Implementing Check in/Check out for Students with Intellectual Disability in Self-Contained Classrooms

Article excerpt

Mrs. Jones teaches a high school selfcontained classroom for students with moderate intellectual disability. The large urban high school in which she works has had schoolwide positive behavior and intervention supports (SWPBIS) in place for the last 3 years. The school expects students to "Be safe, be respectful, and be responsible. " Mrs. Jones incorporates the schoolwide behavior rules into her weekly social skills lessons using everyday vocabulary and practical, functional examples (and nonexamples) of the rules.

Recently, Mrs. Jones noticed that some of her students were having difficulties following these rules throughout the day; she was spending more and more time correcting and redirecting her students' problem behavior- Kerry was having difficulty staying in her seat or assigned area (be safe), Samantha was displaying verbal outbursts to escape task demands (be respectful), and Deondre continued to take items that did not belong to him (be responsible). In addition. Carter was having some problems: his general education photography teacher reported that Carter was inappropriately touching others (e.g., attempting to hold hands with his project partner) during class, which was not being respectful. His partner, as a result, no longer wanted to work with him. Carter also had been attempting to touch others (e.g., shoulders, back, hands) in the hallways during class transitions. Mrs. Jones worried that her students' behaviors might cause them to become socially isolated from their peers. Mrs. Jones decided to implement a check-in/check-out (CICO) strategy for these four students to help them learn to behave in ways more socially acceptable to those around them.

Students with intellectual disability (ID) often have difficulties displaying appropriate social behaviors at the appropriate time (Leffert, Siperstein, & Millikan, 2000). Due to this, they may have greater difficulty forming and maintaining reciprocal relationships with peers (Guralnick, Conner, & Johnson, 2011) and often experience social isolation. The inability to form relationships with peers often continues into adulthood, which makes their struggle with social skills a lifelong problem (McVilly, Stancliffe, Parmenter, & Burton-Smith, 2006).

Students with ID also may display a variety of challenging behaviors - such as stereotypy (repetitive behaviors), self-injury (behaviors that are harmful to the student), and aggression (behaviors that are aggressive towards others)- that may cause further social isolation (Emerson et al., 2001). Students with ID should receive direct and systematic instruction to replace inappropriate behaviors with behaviors that are socially acceptable. Although students with ID who display the most severe behaviors require a behavioral intervention plan (tertiary-tier intervention), all students with ID can improve social skills and behavioral deficits by receiving behavioral instruction.

SWPBIS and Students With Intellectual Disability

Students with ID are often educated outside the general education classroom, which causes a barrier for inclusion within the primary level of SWPBIS (Hawken & O'Neill, 2006). In order for students to be included in the primary level of SWPBIS, special education teachers must explicitly teach students using the same behavioral expectations and appropriate social behaviors as general education teachers (Snell, 2006). Students with ID who exhibit behavioral difficulties often receive tertiary-tier interventions outside of the SWPBIS framework as opposed to secondary-tier interventions. Hawken and O'Neill suggested that some students with ID who are receiving a tertiary-tier intervention may benefit from a less intensive secondary-tier intervention, such as check in/check out (CICO).

CICO: Check in/Check out

CICO is a secondary-tier intervention designed for implementation within the framework of SWPBIS with students who are not responding to primary interventions (Campbell & Anderson, 2008) . The CICO process monitors progress toward schoolwide or individual behavioral goals via daily progress report (DPR) cards and uses schoolbased contingencies to reinforce positive behavior (Campbell & Anderson, 2008; Swoszowski, Patterson, & Crosby, 2011). The five steps of CICO are check in, receive feedback, check out, home component, and return to school.

CICO has been successfully implemented in a variety of educational settings, including elementary (Campbell & Anderson, 2008; Fairbanks, Sugai, Guardino, & Lathrop, 2007; Filter et al., 2007; Hawken, MacLeod, & Rawlings, 2007; Todd, Campbell, Meyer, & Horner, 2008), middle (Hawken & Horner, 2003; Lane, Capizzi, Fisher, & Ennis, 2012; March & Horner, 2002), and residential (Ennis, Jolivette, Swoszowski, & Johnson, 2012; Swoszowski, Jolivette, Fredrick, & Heflin, in press). Teachers and researchers have implemented CICO with students without disabilities as well as students with emotional and behavioral disorders (Ennis et al., 2012; Hawken & Horner, 2003) to target a variety of challenging behaviors. Although there is limited research on the use of secondary-tier interventions for students with ID, Hawken and O'Neill (2006) suggest that with appropriate modifications, students with severe disabilities may benefit from secondary-tier interventions.

CICO Steps

Prior to implementing CICO, the teacher selects and trains participants and facilitators in the CICO steps, and identifies students who might be eligible to participate in CICO, based on their nonresponsiveness to SWPBIS (i.e., office discipline referrals or other specific criteria). Although students with moderate and severe ID do not receive discipline referrals on a consistent basis, most students with ID require behavior intervention due to intellectual functioning and lack of social skills. Table 1 describes how to modify traditional CICO procedures for use with students with ID in self-contained classrooms, and provides the rationale for each modification.

Check In. During check in, students meet privately with their facilitator (adult mentor) to discuss daily goals and strategies to reach them. Facilitators give students their DPR and remind them to behave in a specific manner to meet their daily goal(s), which will result in a specific reinforcer. Check in takes place at the beginning of the school day, in private, and lasts 10 to 20 minutes.

Modifications for Students With ID

When Mrs. Jones's students arrive at school each morning, their first daily task is to check in with their facilitator. During check in, facilitators focus on the individualized behavioral goals and strategies to meet those goals. Each student has a DPR that Mrs. Jones developed to meet individual behavioral needs. Mrs. Jones serves as facilitator for Carter and Kerry; Mrs. Smith, the classroom paraprofessional, serves as facilitator for Deondre and Samantha. Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith were selected as facilitators because they frequently interact with the students throughout the day and have a good understanding of the characteristics of students with ID. They will be present to remind students of their behavioral goals, and use appropriate communication and teaching strategies to help the students meet their goals. Each student meets privately with his or her facilitator in the self-contained classroom; this setting is chosen because students with ID often experience difficulties generalizing skills.

Mrs. Jones begins her day working with Carter. During check in, Mrs. Jones asks for Carter's signed DPR from the previous day, gives Carter his new DPR, and reviews his "Be respectful" behavior goals. Carter participates by listening to Mrs. Jones, repeating his behavior goals, and helping Mrs. Jones determine ways to meet his goals. He suggests that to meet his goal of keeping his hands to himself, he can keep his hands on his desk during class, in his pockets when he is in the hall, or clasped in his lap. Mrs. Jones reminds him that if he meets his goal for the day, he will earn a token for the classroom store and a coupon for computer time on Friday. Mrs. Jones and Carter selected computer time as a reinforcer because it is his favorite school activity. Throughout the school day, Carter receives additional check ins due to his need for frequent reminders, which some students may require (Ennis et ai, 2012; Swoszowski et ai, 2011). TYansitions between classes are one area where Carter's problem behaviors frequently occur, so Mrs. Jones checks in with Carter before each transition for 2 to 3 minutes to explicitly remind him of his individualized DPR goals.

After completing check in with Carter, Mrs. Jones meets with Kerry. Check in for Kerry focuses on her "be safe" behavioral goals (see Figure 1). Kerry reviews her goals with Mrs. Jones and suggests that one thing she can do is ask for a break if she needs to leave her designated area. Mrs. Jones reminds Kerry that if she meets her goal for the day, she will earn a token for the classroom store and a coupon for leisure time with a peer tutor.

Deondre's behavioral goals focus on "be responsible"; Samantha's behavioral goals focus on "be respectful. " Mrs. Smith meets privately with each student, reviews each student's behavioral goals, and discusses ways to accomplish the goals. Deondre suggests that he can be responsible by asking a teacher if he needs an item. Samantha suggests that she can be respectful by completing her work when asked. Mrs. Smith reminds both students that they will receive a token for the classroom store and a coupon for leisure time if they meet their goals. Deondre often has difficulty "being responsible" while in the community, so Mrs. Smith briefly checks-in with Deondre prior to his Community Skills class.

Receive Feedback. The teacher for each class on the student's schedule provides verbal feedback at the end of class regarding the student's DPR goals. The student receives a numerical value on a scale of zero to 2 based on his or her performance, and the teacher places that number on his or her DPR next to the corresponding behavioral goal.

Modifications for Students With ID

Mrs. Jones's students keep their DPR on their desks throughout the school day. Each student's DPR contains picture prompts depicting individual behavioral goals. Picture prompts allow nonreaders, such as the students in Mrs. Jones's class, to access their DPR and serve as a visual reminder throughout class of how to behave. During each class, the classroom teacher provides feedback pertaining to each student's behavioral goals. Mrs. Jones's students require precorrective prompts once in their new environment or beginning their new activity and feedback immediately after they display an inappropriate behavior. Throughout class, Mrs. Jones encourages Carter's appropriate behavior by saying "I like the way your hands are on your desk"; if Carter touches Samantha, Mrs. Jones says, "Carter, you are working on keeping your hands to yourself. This is a way to be respectful." Mrs. Jones encourages Deondre's appropriate behavior by saying "I like the way you are being responsible by asking when you need a pencil. "

In addition to the feedback provided during class, Mrs. Jones provides feedback at the end of the class period. The students place a checkmark (they engaged in the specific appropriate behavior) or an "X" (they engaged in inappropriate behavior) on their DPR for each behavioral goal at the end of each class period. These marks are used to keep feedback easily accessible, as a point scale may be too difficult. For each checkmark received, the student colors in one block on the DPR as a visual reminder of progress. After providing feedback, Mrs. Jones writes any needed comments on the bottom of the DPR and then provides precorrection statements (e.g., "Remember, Samantha, you're working on completing your work when asked"; "Kerry, remember to stay in your seat during photography class- this is how you can be safe") to the students as they transition to their next class. In addition to feedback from Mrs. Jones, Carter and Kerry receive feedback from their photography teacher, Mr. Kennedy, and Deondre and Samantha receive feedback from their physical education teacher, Mrs. Brooks, during class. (Mrs. Jones trained both teachers on the feedback portion of C1CO prior to implementation.) These general education teachers provide students with immediate feedback during class and focus on their positive behaviors (see Figure 2).

Check Out. During check out, each student individually meets with his or her facilitator in a private location to review the DPR at the end of the school day prior to dismissal. The facilitator provides the student with positive feedback and discusses whether or not the student met his or her goal. If the student met his or her goal, he or she receives a SWPBIS reinforcer or reinforcement based on the function of the student's behavior. The facilitator and the student then discuss possible strategies to avoid problem behaviors in the future. The facilitator reminds the student to take his or her DPR home and have a family member or guardian sign it.

Modifications for Students With ID

At the end of the school day, each student meets with his or her facilitator in the self-contained classroom. Mrs. Jones meets with Carter and Kerry and highlights each student's positive behavior while suggesting replacement behaviors for inappropriate behavior (e.g., keep hands on desk, ask for a break). After reviewing baseline data on each student's targeted behaviors, Mrs. Jones determined an initial goal for each student. Carter's initial goal is to receive 15 checks out of a possible 21 opportunities throughout the day; this represents a goal of 70%, a passing grade in Mrs. Jones's class. When Carter meets his goal, he will receive a token to use in the classroom store as an immediate reinforcer, which is part of SWPBIS, and is given a coupon for 10 minutes of computer time that he can use on Friday. Kerry's initial goal is to receive 1 7 checks out of a possible 21 opportunities, which represents a goal of 80%. Kerry also will receive a token and an individualized reinforcer for meeting her behavioral goals. Mrs. Jones takes a few minutes to make notes on each student's DPR so that a family member or guardian can further discuss their daily behavior at home. Finally, Mrs. Jones gives the students their DPR and reminds them to have a family member or guardian sign the card and bring it back the following day.

Mrs. Smith meets privately with Deondre and then Samantha for check out. Mrs. Smith follows the same check-out format as Mrs. Jones and highlights both students' positive behavior. When the students meet their behavioral goals, Mrs. Smith gives them a token and an individualized reinforcer. Mrs. Smith makes notes on their DPR and reminds them to have their DPR signed and return it to school.

Home Component. The home component of CICO consists of a family member or guardian reviewing and signing the DPR. They may discuss with the child the strengths and weaknesses during the day and how to make improvements in the future. The home component should be a positive experience for the student.

Modifications for Students With ID

After check out, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith assist the students in placing their DPR in their school-home folder. The students take their DPR home and review them with a family member or guardian. At the beginning of the school year, Mrs. Jones provided information about the DPR to all family members and guardians on CICO and the importance of the home component. Family members focus on the positive behavior from the day and provide additional at-home reinforcers for meeting goals. They sign the DPR and assist the student in placing it back in his or her school-home folder.

Return to School. During check in the next day, students turn in their DPR. Students might receive a reinforcer if they return the DPR with a guardian's signature, and receive reinforcers based on the school's SWPBIS plan or on the function of their behavior.

Modifications for Students With ID

Each morning, students bring their DPR from the previous day to check in. During initial implementation of CICO, all students required reminders from Mrs. Jones to show their DPR from the previous day and to remember to get their DPR signed at home. Mrs. Jones contacted the students' family members and encouraged them to make the home component of CICO a consistent part of their at-home afternoon routines to help the students remember to complete this step and to encourage them to engage in positive behaviors. When students bring their DPR back with a guardian signature. Mrs. Jones gives them an additional token to use in the classroom store. In addition. Mrs. Jones uses a group contingency for the whole class. Each day. the class gets one point for every student who brings back his or her DPR with a signature. Mrs. Jones keeps track of the points using a visual chart on the class white board. Once the class reaches SO points, they earn a class trip to the media center.


Progress Monitoring. As with any other instructional decision made for a student with ID, teachers, administrators, parents, and students should work together to determine what is most appropriate for that student. When implementing CICO, the special education teacher, mentor, and any other participating teachers should meet on a regular basis to examine the student's data and determine if the intervention is effective. Even with traditional CICO models, not all students respond to the intervention (e.g., March & Horner, 2002) ; frequent progress monitoring ensures teachers are best addressing each student's needs. Regular meetings can assure that sufficient modifications are made in order to promote the success of students with ID.

Inappropriate Behaviors. Often when we intervene with a student, we see a decrease in one inappropriate behavior but an increase in another (e.g., a student stops touching other students' desks but starts touching other students). CICO can be adapted to monitor a variety of behaviors that fall within the SWPBIS framework (e.g., touching others and touching their things both do not show respect to others). If new inappropriate behaviors arise, teachers should change the DPR to reflect the behaviors the student needs feedback on the most. If students start engaging in severe inappropriate behaviors that are a potential danger to themselves or others, a more intensive intervention may be warranted.

Generalization. The DPR can be a great way to allow students with ID to be included in less restrictive environments and still receive feedback on their behavior. If using CICO with students who participate in general education classes or special education classes in other settings, the DPR should also be used in those settings and the adults responsible for supervision should be trained on how to provide feedback. Likewise, although CICO already contains a home component, parents may elect to use a DPR at home as well as at school and allow students to earn a separate reinforcer for meeting daily goals.

Final Thoughts

CICO has been successfully implemented to change a variety of problem behaviors across different educational settings. With appropriate adaptations, CICO may be a promising secondarytier intervention for students with ID to meet schoolwide expectations and be successful in the classroom. Implementing secondary-tier interventions such as CICO for students with ID may be one way for students in self-contained classrooms to be more involved in SWPBIS.


Students with ID should receive direct and systematic instruction to replace inappropriate behaviors with behaviors that are socially acceptable.


Frequent progress monitoring ensures teachers are best addressing each student's needs.



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[Author Affiliation]

Lauren J. Boden (Georgia CEC), Doctoral Student; Robin P. Ennis (Georgia CEC), Doctoral Student; and Kristine Jolivette (Georgia CEC), Associate Professor, Educational Psychology and Special Education, College of Education, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

Address correspondence concerning this article to Lauren J. Boden, Georgia State University, Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education, P.O. Box 3979, Atlanta, GA 30302-3979 (e-mail:

TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 45. No. 1, pp. 32-39.

Copyright 2012 CEC