The TCM Journey

Stepping out of the box to develop a behavior modification tool that works

A little over five years ago, Steve and Lori were working together in a school where they had a number of students who were struggling seriously with their daily classroom tasks.  These kids were being pulled out of the classroom more and more, and it was apparent that when they progressed on to the next grade level they were going to have real difficulty getting by. Many simply weren’t doing any schoolwork. Some were hardly able to be in the classroom at all. Simply put, these kids didn’t understand what it meant to be a student.

It was likely that if they continued at that rate they would have to be moved out of district to a specialty school in order to have any likelihood of success. Out of district placements are, of course, tremendous drains on already limited school resources and they are disruptive to students and their families. The school asked Steve and Lori to search for a solution.

These kids had documented abilities, invested families, and committed educators. Most had a full team of service providers working with them, yet, they were not progressing. They displayed inappropriate behaviors in the classroom and would refuse to complete work even in one-to-one settings. The worst part was that this population of students was growing year over year.

Steve and Lori knew there had to be a way to reach them.  Giving up and passing them off to someone else was not an option.

I am really excited by the release of KidConnect. I have worked with the people at the connections model for many years and their results have been astounding. Students with emotional issues who I never thought I would be able to teach were able to access the curriculum and thrive. Congratulations to the Connections Model on the release, and thank you for making your system available to educators who really want to engage with struggling students.

Dave, Concord, MA

Making the connection between feelings and behaviors: functional skills

As we looked further, we realized that all of these students had gaps not only in their academic skills, but also in their underlying foundational skills. These skills, which we termed, functional skills, are the building blocks for learning, and are typically learned in the early elementary grades.

As we observed and researched a greater number of kids with similar areas of deficit and difficulties, but with different “diagnoses” we realized that these functional skills needed to be explicitly taught. The tools for teaching these skills within the classroom did not exist, and so, we began to develop them ourselves.1

We started with a focus directly on the children’s behavior and needs rather than teaching them traditional academics.  They simply weren’t ready for academics when they had yet to learn these functional skills. We found that using real life situations, in the moment, to teach functional skills was the easiest for the kids to understand and retain. We also found that today’s student is very comfortable with technology which offered an ideal platform to make this curriculum accessible to them.

As the students’ functional skill proficiency increased, so did their ability to express their needs better and avoid emotional outbursts. With better communication came a greater willingness to accept academic support as well.  These students started making real progress. They were making real connections, and thus, the connections model™ was born.

As we continued to do research, we grew to realize the significance of directly teaching students to identify their emotions. Most of our students really struggled to even identify basic emotions, let alone identify how they felt when faced with a challenging situation. Further, it was evident that when faced with an emotion, they didn’t have any strategies to manage their feelings. As a result, their behaviors were often explosive and unpredictable. We needed to find a way to teach emotions and the strategies to manage them in a way that our students could manage.

In January 2015, we launched the KidConnect™ App for the iPad. This app takes these basic approaches we honed and delivers them in an easy-to-use app that the student can use in the classroom, in real-time, in most cases with little assistance.

1. Ashburner, J., Rodger, S., Ziviani, J., (2010). Surviving in the Mainstream: Capacity of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to Perform Academically and Regulate Their Emotions and Behaviour at School. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4. p. 18-27.

KidConnect: Immediate interventions inside the classroom to teach children more productive ways to handle their feelings.