Special Education

Success with Special Education Students

I have been a Special Education teacher for over 20 years. The idea that behavior is a choice is something that I have always tried to teach my students. When I discovered The Raise Responsibility System, I was so excited I wanted to start using it right away! Alas, it was summer and when school started I didn’t have any students assigned to my class. I was eventually assigned to shadow a first grade student with severe ADHD who was without his medication. After several days of having to remove him from his class due to unruly behavior, I decided to teach him the hierarchy of social development. He grasped the concept right away. Because of the ADHD, I made him a flip card as a visual reminder to keep on his desk. After that, all we had to do was ask him what level his behavior was currently and what should it be if it was Level A or B.
—Samantha Phillips – Raymondville, Texas


The following is quoted from“Using Special Discipline Tactics to Help Students with Neurological-Based Behavior”


“One of the things Marshall emphasizes in working with students is making heavy use of positive images as concerns personalities, capabilities, and behavior. This practice is powerful and especially useful for teachers who work with students with NBB (neurological-based behavior).

“Marshall maintains that body, mind, and emotions fully intermingle and that each is understood in terms of the others. Feelings, learning, and physical behavior all work in conjunction and are inseparable. A change in behavior is as much emotion based as it is cognition based—that is, it has as much to do with feelings as with knowledge. The human mind thinks not so much through the use of simple language but through the heavy use of pictures, images, and visions. One of the best ways to influence behavior for the better is to empower students with positive images. In teaching students to conduct themselves appropriately, we should make use of positive images of what responsible people do, as opposed to images of punishment for irresponsible behavior.”

C.M. Charles, Pearson, copyright 2008, p. 164


The brain thinks in pictures—not in letters, words, paragraphs or any text. Think of your last dream to illustrate this fact.  Therefore, always CREATE IMAGES of what you WANT students to do—NOT what you do not want them to do.


Although, an increasing numbers of students are demonstrating learning disorders and neurological based behaviors, these students can demonstrate responsible behavior. They can improve their social and educational skills when teachers and parents utilize all four parts of the Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model:

Part I:
It is absolutely essential to model, teach, practice, and reinforce by practicing again procedures for EVERYTHING.

Part II:
These students should (a) be talked to in positive and empowering ways,  (b) given choices (although limited) to limit coercion, and (c) asked to reflect on their chosen behaviors and their their successes.

Part III:
(a) Be taught the hierarchy of four levels of social and personal development, (b) asked to reflect on their chosen level when not operating on an acceptable level, and (c) develop a procedure to bring them back to the task at hand.

Part IV:
Create for them a picture, image, or visual of the level they plan to act on BEFORE an activity, and then have them take a moment to reflect on their chosen level AFTER the activity.


Following is a case where tangibles only were used initially to prompt reflection:

An Uncivilized Youth

This is my second year using DWS (Discipline without Stress). I have a first grader this year who has exhibited many of the behaviors that you listed. I have used behavior sheets, given out laps, writing sentences, separated him from the group even using a science fair display board and then ultimately had to suspend him for a short time. NOTHING was working with him. He was speaking or shouting out in the classroom and restroom, singing loudly, constantly interrupting me during class with another grade (I teach multi-grade 1-8), just generally disrupting the entire class. I was at my wits’ end with him, and we were nearly ready to expel him as he was disturbing the other students and interfering with their learning.

This lad came to me as an uncivilized young one.

One evening I had an inspiration to use tangible items to show him when he is interrupting or disrupting people. I chose clothespins to use, as these can easily be clipped together for ease of distribution, name-identified, etc. So as not to single out this one student, I give four clothespins to the lower grade students (Grades 1-3) at the beginning of the school day. These clothespins have the students’ names written on them and are clipped together, making a square. Students put them on top of their desks, where they are readily visible and accessible. When a student interrupts me or disrupts the class or another student, I quietly ask for a clothespin. At the end of the day, I give a small token to those students who still have four clothespins. The token may be a sticker, an eraser, etc. It has worked miracles for this especially disruptive student.

The clothespins give him something tangible to attach to an undesirable behavior, of which he was not even aware, and then make a better choice. He is prompted to make the decision, “Is this worth losing a clothespin over—do I really need to interrupt another student or the teacher, or can I figure this out on my own?”

It actually allows him to label his behavior, analyze it, and then make a choice about his behavior. It has worked wonders for him and I am still sane, as are the other students in our classroom.


The lad’s mother and grandmother are so happy with his new and improved behavior! Even his pastor says that he can see a difference in him at church! Hallelujah! A civilized young one!

—Debbie Brock, Appalachian Christian Academy