Learning Disabilities

Curry School of Education

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Self-Control

One of the common complaints from both regular and special educators, is that students with learning disabilities lack self-control. Some of them exhibit inappropriate behaviors throughout the school environment. Self-control models usually include self-assessment, self-evaluation, self-recording, and self-reinforcement. The student should have the necessary skills and understanding of the steps toward performing the target behavior. The student will then be the judge of his or her own progress. Self reinforcement trains students to give themselves praise which eliminates the need for external reinforcers.

There are many intervention or treatment techniques that are included under the umbrella of self-control. Students may be taught goal-setting in which they learn to establish plans for themselves and to establish criteria for success. Or they may be taught to use self-reinforcement; in self-reinforcement students (a) determine whether their performance on a task meets certain criteria, (b) administer reinforcement to themselves, or (c) both determine and administer reinforcers.

Another technique, self-assessment, refers to students observing their own behavior. Sometimes when students observe their own behavior, the behavior changes. However, self-assessment is more likely to produce behavior changes when students are not only required to observe their own behavior but also to make records of their observations. Then the procedure is called self-recording. For examples of using self-assessment with students with learning disabilities, click on self-assessment techniques.

Self-recording interventions have been used successfully by students to monitor their own behavior. Because self-recording encompasses the other components of self-control--self-assessment and self-evaluation--the student is able to take responsibility for making progress. Research indicates that self-recording has shown an increase in attending-to-task behavior, which has useful applications. For a description of research on self-recording and attending to task, see

Lloyd, J.W., &  Landrum, T. J.  (1990).  Self-recording of 
attending to task: Treatment components and generalization of
effects. In T.E. Scruggs & B.Y.L. Wong (Eds.), Intervention
research in learning disabilities (pp. 235-262). New York:
Springer-Verlag.

For more information about using self-recording to improve attending to task, follow this link.

There are many other sources about teaching self-control. If you're intereseted, you can search electronic data-bases for the work of T. F. McLaughlin, S. Graham, K. Harris, A. M. Palincsar, and others.


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This page was developed by Hannah, Donna, and JohnL, summer '94.