Using Antecedent Interventions in Special Education

Behavior interventions in special education

Antecedent interventions involve changing the setting, environment or situation to address a problem behavior. With antecedent interventions, adjustments are made to the classroom to remove triggers for the problem behavior and to give students opportunities to practice a replacement behavior. I love antecedent interventions because they are meant to change the setting/ environment before the behavior even occurs. They're super helpful interventions to implement with individual students as well as entire classes. 

When it comes to behavior plans, it's important to make sure that the antecedent interventions are linked to the function of the behavior. However, I've also found that the below antecedent interventions are helpful to implement with entire classes.

-Using visuals
Visuals are probably some of the most universally used antecedent behavior interventions across all special ed. classrooms. Visuals are great to use for schedules, behavior reminders/ redirections and prompting for tasks. I use a variety of visuals across our day to avoid certain problem behaviors and to encourage replacement behaviors.

Behavior interventions in special education
A simple first/ next/ then board is great for giving kids predictability and reduces problem behaviors during transitions. 
Behavior interventions in special education
Labeling chairs with students' favorite characters can help to motivate students to sit in their chairs!

Behavior interventions in special education
A simple visual schedule so students know what to expect next in the day. 

Behavior interventions in special education
Stop sign on the door to remind students to not leave the room
-Arranging the physical environment
A simple way to avoid many problem behaviors is to sanitize the classroom environment. Specifically, keep all of the distracting toys and items out of students' sight and reach! This will reduce distractions and will also encourage communication! You can check out this blog post that explains more about sanitizing your environment.

Another way to modify the physical environment to decrease problem behaviors is by giving students clear boundaries/areas for specific activities/ tasks. Arrange the classroom so that there are specific areas of the room for specific activities (like a large carpet for circle time, small tables for free time or specific games/ toys, desks 1:1 work, etc.).  It's important to remember that if you determine a specific location to play with a toy, you should stay consistent with it and not allow students to play with a toy/ activity while not in that area.

Behavior interventions in special education
A puzzle area with a bookshelf and table

Behavior interventions in special education
Rugs can be a great way to show students' boundaries for activities!

Behavior interventions in special education
A table designated for playing with cars/ trains

Behavior interventions in special education
A designated location for independent work
-Offer choices
This is literally one of my all time favorite go-to antecedent interventions because it's quick, easy and often doesn't require any prep! Many students benefit from having choices and control in aspects of their day. This page from PBISWorld is super helpful- it explains why giving choices is important, when you should give choices and how to give choices.

Here are just a few examples of choices you can quickly and easily give students include:
-What kind of chair they want to complete their work in (regular chair, cube chair, bean bag, etc.)
-What staff they work with (teacher, para, classmate, etc.)
-What writing utensil to use (pencil, marker, crayon, etc.)
-What order to do work in (first book then phonics work or phonics work and then book)
-The reinforcer they will receive after they complete a task

Remember: You should never give a student an option/ choice that doesn't work for the staff in your classroom! For example, don't ask a student, "Do you want to work with me or Ms. Suzy?" if Ms. Suzy's lunch starts in 2 minutes or don't ask a student if they want to write in pencil or pen if the assignment is part of a formal portfolio assessment that needs to be completed in pen. It sounds silly for me to say this, but you'd be surprised how often I see staff giving students options that aren't very appropriate.

-Transition cues
Smooth transitions make the entire school day SO much better. There are a ton of options out there for helping students with transitions. You can give students verbal warnings like, "2 minutes until math," "In 1 minute we clean up," or "When we are done with art, then we go to recess." You can also use visuals and audio cues to alert students of transitions. I love cheap egg timers from the Dollar Tree and kitchen timers (I love this one because it's magnetic and so I can attach it to my door and whiteboard). I also love to use different sounds/ sound effects to cue students of transitions. I have a doorbell answer buzzer from Amazon velcroed above my door that I use to cue students to line up. We practice it a ton at the beginning of the year, but basically when the doorbell rings, it's time to quickly clean up and line up.

Behavior interventions in special education
The doorbell that we use to cue students that it's time to transition to line up. 
This free Children's Countdown- Visual Countdown App is also AMAZING! You can set the time to whatever second/minute interval you need and as the timer goes, it reveals a stock picture or a you can upload a picture from your phone! I like to set a timer and reveal the picture of the next activity  (for example, if there are 2 minutes until we go to the lunch room, a picture of the lunch room would be revealed when the timer is done). A few other cheap/ simple options for timers are: Timers on cell phones/ iPads, egg timers, Children's Countdown app, sand timers, timer websites (this link has a super easy to use timer),
Behavior interventions in special education
Children's Countdown app (Free and super fun!)

Behavior interventions in special education
Children's Countdown app- it let's you customize the amount of time and then choose the picture that will be revealed as time goes elapses!
What are you your go-to antecedent interventions to prevent problem behaviors throughout your classroom?