Guide to Addressing Challenging Behaviors in Classrooms

Guide to Addressing Challenging Behaviors in Classrooms

SpEd teachers encounter a variety of behaviors, each presenting its unique challenges.

Consider these behavioral challenges, for instance:

  • A student with ADHD might interrupt frequently
  • A student with autism might engage in repetitive behaviors

These students require tailored strategies to support their needs. Therefore, students' IEPs may also include goals related to special needs students’ behavior in the classroom.

In this blog post, we'll shed light on  some of the most challenging behaviors special needs children exhibit in classrooms and discuss ways you can manage them effectively.

1. Lack of Impulse Control and Poor Attention Spans

Impulse control and attention spans go hand in hand. Teachers frequently encounter students who struggle with both of these challenges. So, it is important to develop targeted strategies to address these issues.

Here are two real-life examples that highlight the complexity of these behavioral issues and the importance of implementing tailored approaches to support students -

  • Eden frequently blurts out answers without thinking, demonstrating poor impulse control
  • Sara has difficulty sustaining her attention during independent reading sessions.

To address these issues, teachers can devise targeted strategies like -

a. Implement Structured Routines

Once you establish consistent routines in the classroom, it will give students a sense of stability and predictability.

A stable learning environment allows students to control their impulses and stay focused.

b. Break Down Tasks

Break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps; it is a proven strategy to support students with impulse control and attention challenges.

This approach allows special needs students to focus on one aspect at a time, reducing feelings of overwhelm and fostering success.

c. Introduce Visual Cues and Reminders

Visual aids help students stay focused.

Visual cues and reminders, such as charts or diagrams, provide additional support for students with attention difficulties.

These visual tools can serve as constant references, reinforcing the structure and expectations of the learning environment.

2. Refusal and Transition Struggle

Students often resist  transitions and activities they don't like; teachers can tackle such challenges by -

  • Acknowledging the problem
  • Giving advance notice about transitions
  • Providing choices to foster a more inclusive learning environment

How to tackle refusal and transition struggles in a SpEd classroom?

a. Create Visual Schedules

Implement visual schedules to prepare students for upcoming transitions.

Such aids can provide a clear and visual representation of the daily schedule, offering students a tangible way to anticipate changes and reduce anxiety.

For instance, you can create a chart that shows the sequence of activities throughout the day with pictures or symbols representing each task.

This visual aid clarifies expectations, helping students anticipate changes and transition between activities more comfortably.

b. Offer Choices

Allow your students make choices and they will feel a sense of control, potentially reducing resistance during transitions.

When students are offered an option to choose from  a set of activities or tasks, they feel encouraged to participate in a collaborative and positive learning environment.

c. Use Positive Reinforcement

Employ positive reinforcement techniques to motivate students

  • Recognize and reward desirable behaviors to encourage a smoother transition experience
  • Tailor positive reinforcement to individual preferences.

3. Bullying and Aggressive Behaviors

Bullying is an alarming issue in many SpEd classrooms. It might include students throwing objects and exhibiting physical aggression.

Such situations necessitate a proactive approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all students.

How to Control Bullying and Aggressive Behaviors in Special Ed Classrooms?

a. Implement Anti-Bullying Programs and Social Skills Training

Take decisive action.

Introduce comprehensive anti-bullying programs and social skills training.

These initiatives help raise awareness about the consequences of bullying and equip students with the necessary skills to foster positive interactions.

b. Foster a Culture of Empathy and Inclusion

Cultivate a classroom environment centered around empathy and inclusion.

Promote open discussions about the impact of bullying; encourage students to develop a deeper understanding of the emotions and experiences of their peers.

c. Collaborate with Other Professionals

Team up with other professionals, such as behavior specialists or other school-based therapists who work with special needs students.

Teachers can develop targeted interventions tailored to the specific needs of students involved in aggressive behaviors by pooling expertise and tracking respective IEP goals with AbleSpace.

4. Sensory Challenges and Hitting/Biting

Sensory challenges, attending difficulties, and sitting issues contribute to hitting and biting behaviors, and they are complex issues that require careful attention from educators.

Strategies to Overcome Sensory Challenges and reduce incidents of Hitting/Biting in SpEd Classroom:

a. Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment

Create a sensory-friendly environment within the classroom.

Consider the lighting, noise levels, and the classroom layout. Incorporate sensory breaks into the daily schedule; it can allow students to self-regulate and manage sensory overload.

b. Provide Alternative Outlets for Sensory Needs

Can you offer sensory objects like fidget tools?

These items can help channel excess energy or sensory input, aiding in students' concentration and reducing instances of hitting or biting.

c. Develop Individualized Sensory Plans

Collaborate closely with therapists, including occupational therapists and sensory specialists, to develop personalized sensory plans tailored to each student's specific needs.

For instance, therapists may conduct sensory assessments to identify triggers and preferences.

These might include -

  • Creating sensory-friendly spaces within the classroom
  • Providing sensory breaks
  • Implementing sensory tools like weighted blankets or noise-canceling headphones

5. Lack of Self-Regulation Skills and Expressive Communication:

Teachers must recognize and address the intricate relationship between self-regulation skills and expressive communication to effectively manage impulsive behaviors among students.

Teachers can implement the following strategies to help students develop better self-regulation skills:

  • Teaching mindfulness techniques
  • Emotional regulation exercises
  • Foster open communication channels
  • Provide opportunities for students to express themselves constructively


How to Foster Self-Regulation and Encourage Expressive Communication in Special Education Classrooms?

a. Incorporate Social-Emotional Learning into the Curriculum

Integrate social-emotional learning (SEL) into the curriculum. It will help students develop a heightened awareness of their emotions..

b. Teach Specific Self-Regulation Strategies

Provide explicit instruction on self-regulation strategies. You can help students practice techniques such as deep breathing exercises.

These techniques help students in managing their emotional responses, promoting a more controlled and focused learning environment.

c. Use Visual Supports to Facilitate Expressive Communication

Incorporate visual support into your teaching methodology to encourage expressive communication.

Visual aids, including charts, diagrams, and symbols, assist students in conveying their thoughts and emotions effectively.

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