"Providing Clear, Concrete Visual Supports with Behavioral Development Strategies to Promote Independent Reasoning Skills"

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The Fire Bell "Yell"

Green (2003) "Red and Green Choices"  www.redandgreenchoices.com


Verbal & Physical Outbursts...
Bob is extremely afraid of fire drills. He overreacts due to his fear. It's the beginning of the school year and of course, fire drill season. He becomes obsessed with this fear. He is indulged with this thought all day long - it disrupts his entire day. If it is an afternoon drill, he is in total distress all day long, walking about the school with fear written on his face. He often cries because he cannot get away from the situation. He may jump up from his seat and yell "no" as soon as he becomes aware of a fire drill. Sometimes he yells and lies on the floor while kicking his feet. Adults don't know what he thinks will happen, because he will scream in terror when you mention it. Then he fears this situation everyday, not believing that there will not be a fire drill everyday of school.

What is the problem?

What is the 'red' target behavior for reduction?

FIRST:  Begin a trustworthy behavioral relationship, based upon the theory of "behavioral trust"

Tell the student as much truth as you can, as you are supporting their feelings and allowing them to feel safe and secure. You must remain calm, consistent and firm throughout the entire behavior change process and be available for assistance and training of appropriate green choices. Be sure to meet the calming, desired earned choice activities or green consequences of the student.

Yes, the bell is going to ring.
Yes, I will help you get through it.
I will show you what to do.
I will show you the red way to deal with it, and the green way to deal with it.
We will practice the green way often.
I know you will still choose red sometimes, but we will get through it.
Each time the situation arises, we will get better and better at dealing with it the green way.
This will in turn make you happy, our classroom happy, your mom happy, and me happy.
It will be worth it in the end.

If you begin the situation with non-positive behavioral therapies, displaying agitated, inconsistent and unstable (with overreacting) behaviors through any child-seemingly chaotic and disruptive situations - throughout any part of the behavior change process, the student will begin to develop a "behavioral mistrust" relationship with you.

(Think about children afraid of doctors and nurses, or anybody wearing a white jacket from a very young age. They are associated with a non-trustworthy relationship. Do you want to be that person?)


"Behavioral trust" is defined on page 31 of "A Positive Behavioral Development Strategy...".

Create your own positive mind-set. Think about what you are extremely afraid of. What if you couldn't swim, and are very fearful of the water then somebody told you that you are going to be thrown into the 5 ft. deep pool today. Would you have a mental meltdown? Would this information ruin your day and obsess all of your thoughts?

-- Bring it to terms based on adult situations. Try to understand the student's point of view. --

Adult Fears: And Somebody Tells You...

Spiders - Today there will be 10 spiders crawling around your house. You must stay inside at all times. But you'll be fine. They won't hurt you. You might not see or hear them, but you'll know they're there.

Elevators - Today we'll be going on the elevator. But don't worry, people do it all the time.

Skydiving - Today everybody will be jumping from an airplane at 1:30. It's going to happen, and you're going to do it like everybody else.

Bees - Today there will be 20 bees outside your screen door. But they can't get inside. You will be able to hear them buzzing all day long. You'll be fine.

Heights - Today you'll be standing on the edge of a 20 story building. You'll have on a safety harness, so no harm will come to you. Everybody is going to do it.

How would you feel?
You might not think certain things are 'that'' feared, but they are.


Is the end product (remaining calm during fire drills) worth your intervention efforts? It will be a difficult behavior to change.

Think about adult situations. How would you begin to trust somebody who's trying to help you do something "ordinary"?

THEN:  Think of This Situation's Exact Red and Green Choices - and Decide How to Introduce It

Think it through first. Brainstorm green solutions. Be ready to negotiate and adapt your approach as needed. Predict what will most likely happen based on your prior knowledge of the student's previous reactions and behavioral choices.

The student first needs to learn Red and Green Choices self-calming techniques, before there is a specific red consequence. The green behavior needs to be learned, before it's a displayed choice behavior. Notice the first chart has no earned choice item, just red reactions to the child-feared fire bell stimulus. The computer and headphones are being used to help the student remain calm and to also eliminate a severe outburst that could last for an hour.

Decide what you will use. Find a balance. Is it worth it to stop an academic task or be removed from the large group environment for 20 minutes in order to avoid a one-hour meltdown? Meltdowns or outbursts effect many people besides the student involved; other students, other adults, other classrooms, parents and so on.

Reinforce the small sequential green steps first. Begin giving green meaning by pairing your primary stimulus (reactions/encouragement) with the secondary stimulus (red and green) to promote red and green meaning. "Pairing of any reaction, chart marking and activities with red and green is at first necessary to encourage understanding of Red and Green Choices, and adult expectations." (page 17)

Drawings would most likely be preferred at first as a quick reference guide, with words later.  This reduces stimuli, because we can predict the student will react the red way, with a verbal or physical outburst. Keep it as simple as possible to avoid overload.

Ideas to Help You Start Your Own Techniques:
A.  Sequential steps...
You could announce the fire drill in the morning. Give the student red and green behavioral choices. He should go to the resource room with the designated adult, put on the headphones, sit at the computer (high response calming student preferred item), wait for the bell to ring, then walk outside with the designated adult. If a student prefers books, then draw that instead of the computer. Use a high response item. What item does the student prefer?

B.  Positive-practice overcorrection...
"For younger students... draw or use pictures of red school choices. Schedule a regular time, every morning upon school arrival is suggested... It may be easier to explain concepts by drawing stick people inside squares acting out Red and Green Choices... make it a student directed sorting activity. Add your own inventive sorting techniques like red an green baskets, red and green folders or magnetic boards...

This strategy promotes positive green interactions with adults, and assists the student, when calm, to use green thinking before doing or making choices."
(page 26)

Print the chart to the left then use the cards for sorting. This should give you a very good idea of the child's behavioral status. Can the student even stand to do this activity without a meltdown, or can they do it with ease? Adapt your strategy as you see fit.

C.  Modeling...
Head outdoors a few minutes before the fire drill so the student may see how the other students react. Bring blank paper and your red and green markers. Draw how students are reacting. Who's making red choices, and who's making green choices. Or you could bring the student's Red and Green Choices chart for him to circle the pictures of what the other students are doing. If a student is ready to draw their own Red and Green Choices pictures, then bring paper for him to draw a picture. If a student is working on graphing, then count the students displaying particular behaviors.

When beginning the behavior change process outdoors, be sure you can eventually move the student indoors. Whenever trying different intervention strategies, think of what could possibly happen. The student may think it is ok to dart outside by themselves when there is mention of a fire drill. Use your best judgment.

Remember the child will most likely be modeling your behavior, too. You remaining calm helps a student to remain calm. You having an overstressed meltdown promotes the child sensing it and reacting to it. Other students in the designated area could effect the situation also. If another student acts fearful of the situation, it may be modeled.  There are many factors to deal with in the classroom, but each situation can be managed with specific plans and choices.

D.  Sensory Therapies or Calming Techniques...
"Adults may consider integrating sensory therapies for students with Autism or sensory needs, to redirect
behavioral or sensory concerns by writing out alternative green behaviors." (page 25). A part of the behavioral trust process, is helping to ensure the child feels secure and safe.

How does the child calm or self-regulate? Incorporate what the child already knows, then expand on that with further choices. Allow the child to engage in their chosen calming activity before and after the fire drill.  Eventually the time needed to calm or regroup should decrease through fading techniques.

'All green' choices charts help when learning new skills or concepts. Once a behavior is learned, then introduce red consequences to undesired behaviors.

E.  Alternatives...
"Instead of Red ______, I Should Green _____" to address tolerable alternative choices to the red behavioral for reduction. The child obviously does not know how to react to this stimulus. Show him how.

F. Designated Area / Designated Adult...
Where will the behavior occur first? Once the student hears of the fire drill, an outburst is most likely going to happen, but you can help decide where it is going to happen.

Wait until the student is in your particular designated area before you mention the fire drill. Then begin your specific Red and Green Choices development. This will help assure all adults associated with the student to be a part of the plan. (Imagine your greatest fear, asking a random person if it will happen today, and them saying "I don't know". How would you feel? Would you rather hear it from your best friend or spouse? Then they could help you through it, instead of some random person.)

Idea: When the student asks the question, have the them go to the designated area (resource room) to ask the designated adult. That one adult could be prepared with a picture of the fire bell with it circled, or with an X over it. It would of course be an X for many days. You may want to try the "no" response for 10 or so school days. Provide the student a picture of your response. The student could carry it in their pocket, or it could be taped to their shirt. Develop a behavioral trust relationship. Then, that one adult, every time the student needs to know, would eventually say "Maybe, but probably not.", or "We'll see." or something to begin fading the exact yes or no answer. The picture could become a picture of the fire bell with a question mark next to it. (Allow the student to have a meltdown or outburst in the resource room, instead of the large group classroom. You will most likely be 1:1 with the student to provide the above calming techniques, therapies, and intensive intervention strategies.) Then after many days of the question mark response, the designated adult could go with the student to non-designated areas to ask the question "Is there a fire drill today?" to other adults. They would reinforce the exact responses. Do that for many days. Then the student will eventually be able to ask their homeroom teacher and other adults if there will be a fire drill, without the presence of the designated adult. The student learned that there may be different responses, while also learning how to respond to this fearful stimulus with the trust of the designated adult. This is a vigorous fading process, with each step planned. Think of the end product; is it worth it to go through the entire process?

My philosophy is that behavioral outbursts should never occur in the large group environment, and it is my responsibility to intervene accordingly so the student and other adults understand this. Verbal and physical outbursts are non-acceptable behaviors that need to be re-learned. If a student is permitted to display such behaviors in that environment, they will most likely learn and think that it is "ok".

If the student is being pulled from the large group classroom for interventions, the other adults working with that student may want to know the plan. If it is in the resource room, then have a plan for the other students and adult(s). If a student requires prioritized one-on-one attention for intensive interventions, make Red and Green Choices for the other students. Should they follow you outside during the fire drill, or go outside with the aide or someone else?

G.  Refer to "A Red and Green Choices 'Behavioral Stand'; A 10 Part Plan to Developing a Specific Individual Approach" (page 37)
Part 10 of the plan is parental communication. You may want to keep parents informed by sending home charts and lists. Your specific approach can easily be reviewed nightly with parents, when the demands of the school environment are not present. "Parental communication is vital. Parents will most likely continue and reinforce Red and Green Choices at home."  (page 45)

How are you two going to accomplish the end product - dealing with the fire yell the green way?

Can the parents be a part of the solution? Could they review Red and Green Choices behavioral expectations with the lists and charts at home?

Could the school principal help? Should your plan include her knowing about it?

Would you want somebody to help you get through the pool situation, or just let you suffer through the entire ordeal?

You're not flipping on a light switch, you're preparing to change a long-standing behavioral pattern.

"Children must learn it before they do it."

I often mention "mom" for student motivation. How happy will mom be when you try your best?

Begin "self-prompting" techniques to remind the student, without the designated adult's presence, of appropriate or desired green responses and inappropriate or undesired red responses to support eventual self-management through monitoring one's own behavior.." (page 19). I often tape small charts upside down on a student's shirt. It's there and they can see it when they need to remember their choices. This usually helps to calm students, too.

Once calmness begins to occur, I will often ask the student what they will do if this situation happens again. Have the student's Red and Green Choices list or chart ready to look at and talk about.


After the student is beginning to show signs of knowing how to remain calm when faced with a fear, introduce the student to positive opposites and their green and red consequence. This should give the student a reason to try even harder to remain calm and make green choices. Motivate the student to display the green behavior more often. How would it be worth it to them?

"Find a high student response activity or product. What does the student like, go to first, or do for an extended periods of time? Often the computer is a natural activity." (page 39)

"What does making green choices mean for the student? What will promote that green behavior next time? What will be earned when green behaviors are displayed? Why is the student earning green?" (page 18)

"...initial charts explain the adult expectation, often with a picture or words. Initial "explain" charts or contracts should begin with the green choice first. The explanation then becomes an immediate written contract of what must occur the next time." (page 24-25)

"In order to develop positive behaviors in children, adults should provide three key elements to the Red and Green Choices behavioral development process. First an adult should give a child undivided attention to explain Red and Green Choices. Then the explanation becomes a known adult and child expectation. When the situation arises again, it becomes the child's choice. The child will choose what to do with known consequences.. utilizing a high response student item... 

1. Explanation - Explain Red and Green Choices
2. Expectation - Adult and Child Know Green Expectation
3. Choice        - Child Chosen Response" 
(page 47)

"Prompt the student to decide what behavioral response should occur before a behavioral response occurs. Remind the child of the consequences of choosing red and green behaviors." (page 48)

Be reasonable when setting consequential standards.

Refer to "Irene's $1,000 Question" to be sure the consequences meet the needs of the student.

Monitor Student Progress

The lists and charts will get more intricate (before fading) as the student learns how to be
haviorally respond to such stimulus. You can go into more detail of choices and reactions to stimuli through conversations, pictures, stories and so on. The student should be more apt to handle the situation when it is mentioned - through your support and behaviorally trustworthy relationship you've been building.

The explanations of expected behaviors should decrease. The student will learn what you expect of them. "Conditioning red and green eventually leads to minimal adult language or no adult language. This means that eventually an adult will only need to provide red an green visual stimulus to elicit or evoke a positive student response or 'green thinking'. This avoids overloading stimulus and allows students to monitor their own behavioral concerns." (page 17)

The chart to the right has changed to distinct choices with the end product - the student calmly walking out with the group/adult when the fire bell rings.  The student, should by now, know what the previous red choices were (yelling, lying on the floor).  They probably don't need to be mentioned. Ask the student.. "When the fire yell rings, you will..?" then hold up your red and green markers.

On the chart, the earned choice item is open to pre-negotiations, meaning before the behavior occurs. Draw a picture of what the student prefers to earn for choosing green. The student may even want to try to draw a picture, or point to what the high response item should be.  Be sure to send the chart home for mom to see what happened at school. Mom is most likely a great motivator to her child, in helping him make green school choices.

"The high response activity or product must be continually monitored for effectiveness. Students may lose interest in a particular item, or they may find a new item or choice."
(page 39)

Is it working?

Check the frequency, duration and latency of the outbursts.


Gradually remove the assistance of the designated adult. Allow the student to independently respond, and create their own lists/charts when needed.

Ask the student if he wants help when he doesn't understand or needs help calming. Once a positive behavioral relationship is established, I often ask my students if they want a picture/chart. Then, the students will often initiate Red and Green Choices by asking me to "draw" and point to my red and green markers. I also leave blank paper and red and green markers in the classroom for student use. They begin drawing their own pictures.

(Note: I've learned to only let students draw pictures for themselves, not their classmates. Other students may become confused, or are so literal they believe they 'got' red. Regular education students are also directed to only let adults give red or green. They can confuse my students, too. What I do, is encourage them to draw a picture for me, or "Niki" or "Cindy T")

"Eventually the chart marking, verbalizations (directions) and intensive red and green strategy will fade." (page 28)

"Increase students' independent functioning and adaptation skills by promoting self-prompting." (page 44)

School WILL Be Fun:

Try your best to make sure school remains/becomes a positive environment. Make your own "behavioral rules of engagement".

"Setting your own (adult) behavioral expectations for both calm and disruptive times, will prove significant in establishing a behavioral trust relationship. Children with behavioral concerns, especially those with Autism or Oppositional Defiant Disorder need the adult implementing behavioral change strategies to provide understanding, calmness and assertiveness. Reacting differently during noncompliant situations usually causes confusion. Reacting the same way every time causes less confusion and overload during what children perceive as chaotic or already overloading circumstances. Students rely on adult reaction to learn or develop new behaviors."
(pages 48-49)

I listed my 14 personal behavioral rules of engagement on page 49, including;

"Child is Never Red - the Choice is Red...
"Never Use the Word 'Bad"...
"Talking about Red and Green Choices When Calm - Situations & Possible Solutions, Before & After"...
"Zero Tolerance for Noncompliant Behaviors" ...
"Assertive Attitude"

"It is my responsibility to ensure every student in my classroom or on my list (being serviced in  he general education environment) is having fun at school. If not then I make sure it becomes fun, and fast." (page 52)

"I ensure a positive, respectful, safe and fun environment for all of my students." (page 52)


Take care of students' fears and apprehensions. Allow them to enjoy school.

Materials and Writings ,  & Logo is a TM of Green Irene:  Materials/Charts May Be Printed From WebSite For Personal Use to Supplement An Individual's Red and Green Choices Behavioral Development Strategy



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The Material Presented from "Red and Green Choices", Is Based Upon Irene's Own Behavioral Intervention Strategies, and What Types of Behavioral
and Academic Assistance Has Promoted Positive Outcomes With Her and Her Students When Applying Red and Green Choices Behavioral Principles

Copyright 2009 Green Irene


Books, Materials & Posters Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005 Green Irene, Logo is a TM of Green Irene, Red and Green ChoicesTM:
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