For Students with Hyperacusis

You might not know what hyperacusis is, but you do know that some of your students are extremely reactive to sounds. We have all had students who put their hands over their ears when they entered the gymnasium, or the fire alarm sounded. For some of our students, this might be hyperacusis.  Here is a great page discussing hyperacusis-  

Here are some suggestions to help in school and at home:

Since most people do not use the drawstrings on their hoodie sweatshirts, a great solution is a hooded sweatshirt that has earbuds instead of drawstrings.  You can check out what these look like at gizmag.  The Hoodie Buddie would be a great solution for students to wear in school. When the noise becomes more than they can take, they can pick up the ear buds and put them in their ears.  I have witnessed some not so great solutions that made the student stand out and look different from their peers: lime green earplugs sticking out of the student’s ears, giant headphones like the airport employees wear, and the old giant headphones from listening labs. I like for the student to look as typical as possible and no one else is walking around with giant headphones.  If a school really wanted to integrate and make all the students love being at school, the school could make it a rule that students were allowed to listen to music during class changing period. the school could put a limit on this. “We will allow headphone use for all students during class changing periods as long as tardies remain below 1%.” The students would be motivated to police each other to retain this privilege. This would make all the students happy and the students with special needs would not stand out at all during class changing period.

In my Building Behavioral Expertise Class in Morton, PA, one of the participants came up with the idea to take a girls stretchy wide headband and put earbuds running through the headband. The young lady could wear the headband and when the noise go to be too loud, she could pull the earbuds and place them into her ears to block out some of the noise.

  • Of course, tennis balls on the bottoms of chairs to alleviate the screeching of chair tips on the tile floors is a solution
  • Allow the student to eat lunch with a group of friends in an empty classroom- don’t isolate the student
  • Seating the student away from air vents and overhead projectors for the SmartBoard
  • Seating the student away from the door
  • Use a pool noodle and a pillowcase. Put one outside the door inside the pillowcase and then slide the other pool noodle inside the pool noodle and slide the middle of the pillowcase under the door (You will need to make the pillow case thinner so that it is just about 3 inches larger than 2 pool noodles side by side
  • Put a decorated piece of foam over the loudspeaker in the room – you will still be able to hear the announcement- but it will lessen the severity of it

Please share your ideas

Any other ideas you have to share would be appreciated. I’m really hoping to come up with more viable solutions than Shrek colored ear plugs sticking out of a student’s ears, or cotton balls, or giant foam headphones.

Rewards for Students, Staff, and Parents




 Many people believe that we should not reward students for good behavior. I hear things like:

  • “Children should be intrinsically motivated.”
  • “Those kids should come to school and be good.  I shouldn’t have to do anything.”

So, I’d like you to watch this video or at least a few minutes of this video. Do you think there is anything wrong with what the parents are doing in this video to encourage this young girl to begin walking? They are cheering her on and clapping for her every little achievement. Soon she will be walking around like this picture I found on a google search of images:  zombie cell phone picture. Why do we stop cheering accomplishments? I think the reason we stop is because some people erroneously thought the rewards were supposed to be tangible. I read a great book on the Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. I took the author’s ideas about adults and paired them with my ten years of research on students. For ten years, I have been asking students this question: “What would mean the world to you? What could an adult give you that would let you know you had done a good job? By the way, it can’t cost anything.”  Based on their answers, here is what I think:

I believe your rewards should come from all these areas:

1) Quality time with adults and peers

2) Escape from a task or chore

3) Earning special privileges

4) Physical touch- like high fives or special handshakes

5) Earning leadership roles

6) Social praise

7) Special assistance (help with a chore, task, etc.)

8) Tangibles

Notice: Tangibles are last. Many reward programs focus on tangibles first and I believe children want attention and recognition much more than they truly want tangibles. The answers I get are amazingly simple. Students and children want us to notice them and give them time and attention.

Here’s my most poignant story.

I was riding a bus in a major metropolitan city. The matron on the bus walked up to me in the middle of the route and told me the boy behind me was the number one worst student on the bus (a middle school student with his hood pulled up over his head) and the student across the seat from him was the second worst student on the bus. After I thought the students had time to calm down from hearing the matron say these horrible things about them, I turned around and said, “You know, I’m not really here looking for bad kids. I’m a researcher and I’m here to train the bus drivers. But I do have a question for you, if you want to answer it. I asked the boys the question above. The first young man sat with his head down for a bit and then he took down his hood and I saw the most adorable middle school dimple faced young man looking at me. He started talking in an animated voice. He said, “Oh my gosh, I see people throw footballs and when they throw them, the footballs go straight. When I throw a football it goes all wonky. If someone could teach me how to throw a football straight. That would mean the world to me.” (This…..??????? is the worst kid on the bus) The second young man said (and I quote) “I suck at spelling. If somebody could teach me that i after e stuff (he really needed to know the rule there) that would really help because I can’t spell anything. That would mean a lot to me.”

I have heard things like, “Tell me you appreciate the fact that I got up and came to school today.” “Write a job recommendation for me.” “Play checkers with me, like my dad used to.” (from a little boy whose father had passed away unexpectedly.) It’s really pretty simple. The kids don’t really want the stickers, the candy bars, or the little toys in the McDonald’s Happy Meals. They want our eyeballs on them.

Here is my research- there are sections for parents, teachers, and administrators.

If you go to the material section on and scroll down to rewards you will find 32 pages of free rewards which is the second link. I also have separated out 100 ways parents can reward their children at home for good behavior at school.

I’m sure this post will pick up a troll who still thinks children should not be rewarded or recognized for good behavior. I have two questions for you?

  • “How is that working out for you in your setting?”
  • “Do you work for free?”

I did have a troll once in an earlier post who wrote me and said my “stuff” (he didn’t call it that) was pure garbage.  When he wanted to get kids to do things, he just twisted their arms up behind their backs and they did exactly what he wanted them to do. I told him that if I knew who he was, I would turn him over to the authorities. 

Check out the free rewards page- you will see the kinds of things on there that students and kids have told me they would like. They just want recognition, attention, help, and maybe just a little fun in their day.

Barometric Pressure and Behavior

I believe barometric pressure affects behavior in children and adults. With the recent wave of polar vortex weather, we have seen a huge increase in behavioral issues and a huge variance in barometric pressure.  If you will go to and put in your zip code and then put in the previous month, you will be able to see the history of your own barometric pressure for your city. 

Here is a picture of the barometric pressure for Olathe, Kansas (a school district I work with quite frequently).



This is the graph for the month of February. You can see how the barometric pressure in one month’s time has huge variances. How does this relate to behavior? Thomas Schory has conducted research finding a connection between barometric pressure and patients with psychiatric conditions. Here is an interesting article citing Schory Note the article section discussing the use of corporal punishment being higher on abnormal pressure days.

One of my principal friends in Lawton, Oklahoma was so proud of her statistics. She had gone all year with zero office discipline referrals. On April 21 at 1:45 in the afternoon, three students were sent to her office from different classrooms. All three children had out of the ordinary behavior. I met with her the next day.  We pulled up the barometric pressure for Lawton, Oklahoma looking at hour by hour of the day before. At 1:30 that afternoon, the barometric pressure had taken a huge nose dive.

So, what can you do if you are a principal, educator, parent or therapist working with children on a daily basis? Watch the barometric pressure. When you see a huge change in the barometric pressure, turn everything in your classroom or home into a choice. Here are some samples of equal choices:

  • Do you want to write with the green pencil or the purple pencil?
  • Do  you want to sit in the red chair or the blue chair?
  • Would you like to walk down the hallway beside me or in front of me?
  • Here are 50 math problems, you can only do half of them. You can choose the half you do.
  • You can brush your teeth with the green toothbrush or the yellow toothbrush (provided they are both theirs :) )
  • Do you want to wear your green pajamas or your blue pajamas?

It is so easy to turn anything into a choice.  Why are choices important? Choices keep the synapses firing in the front part of the brain where the child is thinking. We want to keep the child thinking so they do not slip down into the lizard brain where they are just reacting. Decision making is enacted in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. When we offer the student equal choices rather than a threat, we can keep the synapses firing in the prefrontal cortex. If we throw out a threat like, “Do this, or lose your recess. Do this or go to the office.”, the student will immediately go to lizard brain. Lizard brain is the brain stem which means the student is reacting rather than thinking.

When the barometric pressure is out of the normal range, it can affect how you feel. How you feel affects how you react to choices and threats. Here is an article on barometric pressure and moods Hence, it makes sense to offer choices to students on as much as possible when the barometric pressure is changing to keep them from reacting to the way they feel about the barometric pressure effects on their body.

We have tried this with students and had great results. We tried it with an adult who had autism, intellectual disabilities, bipolar condition, obsessive compulsive disorder and mild cerebral palsy. When offered numerous choices on wacky barometric pressure days he would be a little slower in response; however, he would not lock down and refuse to go to work. Previous to the addition of choices, he would choose to stay in bed and not eat or take his medication when given ultimatums by his staff. 

So, watch the barometric pressure and start turning everything in your classroom, school, or home into a choice when the barometric pressure shoots up or down and you’ll be surprised in the changes it will make for you and your students or children.

Building Relationships

Today I was asked to give a 30 minute keynote address to Capital City Schools in Dover, Delaware.  When I first read the assignment I freaked out.  Thirty-minutes???? How can I impart any knowledge in thirty-minutes?  Then I thought….this is a great challenge because what do classroom teachers do every day?  Teachers have to build relationships with students in a very few minutes as they enter and exit the classroom. It is perfectly fitting that I develop a thirty-minute training on developing relationships.

I told the group about Each One Save Five. Bhaermann and Kopp say a student is less likely to drop out of school if one adult other than their teacher, knows and uses their name in a positive way.  One of my favorite high schools in Weatherford, Oklahoma developed Each One Save Five for their school.  They took the total number of students in the school and divided it by the total number of adults in the school.  This included the custodian, clerical, and even cafeteria workers.  Their number came out to five.  Once a week, each person must make positive contact with their five students. It can be emails, postcards, phone calls to the home answering machine, letters home, notes in the locker or desk, or messages delivered by office aides throughout the day.  Imagine the power we have with just this one tidbit.  Even a bus driver who has very little contact time with a student can learn their name and save them from dropping out of high school.  How many times have we heard a famous person talk about how much trouble they were in when they were young and one adult took an interest in them and turned them around?  It happens a lot.  That is one person making a difference.

The second tidbit I focused on was greeting students at the door using TUMS which is my acronym for interacting with students.  The “T” stands for touch.  We stopped touching children a few years back because we were afraid we were going to end up on the six o’clock news.  A perfectly proper greeting would be to shake a student’s hand. This is touching in a socially appropriate way. Teachers can also do fist bumps, high fives, low fives, pinkie bumps, elbow bumps, or implosion/explosion hand bump. The message to the students is that I value you.  

The “U” stands for use their name in a positive way. Not “Oh Ferris it’s you.” Rather, “Ferris, so good to see you. How was your sister’s birthday party last night?”  Any little message indicating you noticed or remembered something about them. Doing this as the students enter the door can give you a heads up on who is having a good day and who is not.  A few seconds in the hallway before class starts can make all the difference in the world.

The “M” stands for make eye contact.  As a society, we have decrease face time by 62% since the 1950’s.  Albert Einstein once said he feared the day that technology surpassed human connection.  It seems he knew this day was coming. Students today have never known a time without smart phones or technological games. When I was a child, we ate dinner at the dining room table and we talked to each other. When I was a child I played outside when the weather was nice and when it was too cold to play outside we sat at the dining room table playing board games.  All of these activities gave me eye contact with my family and my friends. Today, students eat their meals in front of the television. Children do not play outside or at the dining room table. Children play their games facing screens.  So kids are desperate for face time. Eventually, the students figure it out.  “If I stand up in class and say “F” you, you “F>>>>ing” “B” they get a ton of face time from peers and adults. If we give them eye contact before they have a chance to take it during class, they will not resort to that behavior in the classroom.

The “S” stands for smile.  We are so busy thinking about what we are going to do next that we forget what we are doing with our face.  As a presenter sometimes I look out in the audience and it looks like everyone is mad.  It’s not that they are mad.  They are so busy thinking about what I am saying they fail to smile until I tell a joke. We do this at school in the hallway when we greet the students and each other.  We have 50 balls in the air that we are juggling at any given moment.  Read a joke a day or tell each other jokes in the hallway before the bell rings just to remind ourselves to smile.  

So stand at the door and do “TUMS”.  Turn off your fluorescent lights in your room and put a desk lamp with a 60 watt bulb in it. Play 60 bpm music. Put a thought provoking question on the board for them to ponder and be ready to answer when the lights come on and the music goes off.  If you do these things, you will have less disruptions in the classroom.

I’ll share about the sixty beats per minute and why that is important in another post. Have a wonderful school year. 


Have a Wonderful School Year

Well, the 2013-14  school year is upon us. Educators are starting back and the students will follow quickly.  Behavior Doctor Seminars hopes you have a wonderful year filled with tons of positive successes.  

Please write in this year and brag about your successes.  If you try a new technique, please share it so others can use your success to help a student in their school.  If you are having issues with a student please send in (non-identifying information) about the student and let us brainstorm as a whole group how to solve the issues we deal with on a daily basis.

During the month of August, I have trained bus drivers in Olathe, Kansas and educators in Dover, Delaware; Wilmington, Delaware; Anne Arundel, Maryland; and Waukon, Iowa.  In many of these trainings, the attendees came in on their own time to sit all day and learn behavioral techniques.  I have met so many wonderful people who truly care about children and helping them be successful.  We have many golden apples in our profession and I am proud to say I work in this profession.  The rewards don’t show up in our bank accounts, but we seem to reap thousands of rewards of smiles, high fives, students who struggle and then succeed, and relationships that last a lifetime.

We at Behavior Doctor Seminars hope you have a wonderful 2013-14 school year and that all your students carry you in their hearts as they progress toward their future goals.  Happy New School Year.

Repost of Flip Charts and Why I Hate Them


Why I am Against the Use of Red, Yellow, and Green Flip Charts

I’m reposting this so I can put it on Pinterest. So many people are putting up pictures of flip charts under PBIS and no one from has ever said, “This is part of PBIS”- so I would like to stop this train.

Against the Use of the Response Cost Strategy of the
Red, Yellow, and Green Flip Charts
Written by
Laura A. Riffel, Ph.D.
Many people ask me how I feel about the red, yellow, and green strips where children flip their card if they produce misbehaviors.  Typically, the set up is that all students start on green and every time they misbehave they have to flip their chart.  Most of the teachers interviewed have the students miss their recess if they get flipped to red.  Most of the time, the children who end up on flipping their card to red are the very children who NEED to go outside and run during recess.  The teacher does not realize they have caused their own pain in this case.
I personally am against the use of these charts for several reasons: 1) Public Display, 2) Defeatism and 3) Punishment redemption. 
Public Display
A public display of who is appropriate and who is not appropriate would be like posting grades in the hallway.  In my opinion it is a gross violation of privacy.  Any visitor to the room has instant access to private information. In my opinion it is a violation of FERPA.  You would not post an “F” paper on the wall, so why would you post “F” behavior?
Many children who are continually singled out as the “bad” student accept that role and provide supporting documentation to fulfill that role.  If I feel like a zero; I will behave as a zero.
Punishment and Redemption
The United States houses 5% of the world population and 25% of the world population of incarcerated.  If the threat of jail and loss of freedom does not stop 25% of the world population from engaging in criminal activities, then why do some teachers believe taking away recess will stop inappropriate behavior?  Response cost and punishment work for 75% of us, but for 25% of the world it doesn’t work.  Typically, the children whose behavior we wish to target for change are in the 25% so it is a futile attempt at changing their behavior. 
On numerous occasions, this researcher has been called into a school to assist with a child whose behaviors are impeding his or her learning or that of others.  When observations were completed, it was discovered the root of continued behavioral issues stemmed from the child’s perceived loss of a privilege and their negative reaction regarding that loss.  Three cases will be discussed:
1)     A sixth grade student who was basically known as public enemy number one in the school was engaging in many disruptive behaviors.  These behaviors became so disruptive the school called in a behavioral specialist.  After observing the student for a day and interviewing the staff, the behavior specialist interviewed the student.  When the student was asked why he engaged in these behaviors his response was this: “I’ve been a student at this school since Kindergarten.  When you enter Kindergarten here you know that the sixth graders get to go to the zoo on a class field trip in May.  I’ve been looking forward to that trip since I was in Kindergarten.  In October, I messed up and got in a fight with another student.  The principal told me that I didn’t get to go on the field trip in May now.  So, I figure what else do I have to lose?”  When adults take away the one thing kids have to look forward to like field trips and recess, they just gave the student permission to be as bad as they want to be.
2)     A third grade girl had been a model student since preschool.  Suddenly, her third grade teacher implemented the red, yellow, and green flip chart and was very stringent about behaviors earning yellow and red flips.  The girl daily had to flip her chart for the following behaviors: 1) not having her feet flat on the floor, 2) erasing too much, 3) not putting her name on her paper.  The mother reported having to take her daughter to the doctor for frequent vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.  In this case the child was a “good” child as reported by more than three years of previous teachers, and  became clinically stressed when unrealistic expectations were placed on her using a public display of her behavior.
3)     The third case involves a mother contacting me and bragging about the successful implementation of the flip chart for her son.  From August through April the student remained on green each day, thus the mother believing this was working for her child.  In April, the distraught mother called proclaiming “help” her son was on yellow three days in a row.  I asked her if she had asked him why he was on yellow, she replied no and told me she would call me back.  She called a few minutes later and said, “You are not going to believe what he said.”  I said, “Oh, I bet I have a good idea.”  She went on to tell me this, “He told me that he was tired of sitting and he figured out that if he had one behavior he could get up and walk around the room and yet still not miss out on recess so he was doing something to get himself to flip a card each day when he wanted to get up and walk around.”  Bingo, the child had figured out the system.
Same Results
The Porteus Maze Test was given to sixty children in the fourth grade (Porteus,1965).  The first series was given as a baseline, and the second series was administered under one of four different experimental conditions: control, response cost, positive reinforcement, or negative verbal feedback.
Response cost and positive reinforcement, but not negative verbal feedback, led to significant decreases in the number of all types of qualitative errors in relation to the control group. The reduction of non-targeted as well as targeted errors provides evidence for the generalized effects of both techniques equally.  If both work equally, then why employ the one with the potential for public display, defeatism, and punishment redemption?  Positive reinforcement is just as effective and produces less stress producing protocols for children. 
Decreased Critical Statements and Increased Praise Statements
Three behavior management strategies were investigated for efficacy as used in a Head Start classroom (Tiano,, 2005). The three strategies included: (a) techniques currently used by the teacher, (b) response cost, and (c) the Level System (token economy). This study used an ABACA single subject withdrawal design with follow-up where all conditions were implemented until stability was reached. Classroom behavior was evaluated by both behavioral observation and teacher report. Children’s and teacher’s behavior were examined. No conclusions could be made concerning the efficacy (i.e., inappropriate behavior) of the techniques. However, Teachers used more labeled praise statements and lower critical statements during the Level System condition than all other conditions.  Shores, Gunter, Jack (1993) indicate we can improve behavior by 80% by pointing out what one student is doing correctly.
Overgeneralization of a Special Education Technique
With the exception of the Salend and Henry study (1981), research on response- cost systems has been limited to special education classrooms (Spencer, et. al., 1988). The red, yellow, and green flip chart system is a response cost system applied to a typically developing class of which there is limited research on its effectiveness. 
What does work?  Token economies work with most children and allow the educational staff to label appropriate behavior; which increases appropriate behavior (Shores, Gunter, & Jack, 1993; Horner & Sugai, 2005).  If a child exhibits behavior impeding their learning or that of others, the educational staff can then have a discussion with the child about the targeted behavior and have them earn extra tokens for the preferred payoff. In other words, if a child is working on a token economy and 5 tickets equals 15 minutes on the computer, a preferred activity, and then the child has a behavioral learning opportunity ( a misbehavior), the staff should use the following intervention:  “It’s a bummer that you chose to throw paper towels on the ceiling in the bathroom.  We have discussed how this is not respecting others and property and we have a plan for how we will conduct ourselves in the restroom the next time.  Due to this behavioral learning opportunity you will have the opportunity to earn six tickets instead of 5 to earn your computer time.  I believe behavior change can be effectively mastered when we up the ante requirement for inappropriate behavior rather than taking away a previously earned privilege such as recess or field trips. 

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I had to wait awhile to post this article so the school district I’m talking about doesn’t know I’m talking about them. I guess I shouldn’t care if they know, but I do care about people’s feelings. I was presenting a small group of educators and most were from rural areas.  They said they didn’t like some of the rewards (which by the way, are all attention based) I spoke of because their kids were so disrespectful. I made the assumption the kids were middle school, but they informed me they were grade school.  I told them they didn’t have to do every single thing in my presentation, it was just ideas.  I could tell they weren’t really listening to anything I said because they just wanted to focus on what they thought was wrong with their “kids”.  

Here’s the real problem.  They talked the whole time I was talking.  They were disrespectful to a speaker who was brought in to give them ideas.  If they are disrespectful to an adult, I know they are disrespectful to children.  I see this all the time as a presenter. Adults talk through my presentation, it is always just a few; but the few that do, are always the ones that raise their hand and ask me what to do with disrespectful kids.

YOU get what you give.  If you are respectful to children, they will mirror that respect back to you.  If you model disrespect, then that is what comes bouncing back to you. It’s like the PBIS schools I work with, when they first start the teachers are walking down the hallways pointing out inappropriate behavior.  After the training, the teachers walk down the hallway giving positive behavior specific praise. Prior to PBIS, all the adults see is inappropriate behavior. After PBIS, the main thing adults see is appropriate behavior.  Energy flows where attention goes.  

I have ten rules about behavior and the most important one is, YOUR reaction determines whether a behavior will occur again.  I don’t think the team I was training that day “got” the message….but then I don’t think they wanted to “get” the message.  I think they would rather sit around and admire the problem for awhile.  

I know this sounds negative, but it’s really not meant to be.  For the most part, the schools I work with have figured it out.  It makes such a difference in the feeling of the school.  It makes such a difference in your family, in your relationships.  Focus on the positive and that is what you will see.  Focus on the negative and that is what you will see.  We get what we give.  Help those in your situation turn their thinking around to think positive thoughts. :)  Happy Summer