How to Discipline A Special Need Student in the Classroom

I work with a special need population in the classroom and always wondered if the discipline is different for special needs students vs. those that aren’t labeled as such. For me the answer is yes and no.

I say yes because there are methods we use according to what child we are working with. There are accommodations that they deserve and we need to follow. We can eliminate a lot of behaviors by setting up routines in our classroom and dealing with situations in a calm manner.

I say no for those that are included in the general education system that school policy applies to all.

But something I like to do is follow a ABC policy with all behaviors of all students. It looks like this.


Where was the student when the incident occurred. Were they at lunch, in the hallway, in a classroom. Where was the student when the incident took place.


This is defined as “a thing or event that existed before or logically precedes another.” Some examples may be.

  • Was the student working on a task
  • Asking for something
  • Being asked to do something
  • working in a group
  • working on independent work
  • On a break
  • Being left alone and talking to someone else

Basically we are trying to understand what was the student doing before the behavior happened.


This is what we are great at as teachers. Describing the behavior that took place. Did they hit someone, throw something, leave the classroom, or were they screaming, etc.

Something else you may want to include in this is how long did this behavior last. Was it for a minute, ten minutes, an hour, or was it all day.

The last thing I like to include is the intensity of the behavior. More like a scale from 1 to 5.

  • 1-2 being low mild distraction but not threatening.
  • Three being moderate and destructive to environment.
  • 4 to 5 would be severe, being a harm to someone or self.


The last thing you want to record is what was the consequence. Was it redirection, time away from others, different assignment, written up, redirected to sensory activity, took away tangible, redirected to a cool down spot, reminded of rules, etc.

I know what teachers are thinking…this is a lot of work. I know it is. However, it allows you to see the entire issue at hand. It allows you to effectively see what is leading to the behavior of a child and perhaps understand it more and come up with ways to diffuse a situation before it begins.

The other thing this does is allows you to effectively communicate with the parent. It allows you to give a full understanding to the parent so they can work with their child at home.

So when working with special needs students you need to develop a plan on how to handle certain behavior situations in a classroom.

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