Tippens Educational Center consists of a multidisciplinary team of professionals that are committed to providing students with learning experiences that will equip them with the tools they need to reach their highest potential. It is our mission to provide a welcoming, supportive, safe environment where students feel a sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. We are committed to helping each student develop their potential academically, emotionally, and behaviorally, using current best practice and research-based interventions.
- All students are capable of growth and development.
- Students should be provided with a predicable environment that fosters independence and generalization of acquired skills.
- Each student is unique and develops at an individual rate.
- In order to effectively educate students, rapport and positive relationships must be formed between staff, students, and parents.
- Academics must be individualized to meet each and every student‘s needs and potential.
- Students must feel competent in order to develop self-esteem, self-control, intrinsic motivation, and independence.
- Students need to form concepts of accomplishment, belonging, and responsibility to prepare them for success in life.
- Staff should be provided with continuous training in effective strategies and specific skills to use in reducing problematic student behavior in order to maximize instructional time.
Tippens strives to increase opportunities for academic and behavioral success through highly individualized and specialized instruction in a small classroom environment. We believe that each student must be provided with instruction that is based upon the strengths and individual needs of the student. Instruction should be provided in the least restrictive environment.
Whenever possible, we strive to integrate our students back into their home school, after developing a solid foundation of the skills necessary for success.
Information regarding Beliefs, Core Values, and Therapeutic, Behavior, and Academic programs descriptions are included in this packet. There are specific programs for the Students with Emotional Behavioral Disturbance as well as Program Specifics for the Dual Diagnosis. The nature of services depends on the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for each child.
Circles of Courage is a Native American philosophy which explains acting out as a skill deficiency in one or more of the core areas. The core values are for all students in the program.
These core values are:
- Mastery – Achieving your goals (creative, persistent, competent, self-motivated, problem solver, accepts challenges)
- Belonging – Being a respectful part of the group (friendly, caring, cooperative, trusting, respectful, healthy relationships)
- Independence – Demonstrating personal responsibility (assertive, confident, leadership, empowered, self-control, problem solver, disciplined)
- Generosity – Contributing positively to others (sharing, caring, supportive, helpful, compassionate, social concerns)
Tippens employs the elements from positive psychology, and other solution-based therapies. The best of these therapeutic approaches are interwoven into a basic conceptual framework from the Circle of Courage. A variety of therapeutic supports are offered through trained staff members and providers of mental health services. Once a student is placed at Tippens, he or she is considered to be experiencing significant emotional conflict. This conflict is viewed as stemming from both within and through their interpersonal interactions with others. The student‘s interactions are so severely impaired that intensive therapeutic techniques, combined with academic and behavioral intensive intervention, is necessary. A full-time Clinical Social Worker and Guidance Counselor are on staff at Tippens and will address the various components in the continuum of services.
The student‘s issues may be addressed through a continuum of services offered including, but not limited to, consultation, individual counseling, group counseling, social skills training, brief and extended therapeutic strategies. The most commonly utilized approach is the therapeutic counseling/teaching interactions between teachers and students which focus upon personal insight and related problem solving skills. Small group instruction and structured discussions are used to enhance self-concept, intrapersonal and interpersonal development, social competence, and self-awareness. The staff members become a valuable and active agent of change by providing positive environmental support and corrective feedback. Therapeutic change occurs when children gain insight into themselves while being guided and encouraged by the teacher in acquisition of real skills. Ultimately it is the student who must act upon and take personal responsibility for individual actions.
The Social Worker and Guidance Counselor will be present at IEP‘s as appropriate and may assist in developing interventions, meeting with parents, monitoring academic outcomes, and may refer to other supportive services within and outside the Cherokee County School District.
Behavior is viewed much like deficits in academics. Students may demonstrate explosively non-compliant behavior as a skill deficit in frustration tolerance, social skills, and problem solving, and for some, frustration in trying to communicate wants and needs. When you develop a relationship with the student, together you conquer their areas of skill deficits through instruction and learning. Consequences are necessary to ensure a safe environment, but consequences alone do not proactively lead students to desired outcomes.
Positive Behavior Support PBS is the application of research-based strategies and systems to assist schools to increase academic performance, increase safety, decrease problem behavior, and establish positive school cultures. On an individual level, PBS uses functional behavior assessments to understand the relationships between a student’s behavior and characteristics of his or her environment. By recognizing the function of behavior, you can target interventions to be set up whereby the function of the behavior can be met in more successful ways for the student. The functional behavior assessment identifies multiple strategies to effectively reduce problem behavior including changing systems, altering environments, teaching skills, and focusing on positive behaviors.
There are two key functions of behavior: To get or obtain something-fulfilling an unmet need or to get away from something-escape or avoidance. Often inappropriate behaviors are viewed as the need for power and control on the part of the student. Adults have typically responded by trying to exert more control over the student, and the student responds in increasingly resistant and non-productive ways. This result often damages the relationship and does not provide skill development.
PBS provides the system within which to apply the Circle of Courage core values in a strength- based manner. The PBS process results in the creation of effective intervention plans that will impede problem behaviors, teach new skills, and create support systems for the student. A part-time Board Certified Behavior Analyst is on staff at Tippens.
Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) – To determine the function of behavior, an assessment process is necessary. This would involve an understanding what is reinforcing and motivating for the student, where, when, and with whom the behavior is occurring and not occurring, a review of records, and any other information that would be important regarding the behavior. Parents and/or students may be involved with this assessment. Most students at Tippens will have a FBA. Results from the FBA are used to write a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).
Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) – A plan to help the student learn successful, appropriate ways to get their needs met so they do not have to rely on behaviors that have not been successful for them. Most students at Tippens will have a BIP.
Training Evolving Achieving Mastering I and II (T.E.A.M.) – T.E.A.M. is the strategy to help the student understand school-wide and classroom expectations. School-wide expectations are posted for areas around the school. Staff and students use a common language and understanding of what is expected. T.E.A.M. addresses the skills needed for the student to continue to move toward Mastery, Belonging, Independence, and Generosity. The T.E.A.M. system teaches behavior skills, reinforces new learned behaviors, and encourages growth in the Circles of Courage. There will be a system in place to acknowledge/reward school-wide and classroom expectations. T.E.A.M. is appropriate for the students in the Emotional Behavioral classrooms.
The behavioral component in the Dual Diagnosis classrooms will focus on building relationships through working on communicating wants and needs. Students in the Dual Diagnosis classroom require more intense individualized direct instruction for behavior and practice. Specifics regarding programming are addressed in the next section.
High quality instruction engages students and leads to a reduction in problem behavior. Students who fall behind academically will be more likely to find academic work aversive and find a way to escape or avoid doing the work. Good instruction is an appropriate academic and behavior intervention. The teachers will assess current functioning and determine if there is a problem with can do or won’t do. Can do is a skill deficit problem and won‘t do is a motivational issue. The expectation is that all students can learn.
An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is developed that includes specific educational goals and objectives to be accomplished by the student based on the student‘s educational needs within the context of the large academic area. Accommodations and modifications are addressed based on individual needs. Therapies such as Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Adapted Physical Education are addressed in the IEP.
EBD classrooms- Students follow the Georgia Performance Standards. Students will be assessed for current academic functioning and will be progress monitored. Monday through Friday students will maintain a regular schedule of classes. Elementary and Middle School students will participate in Physical Education classes four days a week and Art Enrichment class one day a week.
Dual Diagnosis Classrooms – Students are on the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA). The National Autism Center provides the Standards by which students are assessed. Students work on functional academics, prevocational and vocational training, and communication skills.
Specifics regarding academics for the students with Dual Diagnosis are addressed in the next section.
Students with Dual Diagnosis Program Specifics
Tippens Educational Center Academic Component
Students have access to the curriculum and progress through the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA). Student‘s academic needs are identified and addressed in the goals and objectives in the IEP. The curriculum has several goals for students:
- Acquiring language and communication skills
- Developing social skills that facilitate social interactions with others
- Learning academic and functional life skills
Students benefit from instruction and ABA behavior therapy throughout the day.
Components of a student’s program include:
Functional academics – Functional academics are designed to teach skills which allow each student to succeed in real-life situations at home, school, work and in the community. The functional academic curriculum involves components such as math and reading, specifically adapted to each student’s disability and functional outcome needs. Reading Skills may include identifying important safety signs for one student, while another may focus on reading for enjoyment and recreation (books, magazines and newspapers). Similarly, teaching and learning math skills may focus on including telling time for one student, and counting money for another. Each student’s functional academic curriculum is based on the student’s individual and specific outcome needs. The student‘s schedule will include:
- Prevocational/Vocational training – Prevocational and Vocational training can provide benefits that include self-esteem, a positive identity, and a sense of accomplishment. This is an opportunity to be a productive worker and to contribute to the community, and promotes independence and enhances awareness. This will also assist students to discover interests and to develop the skills necessary for employment in the community.
- Home Living Lab – A real life home living simulated classroom where students learn cooking, cleaning, how to wash and dry clothes, etc.
- Community-Based Instruction (CBI) and Community-Based Vocational Instruction (CBVI) – This includes working at a job site with evaluation in specific work related behaviors.
- Morning Work – Includes following morning routines using visual schedules, News-to-You
- Individual Work Stations – Include TEACCH/Attainment workboxes-These are stations where students do tasks that they can complete independently or with very few prompts. These tasks make it clear what needs to be done, some with picture directions, written directions, etc. if needed. The tasks are changed out every so often with new ones and then usually brought back just for a “refresher” so the student doesn’t forget.
- DT trainer – The DT Trainer is a research-based, direct instructional software program with hundreds of curriculum content areas, hundreds of motivating reinforcers, and data tracking/assessment.
- Adaptive Living Skills – This includes hygiene and personal care skills Creative Arts- Adapted Physical Education, Music Therapy, Art
- Speech and Language/Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy-Through the IEP based on student needs
Eleven treatments are identified in the National Autism Center National Standards Report to be established treatments. Established treatments are those for which several well-controlled studies have shown the intervention to produce beneficial effects (although beneficial effects cannot be expected to occur for ALL individuals on the autism spectrum). The strategies below are embedded in the behavioral program at Tippens:
Antecedent package, Behavioral package, Comprehensive Behavioral, Treatment Attention, Intervention Modeling, Naturalistic Teaching, Peer Training, Schedules, Self-Management, Story Based Intervention Package, Pivotal Response treatment.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is used with the students in the Dual Diagnosis class. Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991).
Socially significant behaviors include reading, academics, social skills, communication, and adaptive living skills. Adaptive living skills include gross and fine motor skills, eating and food preparation, personal self-care, domestic skills, time and punctuality, money and value, home and community orientation, and work skills.
ABA methods are used to support persons with autism in at least six ways:
- to increase behaviors (eg reinforcement procedures increase on-task behavior, or social interactions);
- to teach new skills (eg, systematic instruction and reinforcement procedures teach functional life skills, communication skills, or social skills);
- to maintain behaviors (eg, teaching self-control and self-monitoring procedures to maintain and generalize job-related social skills);
- to generalize or to transfer behavior from one situation or response to another (eg, from completing assignments in the resource room to performing as well in the mainstream classroom);
- to restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviors occur (eg, modifying the learning environment); and
- to reduce interfering behaviors (i.e. self-injury, aggression to others).
ABA is an objective discipline. ABA focuses on the reliable measurement and objective evaluation of observable behavior. Data is collected on goals and objectives and is reviewed on a regular basis to determine the effectiveness of intervention, and/or if the intervention may need to be modified, or changed.
There are essential elements of programs based upon ABA methodologies. This is a process that includes the following components:
- selection of interfering behavior or behavioral skill deficit
- identification of goals and objectives
- establishment of a method of measuring target behaviors
- evaluation of the current levels of performance (baseline)
- design and implementation of the interventions that teach new skills and/or reduce interfering behaviors
- continuous measurement of target behaviors to determine the effectiveness of the intervention, and
- ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of the intervention, with modifications made as necessary
Discrete Trial Training DTT
Within ABA, the Discrete Trial is the primary teaching method for a number of the behaviorally- based interventions used in teaching children with autism.
In DTT, tasks are broken down into short, simple trials. At the start of a program, interactions may only be a few seconds in length. As the child’s attention span increases, the length of the interactions increases accordingly.
- DTT attempts to build motivation by rewarding performance of desired behaviors and completion of tasks with tangible or external reinforcement (food, toys, time to play, etc.). Teachers, parents and students may participate in completing a Student Reinforcer Assessment since this is extremely important in understanding what is reinforcing and motivating to the child. That external reinforcement is paired with social praise with the hope that eventually praise will become as reinforcing as the treats, etc.
- In DTT instructions from a teacher or parent are clear and relatively consistent. The child is given rewards only for behaviors in response to those instructions so that eventually he comes to understand that certain demands are probably more deserving of his attention than others.
- DTT programs are designed to change over time, in content (the verbiage of the instruction) and context (who is giving the instruction, where and when it is being given).
- DTT teaches skills and behaviors explicitly and doesn‘t rely on the child ―picking things up from the environment.
- The instructions given in Discrete Trials are simple, concrete, and clearly provide only the most important information, especially at first. As the child progresses, and his/her receptive language becomes stronger, these instructions can become more complex.
Students can have difficulty dealing with seeing, hearing, taste, touch, smell and proprioception (where their bodies fit in space). Their senses can be hyper (accentuated) or hypo (less than normal responsive), and can markedly interfere with a person‘s ability to communicate, maintain appropriate behaviors and connect with his/her world. .Two sensory rooms have been developed – one for use by the students in the Dual Diagnosis classrooms and one for use by the students in the elementary EBD classrooms. The Sensory room is a place to go that is easy on the senses, and even a little bit fun. It is not necessarily a place for learning as much as it is a place to “reintegrate” or come back to one’s self, to de-stress and regain composure. The Occupational Therapist may also provide consultation or direct services to the student.
Sensory Diet/Sensory Breaks
A sensory diet is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a person needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Activities designed to calm or stimulate a student helps to restructure your child‘s nervous system over time so that he/she is better able to:
- tolerate sensations and situations he/she finds challenging
- regulate his/her alertness and increase attention span
- limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors
- handle transitions with less stress
Music therapy can be effective in addressing the typical characteristics of autism in the following ways:
- Music is considered a universal language which provides bridges in a non- threatening setting between people and/or between individuals and their environment, facilitating relationships, learning, self-expression, and communication.
- Music captures and helps maintain attention. It is highly motivating and engaging and may be used as a natural reinforce for desired responses. Music therapy can help students increase participation in more appropriate and socially acceptable ways.
- Music therapy can enable those without language to communicate, participate and express themselves non-verbally. Very often music therapy also assists in the development of verbal communication, speech, and language skills.
- Music therapy allows individuals with diagnoses on the autism spectrum the opportunity to develop identification and appropriate expression of their emotions.
- Because music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain, music can stimulate cognitive functioning and may be used for remediation of some speech/language skills.
- Music provides concrete, multi-sensory stimulation (auditory, visual, and tactile). The rhythmic component of music is very organizing for the sensory systems of individuals diagnosed with autism. As a result, auditory processing and other sensory-motor, perceptual/motor, gross and fine motor skills can be enhanced through music therapy.
- Many people with diagnoses on the autism spectrum have innate musical talents; thus, music therapy provides an opportunity for successful experiences. Emphasis is placed on strengths, which in turn may be utilized to address each individual‘s areas of need.
Visual Schedules and Visual Supports
Visual schedules and visual supports are a way of making auditory information visual. Visual supports organize a sequence of events (like the student‘s daily schedule), enhancing the student‘s ability to understand, anticipate, and participate in events. Visual supports also supplement verbal instruction, clarifying the information for the student and increasing comprehension. Visual supports provide reminders of what to do. Visual schedules and supports help students develop a level of independence and are important in the student‘s prevocational/vocational skills, increase a student‘s ability to communicate and decrease frustration. Examples of how visual schedules are used include:
- organizing the student‘s activity—daily schedules, mini-schedules, activity checklists, calendars, choice boards
- providing directions or instructions for the student—visual display of classroom assignments, file cards with directions for specific tasks and activities, pictographs and written instructions for learning new information
- assisting the student in understanding the organization of the environment—labeling of objects, containers, signs, lists, charts, and messages
- supporting appropriate behavior—posted rules and representations to signal steps of routines
- teaching social skills—pictorial representations of social stories depicting a social situation with the social cues and appropriate responses, developed for a specific situation for the individual student (for further information on social stories, see the section in this chapter on strategies for teaching social skills)
- teaching self-control—pictographs, which provide a cue for behavior expectations
- ABLLS-Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills
- Discrete Trial Training through Marcus Autism Center
- Language and Learning through Marcus Autism Center
- Boardmaker – A computer program that makes pictures used for visual supports for the student
- Ongoing data collection, data analysis, and decision-making based on data
- FBA/BIP training
- Consultation provided by outside agencies as needed.
- Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS)-A system for teaching students how to communicate using pictures.
- Circles of Courage
- National Autism Center National Standards Report
- TEACCH – Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children
- Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI)
*All staff training is ongoing.
**The information contained in this document is a compilation of information which includes the therapeutic component from NorthStar, components from other Psychoeducational programs, and Best Practice as reflected in current research for students with emotional/behavioral disorders and autism.
Kelly Strickland, Principal