Special Challenges

Simple Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Students

PDF of Simple Strategies

Create visual images to prompt behaviors you desire.

P = Send POSITIVE messages.

Notice the number of times you state something negatively that could be stated in positive terms. Promise with the positive by using contingencies, rather than consequences—which usually prompt negative feelings. Notice the difference between how the following two are perceived:

“As soon as you finish your work, you can go to the activity center.” (Contingency – stated in the positive)
vs. “If your work is not done, you’re not going to the activity center.” (Consequence – stated negatively)

C = Offer CHOICES.

Choice empowers. Choices give ownership, a critical component for changing behavior.

Giving three options—rather than two—removes … >>>


Sharing the Visual Schedule in my primary classroom

The very first step outlined in Dr. Marshall’s Discipline without Stress Teaching Model is classroom management.  He explains on p. 205 of his book, “Students need to be inducted into the organization of the classroom.  The way to do this is to teach procedures.”

Further down on the same page, he continues:

Procedure gives structure, which is especially important for at-risk students.  The label “at-risk” has nothing to do with intelligence.  It simply means that these students are in danger of failing or dropping out of school.  Often the lives of at-risk students are chaotic, and the only part of their lives that is stable is school.  The reason they are in danger is simply because they don’t do … >>>




I’ve read the book and understand the point of internal being more important that external. However, I teach in a self-contained class with kids that are moderately cognitively delayed. I will have kids with autism and some with oppositional defiant disorder too. They will not have internal motivation for a while (they CAN get it, for sure, but I do worry about the meantime.) Currently I use a level system and there are privileges on each level. I’ve also been reading DWS and Love and Logic just to help me pump up the positive and put more responsiblity on the students. I already do this stuff quite a bit, and it is the way I raise my own children.  … >>>


Dealing with ADD, ADHD, and ODD


I was contacted by a reporter from CBS News who was inquiring about the reported increase in oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) ) of students in a major eastern coast city.

The reporter had heard that teachers are having a frustrating time dealing with students who have ADD, ADHD, and now ODD. How can teachers teach, prepare students for high stakes testing, and individualize programs for all their “disordered” students?


I informed her that the designation of ODD at one time was referred to as “passive-aggressive” behavior but had been re-designated by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994. In that year, the association published their “DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS – FOURTH EDITION (DSM-IV). This is the … >>>


Using Discipline without Stress to deal with an uncooperative student

In our second year of working with Discipline without Stress my teaching partner and I had a student with special needs.  Chronologically he was old enough to be in grade three but emotionally and cognitively, grade one was a much better placement for him.  Here is one experience with this boy that taught me a lot!


This past Monday morning when it was time to go to the gym for our regular Monday morning assembly, Casey had a photograph that a parent must  have given him outside; likely it was a snapshot of a birthday party that he had attended recently.  Being focused on the urgency I felt about getting to the assembly on time, I didn’t notice how … >>>


Using Discipline without Stress in Preschool with Students Who Have Special Needs

Posted by Teri Gibson, a member of the Discipline without Stress mailring.

I have just begun using DWS this year with my 4 yr. old special needs preschool classes.  I absolutely love it.  No, my class is not perfect. No, DWS does not solve all behavior problems.  What it does is this: For the first time, I am able to “reward” my kids that are being good, while helping the kids that are not!   It makes me view everything as a teachable moment, rather than a child’s attempt to undermine.  I love the way it stresses the positive and actually encourages me to pay more attention to the children who are doing the right thing.  I still have much … >>>


Using Discipline without Stress with students who have Asperger’s Syndrome


I have used Discipline without Stress for about five or six years now and plan to continue to do so in the fall with my new Grade 3 class. I will be getting a student with Asperger’s Syndrome, who has a full time E.A. From what I understand, much of his day is based on rewards of some kind, such as time on the computer. If you have used the levels of responsibility with a student who is extremely emotional, yet quite high functioning, please post your ideas and advice.

REPSONSES from members of the Discipline without Stress mailring:

I have used Discipline without Stress for about 4 years now. During that time I’ve had at least 3-4 kids
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Is it possible to use Discipline without Stress in a classroom with a student who has special needs?

I teach kindergarten and all my students seem to be getting the idea of the levels. Today I found out that a special needs student will be joining my class. Although she is five years old, test results show that she is functioning at a 23-month old level. I am worried that this will have a big impact on my classroom and that I will lose what I have gained with my other students. Maybe I should just forget about using Discipline without Stress for this year. What do you think?

There shouldn’t be any need for you to abandon the Discipline without Stress approach in your classroom, despite the fact that the addition of this low-functioning student … >>>