A very important part of a school intervention plan for a child with ADHD is a home-school behavior contract. The Daily Report Card, often called by its short-hand DRC, is the most effective behavioral intervention that can be conducted at school. However, it is important to note that the DRC is meant to supplement, not replace, other behavioral management systems. Therefore, the DRC should be incorporated into behavioral management system for optimal results. The DRC:
Is a means of identifying, monitoring and changing a child’s classroom behavior.
Provides an avenue of regular communication between parents and teacher.
Involves having the teacher send home an evaluation of your child’s behavior in school that day.
Can be used to give or take away available rewards at home.
Can consist of either a note or a formal report card from the teacher
Can be an educational modification on your child’s IEP or 504 plan.
Can be implemented as a part of a special education program or as a “reasonable accommodation.”
Behaviors to Target
While each DRC should be individualized to meet the child’s needs and the teacher’s concerns, there are many behaviors that teachers and parents often target. Typical behaviors targeted on a DRC for a child with ADHD can include:
Interacting appropriately with peers or teachers
Following classroom rules (i.e., raising hand to speak)
Remaining in seat when required
Completing assigned work
Remaining on task
Completing work accurately or neatly
Independently preparing for activities (i.e., taking out all materials, attending to teachers)
Creating the DRC
While the previous list provides a list of areas that many DRC's focus on, it is important that actual DRC targets are stated to include specific, observable behaviors such as “raises hand to ask questions” for following classroom rules. These target behaviors should be stated in child-friendly language and explained fully to the child. This eliminates any room for misunderstandings. Additionally, target behaviors should be stated positively whenever possible, so the child clearly knows what the desired behavior is. Targets should reflect what TO DO instead of what NOT to do. So instead of, "do not run in the hallways," a positively stated target may be "remain in line when walking down the hallway." While the DRC is primarily used at school, both parents and teachers should be involved in identifying both target behaviors and rewards/consequences.
While it is tempting to require children to complete 100% of their target goals all of the time, it may be unrealistic. We are interesting in building and shaping good behavior, which may not occur over night. So instead, target behaviors should include thresholds to allow a child a "margin of error." For example, rather than simply "remains in seat," a target should include criteria the child must meet such as "remains in seat with no more than 2 prompts." Behavioral thresholds should be determined according to the child's current performance to "shape" the behavior. For example, if a child is currently complying with instructions 50% of the time, the initial threshold should be set at 60-75% compliance, rather than 100% compliance. Thresholds should not remain stagnant, but instead should grow with the child based on the child's successes or difficulties. Finally, DRC's should include no more than 3-5 target behaviors at a time. Target behaviors can be modified, dropped, or added over time.
Implementing the DRC
In order to initiate the use of a DRC a meeting between teachers, parents, and children (depending on the child's age) should occur agree upon the mechanics of implementing the DRC (i.e., getting copies, where to keep, when/how to give feedback, make sure the DRC gets home, etc.). After agreeing on the specifics, teachers should begin tracking the child's target behaviors. Behaviors are tracked over "intervals," which are typically either discrete time periods (i.e., 30 minutes) or class periods (i.e., math class). Intervals should be developmentally appropriate, so that younger children and older children aren't held to the same standard. Younger children require more feedback, and thus may need shorter time intervals. At the end of each interval, teacher teachers provide both written and verbal feedback performance on each targeted behavior every interval throughout the day. This frequent and explicit feedback is important, as the DRC loses effectiveness if the child does not receive feedback until the end of the day. During feedback, teachers and parents should praise the child sincerely for good effort and performance. They should respond matter-of-factly to missed goals but still encourage future success. Many times older children attend several classes that are taught by different teachers. In this case, the program may involve some or all teachers. When more than one teacher is included, a single report card may include space for all teachers to rate the child. A meeting with all the involved teachers may be important to ensure consistent goals and monitoring in all contexts.
Rewarding Positive Behavior
It is essential that a rewards program be developed in order to reinforce the positive behaviors being developed with the DRC. If a behavior management plan has already been implemented, then the DRC may be included in that plan. Rewards should be activities or special privileges that are rewarding to the child, and have been agreed upon by the teacher, parents, and child. This is important, as children may not be motivated to work for rewards they do not wants. They are most effective if they are easy to implement, naturally occurring in the environment, and do not involve additional cost.
Rewarding may occur at multiple time points, depending on the child, their goals, and their classroom. Rewards for positive behavior may be provided following each interval, at the end of the school day, and/or at the end of the week. Daily rewards should be used for immediate feedback to help make desired behavioral changes, while weekly rewards should be used to help practice delaying gratification and reducing the frequency of reinforcement necessary over time. At home, rewards should be provided following each successful day/week to help reinforce positive school behavior. In order for DRC to be effective, the child should receive rewards at home when a specified level of success is reached. The long-term goal is for the rewards to be more natural and less frequent over time
Why use the DRC?
The DRC has been identified as one of the most important and helpful tools for improving behavior at school. This is because children with ADHD require more specific behavioral goals, more frequent feedback, and more powerful reinforcement than most children do in order to succeed in school. In short, the DRC can:
Significantly improve a child's attention and behavior at school.
Provide teachers with a means of formally addressing problem behavior at school.
Assist parents and teachers in rewarding a child’s positive behavior in school.
Notify parents when behavior is becoming a problem at school.