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Creating Successful Team Collaboration: Behavior Management in the Schools

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In March 2014, ASHA SIG 16 Perspectives on School Based Issues, I’ve written an article on how SLPs can collaborate with other school based professionals to successfully work with children exhibiting challenging behaviors secondary to psychiatric diagnoses and emotional and behavioral disturbances. In this post I would like to summarize the key points of my article as well as offer helpful professional resources on this topic.

Why is this important?

The number of school-aged children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) with concomitant (or undiagnosed) language impairments (LI) has been growing steadily in recent years (US Dept of Ed, National Center of Education Statistics, 2011). As such many SLPs in today’s schools need to know how to provide effective services while appropriately managing any challenging behaviors impacting delivery provision.

Why should SLPs be involved?

Speech language pathologists play an integral role in the development of behavior management plans because their training places them in a unique position to recognize the extent to which communication impairments contribute to challenging behaviors. Furthermore, many children with psychiatric diagnoses may have hidden and therefore unrecognized language impairments (LI) (Cohen, et al., 1998; Hollo, Wehby, & Oliver, 2014). Consequently, the SLP’s role on the behavioral management team may include assessment of children with EBD to determine whether they present with previously undiagnosed LI, which may be adversely affecting their behavior functioning.

What could SLPs do? 

As part of the behavior management team they can:

  • Help others to determine the function of challenging behaviors (why the behavior is occurring and what is triggering it) by collecting and tracking relevant data (Chandler & Dahlquist, 2006)
  • Engage in differential diagnosis and administer relevant assessments to help determine whether such symptoms as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity may be partially due to a contributing factor such as a language disorder (Elleseff, 2013)
  • Review the student’s maintaining factors, which include cognitive (e.g., intellectual disability, etc.), sensorimotor (e.g., hearing impairment, etc.), psychosocial (e.g., anxiety, etc.), and/or linguistic deficits (e.g., low vocabulary, word-retrieval deficits, etc.) (Klein & Moses, 1999)

  • Develop relevant interventions by analyzing the child’s behavior patterns in order to determine whether modifications in session structure, length, and complexity of educational materials are needed (Gettinger & Seibert, 2002; Guardino & Fullerton, 2010) 

Why should SLPs care? 

A collaborative behavior management model is essential for delivery of effective services to children with behavioral challenges to successfully support them and their families in and out of academic setting. By successfully addressing broad functional goals (vs. isolated ones) via integrated interventions, we can improve effectiveness of our treatment and truly share collaborative responsibility for our students’ success. 

For more information you can access the full length article HERE.  

Helpful Resources:


  1. Cohen, N. J., Barwick, M. A., Horodezky, N. B., Vallance, D. D. & Im, N. (1998). Language, achievement and cognitive processing in psychiatrically disturbed children with previously identified and unsuspected language impairments. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39, 865–78.
  2. Chandler, L. K., & Dahlquist, C.M. (2006). Functional assessment: Strategies to prevent and remediate challenging behavior in school settings (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.
  3. Elleseff, T. (2013, Jan 17). Inattention, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity In At Risk Children: Differential Diagnosis of ADHD in Speech Language Pathology. Webinar presented for Advance for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists.
  4. Gettinger, M., & Seibert, J.K. (2002). Best practices in increasing academic learning time. In A. Thomas (Ed.), Best practices in school psychology IV: Vol. I (4th ed., pp. 773-787). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
  5. Guardino, C & Fullerton, E. (2010). Changing behaviors by changing the classroom environment. Teaching Exceptional Children, Vol. 42, No. 6, pp. 8-13.
  6. Hollo, A., Wehby, J. H., & Oliver, R. O.  (2014). Unsuspected language deficits in children with emotional and behavioral disorders: A meta-analysis. Exceptional Children, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 169-186.
  7. Klein, H., & Moses, N. (1999). Intervention planning for children with communication disorders: A guide to the clinical practicum and professional practice. (2nd Ed.). Boston, MA.: Allyn & Bacon.
  8. United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2011). Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015).
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