Student Improvement Through Relationship Building

Moving from Tennessee to Iowa is a big change, but Josh Hudson had an even bigger change as a student. He came from a special school in Tennessee to help him manage his emotions and behavioral challenges, and enrolled in Albia Community School District as a 4th grader. Lincoln Center did not have a Behavior Disorder room, much less a special building in the district.

Julie Garver, Josh Hudson, and Lesa Long

“When Josh came to us, he had been sent home from school a lot,” said Jennifer Adams, Great Prairie AEA school psychologist. “We knew we had a lot of work to do there to help him understand that we wanted him to stay with us and learn.”

Josh is a 6th grade student now and difficult days are less intense, fewer, and farther in between. Josh is connected with his friends and teachers at Lincoln Center. He has become a leader in helping Mrs. Garver with technology in her room – both helping other students with software programs and helping Mrs. Garver with machines that are being difficult.

Josh says the best part of being at Lincoln Center is “seeing and having friends.” Josh’s mom Mary says, “It’s a lot better here.”

Josh has progressed through some intense behavior plans, which initially included removal from class or ‘classroom clear’ procedures when he got upset. In 4th grade with Mrs. Long, some of his classes were taught individually in the special education room. When he transitioned to Mrs. Garver in 5th grade, he also returned to the classroom full time, except for his “break” card he could use to go to the smaller setting. There was one incident in 5th grade that required Josh to be sent home. This was a turning point for Josh.

“I firmly believe that without the 1 and ½ years of relationship building, Josh’s suspension would not have made a difference. By that point, he wanted to be with us at school, and he knew we were serious about keeping him with us to learn,” Mrs. Adams said. “While consequences are important, it was the relationships that Josh had with Mrs. Long, Mrs. Garver, and Mr. Achenbach, that helped him turn things around, and the many other behavioral strategies in place to support his success at school that made the difference.”

Behavior supports and planning definitely take a team, including Josh’s mother, Mary. For a while, meetings and calls home were frequent, and there were no easy answers. The commitment of school staff to Josh as a person made the consultation process much easier.

“Mrs. Long and Mrs. Garver were always thinking about why Josh might be exhibiting a particular behavior. Boundaries and rules are important, especially for safety, but understanding a student and doing your best to prevent a behavior from occurring again…that’s what makes lasting change in behavior,” Mrs. Adams noted.

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