Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Basket Case of a Different Kind

I’ve been thinking about the philosophy of Dr. Ross Greene, a doctor/author who is known for his advice to schools and families about kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. My student Clarke is highly explosive, especially toward the end of the day when he is less able to manage the frustrations of routine school demands. He just seems “done” with it all, unable to moderate his reactions or temper his impulses for one more minute. He gets a recently altered noon-time dose of his meds, so I don’t have much evidence that it is a med related problem. It really does seem like he is on overload, unable at his tender age of 7 to do much more to stay settled and on track.

So, of course, I am left to ponder my role in helping him to manage that last hour of the day.

Just last week I implemented a different plan for Clarke, one that incorporates Greene’s idea of establishing priorities; that is, defining exactly what issues I can let slide that last part of the day, and which issues cannot be ignored due to safety.

Greene frames his priority plan in terms of “BASKETS”. Some behaviors like sassiness and refusals (as in ignoring directions to go to the time-out desk or refusing to complete a written assignment) are low priority, and are “placed” in a low priority “Basket”. I can ignore his behavior, and delay intervention until the next morning when he is capable of processing the situation without a crisis. Dangerous behavior is a high priority “Basket” behavior, and requires immediate intervention, even though it means he melts-down and escalates through the crisis mode. The probable crisis is deemed “worth it” because others or he, himself were injured ….or were at risk for injury.

I used this Basket 1 intervention last week when Clarke got very sassy, even threatening in tone. I reminded him it’s not okay to talk to me that way, and he stopped, put his head down on his desk and grumbled once or twice. When he kicked at his desk twice in the next minute or so, I directed him to the crisis room for processing/intervention, etc. He ignored my direction, and remained seated, head down, and the kicking ceased.

I looked at the clock. 2:05. Of course.

I “let it go”….. Clarke remained at his seat as his classmates left the room for end of the day recess. He even appeared to have fallen asleep. But when the kids re-entered and dismissal routines began, he calmly raised his head and followed directions amiably.

He was able to accept his point sheet with loss of points for that time of day, pack up, and get on the bus without a fuss.

I resisted any direct interaction with him, aside from what was required by the routines in place. It was hard. I am one who generally believes consistency is gold. But I wrote myself a note to remember to deal with the breach at the start of the next day….

That next morning on arrival, Clarke accepted his timeout consequence, including an extended detention time for “being out of his assigned space”. He processed calmly. It felt like a successful intervention, but with only a few days in, I can only hope long term, this is an effective solution.

The question then becomes “Effective for who?” Clearly, this was a satisfactory solution for me: there was no physical aggressiveness, no major tantrum, no chance he’d miss his bus home due to his behavior. But does this approach reinforce his negative behavior and thereby increase it overtime?

Or will this approach offer Clarke the chance to self-regulate his behavior as the year goes on? If time and maturity are the keys to Clarke’s improved behavior, then this framework should be successful. We will see.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs. Ris, Liz here from I Speak of Dreams--

I've read Greene's work really closely, and I think his approach to problem solving and parenting is really useful for every parent, not just "explosive kids".

You can read more about Greene's approach at Center for Collaborative Problem Solving

One of Greene's central ideas is "kids do well if they can".

You asked,

"The question then becomes “Effective for who?” Clearly, this was a satisfactory solution for me: there was no physical aggressiveness, no major tantrum, no chance he’d miss his bus home due to his behavior. But does this approach reinforce his negative behavior and thereby increase it overtime?"

I don't think your approach "reinforced negative behavior" -- it gave young Clarke a taste of success in self-regulating.

You might also be interested in a new way of tracking behaviors and interventions

Here's part a review of a new system--the review is written by Charles Fox of the Special Education Law Blog

"Good qualtity data collection to address a child's behaviors in school is one of the most stubborn issues that I confront. Often no data is collected, data is collected in a format that is not useful (e.g. simple hash marks with no context), or it is not generated across settings and disciplines. In the event that it is initially created in a useful format and all the other issues are also addressed (not a frequent occurrance), the data is rarely updated to determine the effectiveness of the plan whether a BIP or a sensory diet.

Mary Block, who is a school and clincially-based occupational therapist (see brief biography below), has designed an elegant online solution to these issues of data collection and updating data for FBAs, BIPs and sensory plans. The product is entitled Student Occupational Time Line which is trademarked under the acronym of SOTL. This product is designed expressly (but not exclusively) for the school setting.

SOTL allows data input from multiple informants, across settings and over time. It takes much of the drudge and effort out of the process of data collection, and also allows for tabulation and analysis all to the benefit of the child and the staff working with him or her. "

molly_g said...

Hi Mrs. Ris!

This was an approach I had hoped that The Kid's school had used on him back when he was having so many issues with explosiveness. Continually, the school told me, "We simply cannot have a child misbehave or be non-compliant." And so, for months, The Kid came home with daily reports that showed him failing, and worse, he felt as though he was failing.

No one intervened with a "prioritized" list of behaviors. We have seen improvement instead by a new drug, and possibly a quiet part of The Kid's bipolar cycle (fall being the worst for at least the last two years).

Should we see a return to last fall's behavior, I will surely keep this post bookmarked.

Thanks as always for the wonderful work that you do!!!

Anonymous said...

Liz again, from I Speak of Dreams

I have a question for you, as a real live classroom teacher. The question has to do with Scott McConnell, the fellow who was not allowed to finish his master's program at Le Moyne College. The conservative point of view is that he was discriminated against because of his conservative views.

I've posted his essay outlining classroom management philosophy on my blog, at

Framing: Scott McConnell

What do you think? Does McConnell have a mind-set that is appropriate for a classroom teacher? Is his approach one you would be glad to see in a colleague?