I was recently reading an article about how the city of San Antonio, TX has been working to reduce the truancy rates in it’s schools. In 2010, they started a program that changed their response from punishing the truant students and parents through the use of criminal court proceedings and fines to, according to the article, one making students “the focus of intense intervention efforts aimed at addressing the root cases of their absences.” This approach has been successful in reducing San Antonio’s truancy rates, and in June, Texas passed a law requiring all school districts in the state to implement the same strategies.

As I read the article, I was reminded of how easy it is for those of us who work in behavioral health to see and respond to the behaviors of the people we serve without considering the reasons why they are using those behaviors. I can think of many situations where staff spent weeks or months implementing treatment plans that focused on reinforcing or punishing a client’s challenging behavior with no or very little success to only discover that the person was in some type of physical pain. It was only once the pain was recognized and addressed that a decrease in the target behavior occurred.

In The Mandt System, we teach that people don’t just have behavior but instead use behavior for a purpose. When we forget this, we run a high risk of trying to treat behavior without considering the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of the people we serve. It sounds like the folks in Texas are discovering this when it comes to helping students attend school. Hopefully, we can all remember it as we support the people that we serve.

You can read the article mentioned above at the following link.


Doug ZehrVogt, Mandt Faculty