Schools refusing to accommodate children with behavioral issues is a lot more common than most people imagine. Preschools have increased expulsions by 30% in the last few years. Parents come to Dr. Jacob Boney, owner and clinical director of Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services, not knowing what to do and seeking his advice. What he hears is usually some version of:
“My child’s school is telling me that they cannot accommodate his behavior anymore, and I have no idea what to do or where to bring him. How can I work with the school to prevent this? Are they allowed to kick my kid out? Where do I bring my child if they do kick him out?”
Dr. Boney stresses the importance of parents having a prevention mindset. If you know your child does not have the skills to be ready for school and you are at all concerned about the school’s ability to manage their behavior, don’t set your child up for failure by sending them into an environment that they are not ready for.
Parents should plan ahead and seek outside support that includes intensive behavior therapy focused on school readiness. Find a school or facility that is really geared to that, like the Scottsdale Children’s Institute, where there is an intensive school readiness program that helps children with all kinds of diagnoses and behaviors get ready for school in a simulated school environment utilizing the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
Prevention Mindset Considerations
Don’t set children up for failure. If your child is not ready, do not put them in a school where they are likely to fail and get booted out. This can be very stressful and even traumatic for the child.
Build strong, collaborative relationships with the school and with the staff. If your child does develop behavioral issues, it will make a big difference if the staff likes you. That may not be what you want to hear or even fair, but schools have finite resources and they will work harder to accommodate students when the parents are likable and willing to work with them.
If there is any indication that there may be behavioral issues that could possibly result in your child’s school making the decision for expulsion, be prepared by having done your research for alternatives. Do this in advance and before it is actually needed because often these situations escalate quickly. No one school is perfect for every student and no student is perfect for every school. Be prepared for this school not being the right fit for your child. Your job is to quickly figure out whether the school can accommodate your child, and, if they cannot, find a school that can as soon as possible.
There are specialists who make a career out of searching for customized, tailored school settings for students. You can find them by Googling things like “school advocacy” and “school placement specialists”.
It is very important that parents understand the child’s difficulties and needs. By doing this, you can assist your child’s school in better understanding and helping your child. It will also be beneficial in quickly recognizing that a school is not the best fit and more easily find one that is. Dr. Boney stresses that allowing a child to experience multiple unsuccessful attempts at attending school can be extremely stressful and can leave a very negative impression on the child. Children can learn to hate school very quickly, so this is something that absolutely needs to be figured out as soon as possible. This is so important, in fact, that it may actually be better to remove the child from school for a short, temporary break, until the right school can be found. Do not hesitate to seek professional assistance in this process.
Build your support team from multiple professions with multiple perspectives. Utilize as many resources as you can afford. Identifying target behaviors quickly and establishing a way to track progress is critical. Work with your team to create an effective plan based on research, previous evidence, standardized best practices and your team’s expert opinions on what is going to work best for your child. Finding that right school placement can set the tone for years of your child’s life and set them on the right path. Finding the wrong placement can do just the opposite and take years to undo and correct.
Meet with the school staff every six to eight weeks to monitor and evaluate your child’s progress. After three or four months, make a decision based on whether you believe your child can be successful in this school. Ask yourself whether this school and staff have the tools, patience, and skills to help your child. If the answer is “no”, pull the trigger quickly and get your child out of that environment.
If you do have to find a new school, look for programs that specialize in teaching and accommodating similar types of children as yours and have a focus on school readiness. This means having the total package of skills that make your child ready to participate, engage and benefit from a school environment. Schools may vary in their structure and content but most have basic behavior requirements in common. These include:
- Not being aggressive to staff or peers
- Be able to sit independently
- Be able to independently toilet, low tolerance for not being fully potty-trained
- Follow basic directions
- Have basic safety awareness skills
- Doesn’t try to run away
If your child does not have these basic skills, they will need to go to a very specialized setting to get them school-ready. Here at our facility, we have the Scottsdale Children’s Institute, with the primary goal to disseminate, practice and research the science of teaching and learning. Students with any kind of behavioral excess or deficit, any kind of diagnosis, as well as typical children are put in an inclusion-based environment, utilizing the principles of ABA to increase adaptive skills and decrease problematic skills. Results have been fantastic for many of our students.
Whether you are in the Scottsdale area or anywhere else, find a program that emphasizes school-readiness skills. Seek the help of a professional if you feel the need for guidance. It’s important to make the right choice when making a change because multiple changes can be very difficult for your child.
Remember, time is precious, and this process will affect your child for many, many years to come.
Utilizing evidence based practices and the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, the Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services team provides assessment, treatment and consultation for a wide range of behavioral issues. We work with a variety of children, families, schools, hospitals, mental health agencies and local community organizations to provide these services. If you have any questions about the Scottsdale Children’s Institute or how to help your child with school readiness, please feel free to contact us by phone at 480.410.4040, email us at [email protected], or click here for our convenient online form.