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Last Updated: 11/20/2017
 

 Article of Interest - Positive Behavior Support

Program Targets Behavioral Ills

Approach helps kids discipline themselves.

from the Detroit News, by Linda Theil, December 16, 2002
For more articles visit www.bridges4kids.org

 
HOWELL -- Nick Mardigian, 14, had a lot of trouble staying in school in the sixth and seventh grades. He was repeatedly suspended for fighting, swearing and chronic misbehavior.

The anxiety, frustration and stress of almost daily phone calls from school caused his mother to leave her job as manager of Yorkshire Apartments in Howell.

"When you have those types of things, it's very stressful -- it affects the whole family," said Janet Mardigian. "Last year, Nick failed all three semesters except for the last one."

This year, Nick has improved his grades and his outlook in eighth grade classes at Highlander Way Middle School thanks to a structured behavioral plan based on a philosophy called Positive Behavior Support (PBS).

"I've only gotten two referrals this year and I haven't got kicked out once. I'm getting A's, B's, one C, and maybe a D in one class. But compared to last year I'm doing great," Nick said.

"I want people to know the struggles I've had and the people to talk to and where to go so they can get out of the hole. I hope by doing this interview we'll actually help kids to get out of their problems. And I hope this inspires them, too."

Positive Behavior Support is a research-based approach to behavior modification that was developed more than a decade ago to deal with aggressive behavior in severely disabled students. The theory and philosophy, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, has been so successful that the concept is spreading in popularity as a schoolwide approach to discipline.

A federal grant administered by the state pays social worker Ruth Moss-Katsnelson to train educators in the PBS approach. She is a member of the Positive Behavior Support Network, a statewide organization formed to promote PBS in schools. The group held their charter meeting last month at Cleary University in Genoa Township.

A PBS program works on the notion that clearly delineated expectations and consequences must be taught and reinforced. Because Nick had been identified as having a learning disability, he was entitled to a behavior plan as part of his federally mandated Individual Education Plan.

"I didn't have a real understanding of what an Individual Education Plan was," Janet Mardigian said.

Mardigian sought assistance from Deb Calendrino, a representative of Arc, a nationwide group of advocates for children with developmental disabilities. By studying the law she discovered she could request a behavior plan for Nick. The plan follows PBS principals of defining, teaching and monitoring expected behavior. Errors in behavior are corrected immediately so students clearly understand their actions have consequences. Good behavior is acknowledged as the student progresses in the program.

Nick's teacher Megan Booth said Nick's behavior plan created a structured environment where Nick could recognize what was happening and take control.

"In a behavior plan, we adopt a series of positive steps and strategies that students and staff can do to help their education go smoother," Booth said.

Many PBS concepts are in use on a schoolwide basis at Highlander Way such as a portion of the school discipline code that includes rewards for good behavior and clearly defined consequences for infractions.

Assistant Principal Duane DeMeyer comes from a background in special education.

"I brought with me a lot of the special education teaching techniques on positive reinforcement," DeMeyer said. "One of the first things I implemented, and not just for special education students, is a positive-referral format that lets us catch kids doing good things."

When DeMeyer must act on typical referrals for vandalism, harassment or tardiness he lets kids know that he's enforcing the rules. He is quick to deal with trouble and consistent in his response.

"I bring them an opportunity to get their behavior under control," DeMeyer said. "That's what the behavior plan is for -- giving them steps to take."

The PBS approach has had some notable success at Highlander Way. In his first year as assistant principal in 1999, DeMeyer dealt with 830 discipline referrals. In the next year the referrals dropped to just over 500 and have stayed at that level despite a 20-percent increase in enrollment.

Janet Mardigian said DeMeyer's approach has been a significant factor in Nick's success.

"My son views the assistant principal as someone to look up to and go to for help instead of someone you go to when you're in trouble," Mardigian said. "It's a 100-percent turnaround. And that's what having a positive environment can do."

Nick is quick to credit his improved performance to the atmosphere at Highlander Way.

"This year I'm doing great because the team wants to help you. They're respectful; they listen; they care for you," Nick said. "At first I didn't like my behavior plan, but after they explained to me how it worked, it helped me a lot. It's keeping me in good classes; it's keeping me happy. It's giving me a positive attitude about school. I like it because it keeps me organized and on-track so I don't get into trouble."
 
For information about laws dealing with Individual Education Plans, call Deb Calendrino at (517) 546-1228.

Linda Theil is a Metro Detroit free-lance writer.
 

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bridges4kids does not necessarily agree with the content or subject matter of all articles nor do we endorse any specific argument.  Direct any comments on articles to deb@bridges4kids.org.  

 

 

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