What Do You Expect?

Posted by Kris Baker on 11/2/2018 7:00:00 AM

I am an individual who has expectations regarding how I think situations should take place, expectations of other drivers on the road, expectations of how things should be cleaned and picked up when I ask my children to clean their rooms.  I also have expectations regarding how my children should behave in certain social situations, but

those expectations change depending on the different social situations we encounter.  My expectations at a fancy restaurant are markedly different from my expectations when playing in the backyard.  At school, each classroom, each setting from the hallway, to the library, to recess have different behavioral and social expectations that we assume children understand.  Often children are being punished for not meeting expectations that were never communicated.

Expected behaviors are actions or behavioral responses that are relevant and expected for the given situation; they are behaviors that make others around you feel respected and comfortable.  For example, sitting in your desk, a small verbal “yes” when you see you’ve gotten a good grade on a test, or maybe being a bit upset with a bad grade. Unexpected behaviors are those behaviors that are not expected in a given situation.  For example, crawling under the desk in class, yelling profanity at teachers when you get a bad grade, or crying uncontrollably when you don’t get your favorite treat in your lunch. Unexpected behaviors make others around you feel unsure or uncomfortable.   “The goal in all of this is to help our students learn to observe and interpret social situations more carefully and understand that behaviors are linked to others’ emotions, and how each of us feels about another's behavior affects how we treat each other. At the end of the day, when we perform the expected behaviors it makes us feel better about ourselves” (Social Thinking, 2018).  It is important to teach our children that their behaviors and actions can affect the feelings of others just as their feelings can be impacted by the behavior of others.

One method to clear up the expected and unexpected behaviors for different circumstances and situations is to . . . (wait for it) . . . teach the expectations!!  For example, the expectation for my students at carpet time is going to be different than my expectations at stations. Going further, there are different expectations at each individual station!  Work with your students to identify the expected and unexpected behaviors for the different portions of the day. For example:


You can process with your students the expected behaviors for the different portions of your day such as read aloud, whole group instruction, lining up, walking in the hallway, transitions and more.  This sets the students up for success instead of requiring that they read your mind to know that the expectations have changed. You can even create visual supports as a way for students to remember the expectations as they change from activity to activity throughout the day.  Here are some examples of visual expectations:


Often expectations are reviewed the first week of school.  Then, we just assume the students know the multitude of expectations that occur throughout the day.  Once we work with the students and provide the visual support, we can ensure that students have several tools to understand the different expectations.  It is important to practice and revisit these expectations and then praise students for meeting these expectations with behavior specific praise. For example:  “Thank you for using the sound volume level of 0” “Sam, you did an excellent job of walking between stations” or “Stephanie, is meeting our whole group expectations by keeping her hands to herself.”  While teaching expectations may take time initially, research has proven that it will save you time long term and it will reduce classroom disruptions and increase on task behavior (Sprick, 2009).

“I think a lot of times, other people try not to hurt an AS (aspergers) person’s feelings so they are not explicit enough about their own rules.” Luke Jackson, Freeks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome.


Sprick, R., (2009). Safe & Civil Schools: CHAMPS A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management (2nd ed).  Eugene, Oregon: Pacific Northwest Publishing, INC.


Kris Baker, Autism Consultant