WHEN ARE THEY READY TO LEARN
Biobehavorial states are defined as a series of behavioral and physiological conditions that range from sleeping to awake and crying. Wolff (1959) is credited with first categorizing states as specific, observational indices.Recent research indicates that biobehavioral state has a significant influence on the levels of alertness and responsiveness of individuals with profound disabilities and therefore, on their learning, development, and overall quality of life.
A typical nervous system exhibits a range of levels of arousal. In all of us there is a structure in the brainstem that controls levels of arousal. If our nervous systems are in the normal range, we spend our day shifting across the states in a typical manner. We sleep at night, are alert during the day, agitated when paying bills, etc. We are able to consciously control some of these states (for example: stop driving when sleepy, listen to music to go to sleep, etc.)
Listed below are two different ways to classify biobehavioral states, with descriptions of the states. Both show the range from sleep through awake and include agitation.
Quiet Sleep: Generally unresponsive, smooth, regular respirations, occasional startles, lack of body activity, lack of facial or eye movements
For all of us the only time we can learn new information is when we are able to achieve and maintain an alert state. This is why it is difficult to remember anything after something traumatic throws you into an extremely agitated state, Have you ever become drowsy in a warm room after lunch? How attentive were you? The ability to attain and maintain an alert state is essential for understanding and learning.
Children with profound disabilities may not exhibit the typical range of states. They may be drowsy much of the time or chronically anxious (We don't want to set them off). They may only have brief cycles of alertness. They often can't maintain the alert state. Overstimulation often causes shutdown. Take time when you are trying to get children to go from one state to another. Use variety to awaken and repetition to soothe.
The following articles explain more about biobehavioral states
|Assessment of Biobehavioral States and Analysis of Related Influences This excellent article comes from Texas and has some example forms included.|
|Assessment of Individuals who are deafblind and have Multiple Disabilities This is a form by Cathy Nelson and Dr. vanDijk (two of the leading experts in the field of Deafblindness). Use it as an assessment form and write down what you see as you observe the child.|