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Observing the occurrence of a specific behavior - Special needs - Educatall

Observing the occurrence of a specific behavior

In many situations, observation plays a key role in finding solutions. As early childhood educators, whenever we face a behavioral challenge with a child, there are certain steps we can follow to find alternatives and solutions that are adapted to both the child and the situation. In fact, taking time to stop, observe, and analyze is crucial.


Today, I would like to present the Behavior occurrence chart. Evaluating how often a specific behavior occurs will help you take a step back, be objective, and evaluate the situation. Too often (and with reason), we feel as if a problematic behavior uses up a great deal of time and energy because it seems as if we are continuously intervening. Often, we are so exasperated that our emotions and tensions take over. That is precisely when we lose the ability to see the situation objectively. It is also when the situation may seem much worse than it really is, simply because we are no longer thinking rationally. Unfortunately, being rational is necessary if we hope to find THE solution that has the power to improve our daily life (as well as the child's).


How does the Behavior occurrence chart work? The chart represents an easy-to-use tool. You simply add an "X" to the chart every time the behavior occurs. At the end of the day, count the "X's" to calculate how often the behavior was present.


How to use the chart:

  1. Print the chart. (Open behavior occurrence chart)
  2. Complete the basic information (child identification).
  3. Briefly describe the situation and explain why you have decided to evaluate the occurrence of this specific behavior.
  4. Target the specific behavior you wish to observe.
  5. Determine your observation period(s) (arrival, morning, lunch time, after naptime, etc.). This will help you determine, if necessary, during which time of the day the behavior is present.
  6. Keep your chart close to you so you can easily add an "X" every time the behavior occurs.
  7. Count the number of times the behavior occurred during each period and add them up to reach a daily total.

What is the next step?
Once your chart has been completed and you have determined how many times the specific behavior occurred, you must determine if the behavior is present only during a certain period of the day. Is the situation as bad as you initially thought? Analyze the situation and try to find possible solutions: change in physical environment, schedule modification, direct intervention with child, etc. Set forth one or more strategies to try to reduce the occurrence of the behavior.


After a few weeks, use the chart to observe the child once more. Compare both completed charts. This will make it possible for you to determine if the behavior occurs less frequently, more often, or if its occurrence has remained the same. This will help you readjust or maintain your interventions.


Although many may feel that observation is a waste of time, it plays a very important role when it comes down to finding the best intervention. In the medium term, observation can help you save time and energy. What's more, the completed chart can represent an important tool when you need to discuss a situation with a child's parents. Having observable and measurable facts to share will demonstrate your objectivity and provide parents with an accurate representation of their child.


Good luck in your observations!


Maude Dubé, Specialized educator


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