Recently I did a school consultation for a child who was being evaluated for an Individual
Education Plan. I was asked for my opinion not on what services would be good for the child,
but on why her behavior seemed to be cycling in an irregular pattern. Normally, professionals
assess, intervene, and judge the response to intervention in order to further tune the
intervention to the child. In the case of this girl, behavior got better then worse, then better then
worse in a way that seemed independent of the intervention. Or was it?
Together, the other professionals and I did a side by side comparison of the teacher’s daily
behavior report and many other factors, and discerned that her behavior got slightly better
before a planned intervention, and then immediately worse right after the intervention. This
pattern was also true for fun things like Pizza Day and being Line Leader in the class (a highly
coveted position). But the data seemed to be suggesting that the interventions and fun things
were actually making behavior worse! How could this be?
It turns out that the variable not being considered in this case was change. This child probably
needed a heavy dose of routine after a chaotic summer, rough start to the year, and the process
of identification of an attention deficit. Special days when parents visited the school, use of a
standup desk, and a school assembly all kept this child off-balance emotionally. Let’s be clear,
these were all “good” things-fun events, effective interventions, and community building
activities; but they were also all examples of change.
Routines are a powerful tool and for some kids, can play a crucial role in increasing emotional
stability and work production. Be sure to consider the effects of change and routine in your next
family meeting or communication with your child’s school.