rather than waiting to be called on in class to explain or not being called on at all. For our students with emotional or behavior disorders these opportunities give them the chance to feel immediate success by being the expert on their own learning and having the opportunity to take the role as teacher. Their initial partner can be the teacher, providing attention and encouraging work completion. As the experience is repeated, our students can feel that same success with peers.


Anderson, P. (2010) Assessment and development of executive function (EF) during childhood. Child Neuropsychology, 8, 71-82, DOI: 10.1076/chin.

Zelazo, P., Carter, A., Reznick, S. J., & Frye, D. (1997). Early development of executive function: A problem-solving framework. Review of General Psychology, 1, 198-226.

Diamond A., & Lee K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4-12 years old. Science, 333, 959–964.

Changes in the World of Behavior Disorders

Phyllis Vermilyea, Region 1 CCBD

Many states are partnering with their state or region PBIS association to put on a conference that meets the needs of both general and special education professionals. My own position at the district level has changed this year from special education consulting teacher to district positive behavior intervention coordinator and yet, I am doing much of the same work.

In light of this change, I am sharing some resources that have come my way that support both general and special education professionals. is the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs technical assistance center. It has research, handouts from conferences, videos, presentations, many other tools that are useful for all professionals. has free and paid courses for teaching social skills, behavior skills as well as content areas. – Alaska’s website has the presentations from their state conference with autism as their focus. If you have the dropbox app on your computer, you are able to download any and all presentations from their conference. is the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and has developed social emotional learning standards. The site has guides for evidence based social emotional learning curriculums. is the National Commission on Social, Emotional & Academic Development. The website has research, infographics, newsletter, etc.
Hopefully, these and many other resources out there are being used to provide professionals with more information, help in making decisions as well as promoting our education and our students’ education.

Special Focus: Talking to Students after Violence has Occurred

Calli Lewis-Chiu

When children hear about terrible events via the news or social media, they may struggle with feelings of fear and confusion, yet have a difficult time articulating their emotions. Read the piece, “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers” for ideas on how to have conservations with students after violence has



Posted:  1 May, 2018

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