Meeting Student Needs and Preventing Behavior

Meeting Student Needs and Preventing Behavior

I stopped stressing over behavior once I felt competent at preventing it.

As an art teacher, I find myself in a unique position because I don’t control the tone or culture of their home classroom. This sometimes makes me feel like every step forward I take in meeting needs is followed by two steps backward. However, despite this challenge, I have become adept at identifying unmet needs and preventing disruptive behavior. It just means I must be strategic and careful in how I prioritize my time and energy.

For this particular class, I used the Neurodivergent Toolkit to create a narrative. I developed the toolkit in January after co-hosting a workshop on Neurodivergent Learners. I realized that teachers were struggling to prevent behavior issues because they weren’t addressing the underlying motivations.

My first step was to distribute student interview questions to identify their strengths and struggles. I then analyzed the most severe behaviors to understand their messages. The toolkit focuses on behaviors communicating unmet needs such as safety, comfort, autonomy, belonging, and competence. I immediately decided to address safety and belonging.

I selected three strategies from the toolkit to implement right away: adjusting student seating, using soft starts, and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. I rearranged student seats to give anxious students a clear view of the classroom and placed needy students near me. I also positioned a student who needed extra attention near the teacher's aide. Additionally, I introduced simple drawing activities with minimal noise levels, accompanied by a brief breathing exercise video for the first five minutes of each class.

Furthermore, I clearly defined expectations and consequences related to bullying. We discussed what constitutes bullying, its impact, and why people sometimes resort to aggressive behavior when they are upset.

I followed these strategies for two weeks and then introduced activities aimed at fostering a sense of belonging. We began with "All About Me" presentations and will soon create "All About Me" silhouettes followed by a communal mural for the school.

These efforts have reduced incidents of disruptive behavior while increasing student participation and focus. Detailed explanations of these strategies can be found in the Neurodivergent Toolkit.

If you're interested in learning how to analyze behavior, identify unmet needs, and adapt your classroom and instruction to meet those needs, I encourage you to explore the Neurodivergent Toolkit HERE.
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