Addressing Student Problem
Part III - Creating Positive Behavioral Intervention Plans and Supports
- Elements of a Behavioral Intervention Plan
- Strategies to Address Different Functions of a Students Behavior
- Skill Deficits and Performance Deficits
- Selecting and Implementing Interventions
- Student Supports as Part of the Behavioral Intervention Plan
- Reinforcement of Appropriate Student Behavior
- Special Considerations
Prepared By The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice
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This document was produced under grant number H237T60005. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education or any other Federal agency and should not be regarded as such. The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice: Improving Services for Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Problems is funded under a cooperative agreement with the Office of Special Education Programs, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, with additional support from the Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The authors wish to thank the following individuals for their valuable assistance in the review and production of this document:
Ed Amundson, National Education Association
George Bear, National Association of School Psychologists
Maureen Conroy, University of Florida
James Fox, Eastern Tennessee State University
Lee Kern, Lehigh University
Megan McGlynn, Arizona State University
Kathy Riley, American Federation of Teachers
Pat Rutherford, Special Education Teacher, Anasazi School, Scottsdale, AZ
Tom Valore, West Shore Day Treatment Center
Addressing Student Problem Behavior Part III: Creating Positive Behavioral Intervention Plans and Supports
Today, educators at all grade levels face a growing number of students whose behavior challenges the success of daily classroom instruction. Fortunately, teachers usually are able to rely on standard strategies for addressing classroom misbehavior, such as solid teaching practices, clear rules and expectations, being physically close to their students, and praising and encouraging positive behaviors. Either independently or with the support of colleagues, they are able to find a successful solution to the problem. However, for some studentsboth with and without disabilitiesthese tactics fail to produce the desired outcome and may actually worsen an already difficult situation.
In recognition of the negative effect that student misbehavior can have on the teaching and learning process, the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (the law that governs special education) requires schools to take various steps to address behavior that prevents students from learning and other inappropriate classroom behavior. In an effort to ensure that schools are safe and conducive to learning, the 1997 Amendments include the use of the process known as functional behavioral assessment to develop or revise positive behavioral intervention plans and supports.
With the 1997 Amendments to the IDEA, we see a basic emphasis not only on ensuring access to the "least restrictive environment," but also on promoting positive educational results for students with disabilities. The 1997 Amendments also highlight the roles of the regular education teacher, the general curriculum, and appropriate classroom placement in helping students advance academically and behaviorally.
Another change relates to disciplinary practices. The 1997 Amendments are explicit in what is required of Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams when addressing behaviors of children with disabilities that interfere with their learning or the learning of others.
This is the third of three guides that address the 1997 Amendments to IDEA as they relate to the issue of functional assessment and positive behavioral intervention plans and supports. The first monograph, Addressing Student Problem Behavior: An IEP Teams Introduction to Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Plans, provides a general overview of these requirements. The second monograph, entitled Addressing Student Problem BehaviorPart II: Conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment, examines the rationale for functional behavioral assessment and the process of conducting one, and describes the ways schools and IEP teams can translate this new public policy into classroom practice, by means of a step-by-step approach to functional behavioral assessment. The second monograph covers steps 16 of an integrated ten-step process that has been used by some for conducting functional behavioral assessments (see sidebar: A Method for Conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment) and focuses on determining the function of student problem behaviors. Both are copyright-free and are available on the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practices web site (http://cecp.air.org/) or by calling toll free 1-888-475-1551.
This third monograph discusses how to use the information gathered during the functional behavioral assessment process to develop and implement positive behavioral intervention plans that address both the short- and long-term needs of the student. We cover steps 710 of a functional assessment process that includes ways some school personnel are developing positive behavioral intervention plans and supports. In addition, we explore various factors associated with developing a thorough intervention plan and offer some thoughts on possible obstacles to conducting functional behavioral assessments. Finally, we encourage schools to make use of the functional behavioral assessment process and positive behavioral intervention plans as part of a system-wide program of academic and behavioral supports to better serve all students. We offer a list of sources for readers interested in obtaining more information on functional behavioral assessment and positive behavioral intervention plans. Blank forms and sample completed forms that might be used for developing positive behavioral intervention plans and crisis/emergency intervention plans are included in the Appendices.
A Method for Performing a Functional
(see Addressing Student Problem BehaviorPart II: Conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment for a detailed discussion of these steps)
1. Describe and verify the seriousness of the problem.
2. Refine the definition of the problem behavior.
3. Collect information on possible functions of the problem behavior.
4. Analyze information using data triangulation and/or problem pathway analysis.
5. Generate a hypothesis statement regarding the probable function of the problem behavior.
6. Test the hypothesis statement regarding the function of the problem behavior.
A Method for Developing, Implementing and Monitoring a Behavior Intervention Plan
7. Develop and implement a behavioral intervention plan.
8. Monitor the faithfulness of implementation of the plan.
9. Evaluate effectiveness of the behavior intervention plan.
10. Modify behavior intervention plan, as needed.
Rationale for Developing Positive Behavioral InterventionsTraditionally, teachers have dealt with student behavior that interferes with classroom instruction by using various kinds of negative consequences (e.g., verbal reprimands, time-out, and suspension). The goal, of course, has been to reduce, if not eliminate the immediate problem. However, experience has shown that these usually are not the most effective or efficient means to eliminate problem behavior. "Reactive" approaches that follow inappropriate behavior, such as punishment, are not only time consuming, but they fail to teach the student acceptable replacement behaviors and also may serve to reinforce the inappropriate behavior. Many teachers have thus begun to introduce various programs to teach students more acceptable, alternative responses. For example, social skills programs have been an especially popular way to teach appropriate behavior; however, decisions regarding which behavior to teach a student usually are based on the programs curriculum, rather than on what skill a student demonstrates he or she lacks. As a result, understanding why the student misbehaved in the first place is seldom addressed.
Today, there is growing recognition that the success of an intervention hinges on: 1) understanding why the student behaves in a certain way; and 2) replacing the inappropriate behavior with a more suitable behavior that serves the same function (or results in the same outcome) as the problem behavior. Intervention into problem behavior begins with looking beyond the misbehavior and uncovering the underlying causes of the misbehavior. Examples of statements that consider "why" a student misbehaves are:
Knowing what compels a student to engage in a particular behavior is integral to the development of effective, individualized positive behavioral intervention plans and supports.
Generally, the logic behind functional assessment is driven by two principles. First, practically all behavior serves a purpose: it allows students to "get" something desirable, "escape" or "avoid" something undesirable, or communicate some other message or need. Second, behavior occurs within a particular context. It may occur in certain settings (e.g., in the cafeteria), under certain conditions (e.g., only when there is a substitute teacher), or during different types of activities (e.g., during recess). Because of these two things, students will change the inappropriate behavior only when it is clear to them that a different response will more effectively and efficiently accomplish the same thing. For this reason, identifying the causes of a behaviorwhat the student "gets," "escapes," or "avoids," or is attempting to communicate through the behaviorcan provide the information necessary to develop effective strategies to address those behaviors that interfere with learning or threaten safety. This can be accomplished by means of a functional behavioral assessment.
Overview of Functional Behavioral AssessmentFunctional behavioral assessment generally is considered a team problem-solving process that relies on a variety of techniques and strategies to identify the purposes of specific behavior and to help IEP teams to select appropriate interventions to directly address them. A major objective is to learn how best to promote student behavior that serves the same function as current behavior, but that is more socially acceptable and responsible. A functional behavioral assessment looks beyond the behavior itself and focuses on identifying significant, pupil-specific social, sensory, physical, affective, cognitive, and/or environmental factors associated with the occurrence (and non-occurrence) of specific behaviors. This broader perspective offers a better understanding of the function or purpose behind student behavior. Intervention plans based on an understanding of "why" a student misbehaves are extremely useful in addressing a wide range of problem behaviors.
One step in performing a functional behavioral assessment is to collect information on the possible functions of the problem behavior. In many instances, knowledge of these factors can be obtained through repeated direct assessments or observations. While observation may reveal a possible reason behind the misbehavior, a caution is warranted. Too limited an assessment can yield an inaccurate explanation. Some factors, including thoughts and feelings such as distorted perceptions, fear of a negative outcome, or the desire to appear competent, are not directly observable, but can be revealed through indirect assessment strategies such as interviews or surveys with the student, teacher, peers, or others who interact frequently with the student. This is why it is best to use a variety of techniques and strategies to gather information on the function of a students behavior. (These approaches and strategies are described in greater detail in Addressing Student Problem BehaviorPart II: Conducting A Functional Behavioral Assessment.) Once information has been obtained and analyzed, and a hypothesis has been made about that function, it can be used to guide proactive interventions that help educators focus on instructional goals, as opposed to simply management goals.
Addressing Student Problem
Behavior is a Team Effort
A Method for Developing, Implementing and
Monitoring a Positive Behavioral
7. Develop and Implement Behavioral Intervention PlanAfter collecting and analyzing enough information to identify the likely function of the students behavior, the IEP team must develop (or revise) the students positive behavioral intervention plan. This process should be integrated, as appropriate, throughout the process of developing, reviewing, and, if necessary, revising a students IEP. The behavioral intervention plan will include, when appropriate: (1) strategies, including positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports; (2) program modifications; and (3) supplementary aids and services that may be required to address the problem behavior.
As mentioned previously, there are various reasons why students engage in inappropriate, problem behavior (see sidebar: Functions of Problem Behavior). To fully understand the motivation behind student problem behavior, it is useful to consider that problem behavior may be linked to skill deficits (e.g., Charles cannot do double-digit addition), performance deficits (e.g., Calvin has the ability, but does not comply with the cafeteria rules), or both (e.g., Mary cannot read maps and is unsure how to ask for help during cooperative activities, though she is able to do so during independent seatwork). Our discussion of behavioral intervention plans and supports is based on these two overlapping perspectives on problem behavior in school.
Intervention plans and strategies emphasizing skills students need in order to behave in a more appropriate manner, or plans providing motivation to conform to required standards, will be more effective than plans that simply serve to control behavior. Interventions based upon control often fail to generalize (i.e., continue to be used for long periods of time, in many settings, and in a variety of situations)and many times they serve only to suppress behaviorresulting in a child seeking to meet unaddressed needs in alternative, usually equally inappropriate ways. Proactive, positive intervention plans that teach new ways of behaving, on the other hand, will address both the source of the problem, by serving the same function, and the problem itself.
Functions of Problem Behavior
If we wish to gain insight into the functions of a students behavior, we need only to examine the functions of our own behavior. Efforts to resolve conflict, express anxiety, gain access to a social group, maintain friendly relationships, avoid embarrassment, and please others are all completely normal behaviors. However, we all might remember situations where we or someone else sought these outcomes through inappropriate means.
At the core of functional behavioral assessment is the change of focus from the students behaviors to the functions the student is trying to meet with those behaviors. Here are some examples of functions as they fall into four general categories:
In addition, the student may find that engaging in a behavior to accomplish one purpose might lead to the realization of a completely different function. For example, a student who fights to try to escape teasing could discover that fighting itself can be reinforcing (e.g., the physical excitement associated with fighting). These things should be considered when developing a behavioral intervention plan.
Elements of a Behavioral Intervention Plan
When an IEP team has determined that a behavioral intervention plan is necessary, the team members generally use information about the problem behaviors function, gathered from the functional behavioral assessment. The IEP team should include strategies to: (a) teach the student more acceptable ways to get what he or she wants; (b) decrease future occurrences of the misbehavior; and (c) address any repeated episodes of the misbehavior. The resulting behavioral intervention plan generally will not consist then of simply one intervention; it will be a plan with a number of interventions designed to address these three aspects of addressing a students problem behavior. The forms provided in Appendices A, B and C can help guide IEP teams through the process of conducting a functional behavioral assessment and writing and implementing a positive behavioral intervention plan. We encourage readers to refer to these forms as they read through the following sections.
Most behavioral intervention plans are designed to teach the student a more acceptable behavior that replaces the inappropriate behavior, yet serves the same function (e.g., ways to gain peer approval through positive social initiations; ways to seek teacher attention through non-verbal signals). Since most plans will require multiple intervention options rather than a single intervention, however, IEP teams may want to consider the following techniques when designing behavior intervention plans, strategies, and supports:
Using these strategies, school personnel can develop a plan to both teach and support replacement behaviors that serve the same function as the current problem behavior. At the same time, employing these techniques when developing the behavioral intervention plan can yield interventions that decrease or eliminate opportunities for the student to engage in the inappropriate behavior. For example, a student may be physically aggressive at recess because he or she believes violence is the best way to end a confrontational situation and that such behaviors help accomplish his or her goals. However, when taught to use problem-solving skills (e.g., self-control or conflict resolution) to end a confrontational situation and accomplish his or her goal, while using more effective management strategies with the student during recess, the student may be more likely to deal with volatile situations in a non-violent manner (e.g., defusing the situation by avoiding threatening or provocative remarks or behavior).
This step in the process of creating positive behavioral intervention plans and supports includes discussion of information on strategies to address different functions of a students behavior and how to select the appropriate interventions; skill deficits and performance deficits; student supports; and reinforcement considerations and procedures. It also addresses special considerations, such as the use of punishment and emergency/crisis plans. The IEP team should know about and consider all of these elements as it develops and implements the behavioral intervention plan.
Strategies to Address Different Functions of a Students Behavior
As described above, students misbehavior is often motivated by their desire to get something, or escape or avoid something. These motivations can be external, internal, or a combination of both. For example, Patrick might grab a basketball in order to get a chance to play with his peers (external), or Heather might study her vocabulary list so she will get a good grade (external) and a feeling of success (internal). Vinnie might complain of being sick so he can avoid giving his oral report (external) and the bad feeling that he gets when he has to speak in front of a group (internal). And Elsa does not do her homework so she can stay in at recess and avoid getting beat up on the playground (external). Constructing a table like the one below is often helpful in determining the possible motivations for behaviors. Appendix B offers completed examples of this table.
Interventions will be different depending on the motivations behind the behavior. This section uses two examples to illustrate the kinds of strategies IEP teams can use when considering interventions for the positive behavioral intervention plan: attention-seeking behavior and escape-motivated behavior.
Strategies for Dealing with Attention-Seeking Behavior
The desire for attention is a very common reason given for student misbehavior; however, attention is often a by-product of misbehavior and not the primary function. Second, students seldom seek forms of attention that could include ridicule, abuse, and assault. It is more likely that students want adults and peers to like them, to be attentive, and to value them and their work.
Most teachers can attest to the fact that students sometimes use inappropriate or problem behavior to get the attention of their teacher and/or peers. These behaviors usually stem from the notion they are not likely to get that attention any other way. Common examples include: calling out, swearing, yelling at a classmate or teacher, having a tantrum, or ignoring an adult request. Interventions that focus on teaching the student appropriate ways to get attention are usually successful in ending these inappropriate behaviors. For example, the student might be taught various ways to obtain positive peer social interactions or get a teachers verbal praise. Once the conditions under which the behavior occurs have been identified, "role play" exercises might be introduced to teach the student appropriate things to say (e.g., "Im really stuck on this problem."). It is important to remember that understanding the amount of time a student will wait for the attention they need is critical and should be a major consideration when developing such a plan. Students may need to be systematically taught to tolerate longer and longer wait times. Other intervention options include giving teacher attention following appropriate student behavior and taking away attention (e.g., ignoring, placing a student in time-out, assuming the teacher can get the student into time out without drawing the attention of peers) following inappropriate behavior. Finally, reprimanding students has proven ineffective in dealing with attention-seeking behavior, probably because it is a form of attention.
A more effective intervention plan for attention-seeking behavior combines strategies to: 1) keep the student from engaging in the original problem or inappropriate behavior (e.g., verbal threats); 2) teach replacement behavior; 3) ensure that the student gets enough opportunities to engage in the new replacement behavior (e.g., request assistance); and 4) offer opportunities for the student to be reinforced for the new behavior (e.g., verbal praise from adults or peers). For the reinforcement to work, it has to be easier to get and be a better pay-off than the pay-off from the problem behavior. In a later section, we discuss more fully reinforcement of student behavior.
Strategies for Dealing with Escape-Motivated Behavior
Inappropriate or problem behavior often stems from a students need either to escape or avoid an unpleasant task or situation, or to escape to something, such as a desired activity or location. Examples include:
Behavior that is used to avoid or escape a difficult academic task might be addressed by teaching the student to use a socially acceptable escape behavior (e.g., asking for help, which must be available once the student asks for it). If the student is unable to complete the assignment because he or she does not have the skills necessary to do so, the original assignment should be replaced with another assignment that is more appropriate (i.e., within the students skill level), or strategies and supports should be provided to assist the student (e.g., direct instruction, manipulatives, work with peers).
The IEP team might address behavior that is meant to escape an unpleasant social interaction with an adult by only allowing the student to leave after he or she has made an acceptable bid to leave that situation (e.g., "I want to be by myself for awhile."). Finally, it may be useful to devise a multi-step plan in which the student is taught and encouraged to make an appropriate verbal request (e.g., ask to be excused for short periods of time during difficult math assignments). An incentive can be used to reward the student for gradually spending more time at the undesirable task. Thus, this incentive would be both time-limited and part of a larger plan to promotethrough a step-by-step approachthe desired student behavior.
Other interventions for dealing with escape-motivated behavior include:
While time-out has often been used as a consequence for escape-motivated behaviors, as well, in these cases time-out might actually be reinforcing because it allows the student to escape or avoid the situation. Time-out is therefore likely to increase rather than decrease the inappropriate behavior.
Sometimes, student noncompliance stems from a need to exert control over a situationto pressure others to "give up" or "back off," as when a teacher makes academic demands that the student sees as too difficult. Recognizing that the function of the students behavior is to escape from this uncomfortable situation by controlling it, the teacher might begin by modifying the assignment, as well as the manner with which he or she interacts with the student regarding the assignment.
What happens if the same behavior occurs in different students for different reasons? In this case, it is unlikely that there is only one possible solution for the problem. This highlights the point that the interventions that the IEP team chooses need to be carefully aligned with the results of the functional behavioral assessment. When this alignment occurs, the desired behaviors that a student will be taught or encouraged to use will fulfill the same function as the inappropriate behavior, yielding more positive behavioral outcomes.
Here is an illustration:
|Wishes to avoid looking dumb in front of others||Ignores teacher requests to participate in a group discussion by looking away and failing to respond|
|Wants to be with his friends who are in another group||Ignores teacher requests to participate in a group discussion by looking away and failing to respond|
Choosing from the following interventions, which is likely an inappropriate intervention for each student?
(a) assigning the student to be a discussion leader;
(b) allowing the student to pick any discussion group; or
(c) sending the student to time-out.
Assigning Susan to be a discussion leader would exaggerate her fear and probably escalate her attempts to escape. Allowing group selection would not work, although allowing her to select the topic might. Time-out, for Susan, would meet her function, but probably in a punitive way. In contrast to Susan, Larry would like to pick his own group so as to be with his friends; therefore, that choice would reinforce his ignoring behavior. Being appointed a discussion leader could go either way, depending on the group he was leading. Time out might reduce the behavior, but would not be a proactive solution.
As we can see, the two students are engaging in the same behavior for different purposes, so there cannot be a single intervention that works for any one behavior, regardless of the student. Having knowledge of the function of the behavior tells us that Susan may need to be accommodated through placement in groups that discuss topics she knows about. Meanwhile, Larry needs to be taught the instructional, not the social, value of group discussions. The key to these intervention decisions is that IEP teams must learn to align interventions with assessment information about the function of behavior. To be most effective, this means that teacher actions, instructional materials, and monitoring systems should all complement the desired learning outcome, as well. This will require IEP teams to think about quality instruction instead of simply behavioral control.
Skill Deficits and Performance Deficits
Sometimes, a student does not perform the desired appropriate behavior because he or she does not know how to do it (a skill deficit). Other times, a student may have the skills needed to perform the appropriate behavior but either chooses not to do so or, for reasons such as anxiety, anger, frustration, or a medical condition, cannot perform the behavior (a performance deficit). It is also possible that a student may be experiencing both a skill and a performance deficit. This section describes strategies that can be considered for addressing these deficits.
Addressing Skill Deficits: Working With Students Who Lack Skills
A functional behavioral assessment might indicate that the student engages in the inappropriate behavior because she or he lacks the appropriate, alternative skills and/or believes the inappropriate behavior is effective in getting what he or she wants (e.g., allows the student to escape or avoid an unpleasant task or situation). If the student does not know what behaviors are expected, an intervention plan could resolve the confusion by teaching the student to sort positive and negative examples of what is expected. A plan should also include the supports, aids, strategies, and modifications necessary to accomplish that instruction. If the student does not know how to perform the expected behavior, the intervention plan should include instruction to teach the needed skills. Sometimes, it may require teaching both behavioral and cognitive skills and may call for a team member to conduct a task analysis (i.e., break down the skill into its component parts) of the individual behaviors that make up the skill. Regular behavior management techniques may not even be appropriate. For example, if the student is to think through and solve social problems, the individual skills may include the following components:
In other instances, a student may be unable to appropriately handle the aggressive verbal behavior of a classmate. The student may need to be taught to recognize those words (or actions) that usually lead to aggression and to discern whether the behavior is or is not provoked by the student. Then, a series of role playing sessions might teach the student ways to defuse the situation (e.g., avoiding critical remarks, put downs, or laughing at the other student), along with when to walk away or seek assistance from peers or adults. For example, Helen may be able to accurately read a problem situation, but lacks the impulse control to self-regulate her behavior and respond appropriately. Overt teacher modeling of self-control, along with guided and independent practice (behavioral rehearsal), and individual or small group discussion of "when and how to" strategies may prove effective. Other options include instruction in the use of mnemonic devices that enable Helen to handle a problem situation in a positive manner (e.g., FASTFreeze, Assess the Situation, Select a response, Try it out).
Addressing Performance Deficits: Working With Students Who Have Skills But Do Not Use Them
Sometimes, the IEP team will find that the student knows the skills necessary to perform the behavior, but does not consistently use them. In that case, the intervention plan should include techniques, strategies, and supports designed to increase the students use of the behavior. If the functional assessment shows that the student is engaging in the problem behavior because he or she actually believes that this behavior is more desirable than the alternative, appropriate behavior, the intervention plan should include techniques for addressing that belief. For example, a student might think that acting quickly is best because she values resolution. This belief might be countered by assigning the student to list the additional problems a faulty, but quick, solution can produce.
Sometimes, a student does not perform the behavior simply because he or she sees no good reason to do so. For example, if Trish can avoid feeling ridiculed by threatening or hitting her classmates on the playground, she may not see the advantage of interacting positively with others. Therefore, the behavioral intervention plan may include strategies to increase her use of existing skills to interact appropriately with peers. Finally, because of her aggressive behavior, it may be necessary to prompt classmates to initiate play with Trish, and to reinforce both her and her classmates for engaging in positive social exchanges.
Selecting and Implementing Interventions
As we have stated frequently in our discussion of creating behavioral intervention plans, IEP teams draw upon information collected through the functional assessment process to develop individualized plans. Once this information has been analyzed and a number of possible interventions have been identified, the IEP team needs to select options for the behavioral intervention plan and consider the most effective method of implementation.
Guidelines for Selecting Intervention Options
Once some ideas about positive behavioral interventions have been generated for a students behavioral intervention plan, IEP teams should consider the following questions:
Answering these questions should yield a decision regarding which intervention(s) to adopt.
Putting Interventions into Routine Contexts
Members of IEP teams have learned that incorporating interventions into daily instruction is an effective way to: 1) teach students appropriate behavior before problems arise; and 2) promote replacement behaviors. A technique known as curricular integration is useful when teaching a range of academic and nonacademic skills to students. The concept of curricular integration is based on the premise that a skill is more likely to be learned when taught in the context in which it is to be used. The technique involves integrating positive strategies for changing problem behavior into the existing classroom curriculum. For instance, teaching social skills and problem solving strategies might be incorporated into a history lesson by means of a group activity designed to solve historic problems in non-violent ways (e.g., Boston Tea Party). Well-structured cooperative learning lessons create opportunities to teach and reinforce a wide range of behavioral objectives while also addressing academic objectives.
Student Supports as Part of the Behavioral Intervention Plan
A commonly overlooked provision in Federal legislation that relates to behavioral intervention plans is the concept of supports. In some cases, an intervention plan is incomplete unless additional supports are provided to help students use appropriate behavior. Though supports and the interventions that have been discussed work in tandem with one another, supports can be thought of differently than interventions. Supports generally are designed to address factors beyond the immediate context in which the inappropriate behavior occurs. The student, for example, may benefit from work with school personnel, such as counselors or school psychologists, to help him or her address academic or personal issues that may contribute to the problem behaviors. Other people who may provide sources of support include:
It is important to realize that in some instances, for biological or other reasons, a student may not be able to control his or her behavior without supports. Although it is never the place of the IEP team to make medical diagnoses, it is appropriate for the team to make referrals and to obtain medical evaluations so that all support options can be considered.
Reinforcement of Appropriate Student Behavior
A critical component of the intervention plan is the pattern of reinforcement for using the appropriate replacement behavior that the IEP team devises. The team can use information that was collected during the functional behavioral assessment (i.e., baseline data) to determine the frequency with which the problem behavior occurred and was reinforced. Using this information, the IEP team can develop a plan so that the student is reinforced more often for the replacement behavior than he or she was for the problem behavior. As a general rule, school personnel should reinforce appropriate behavior at least twice as often as the problem behavior was reinforced.
For example, data collected on Charles indicate that, on average, he disturbs instruction two times during each 55-minute math class. This indicates that Charles is being reinforced for his inappropriate behavior about every 30 minutes, so his behavior intervention plan should call for a re-arrangement of his instructional environment so that Charles has an opportunity to engage in and be positively reinforced for appropriate behavior at least every 15 minutes. It is important that the IEP team carefully regulate the amount of time between "reinforcers." Charles should neither get too much reinforcement, nor need to wait too long for reinforcement. Finally, the team should make sure the academic expectations are accurate for his skill level so he can be academically successful, as well as behaviorally successful.
When trying to determine the best reinforcer to use, knowledge of student preferences and strengths is useful in developing a plan. We might ask a student what types of things he or she likes (e.g., time on the computer, being allowed to run errands), watch for and record any preferred activities, or use an informal survey of reinforcement preferences (i.e., forced-choice reinforcement menu (see Appendix C)). It is important to be consistent in the frequency of the delivery of the reinforcer, but it is also good to vary the actual reinforcers routinely, so that the student does not tire or become bored with a particular reinforcer. The amount of reinforcement, in relationship to the amount of effort required of the student to get it, is also an important variable for the IEP team to consider when developing a behavioral intervention plan.
In some cases, it may be necessary to initially offer a student "non-contingent" access to a reinforcer (e.g., with "no strings attached"), especially if the reinforcer is something he or she has never had before. Called "reinforcer sampling," this is one way to let the student know that it is reinforcing. For example, we might allow a student to participate in a highly preferred activity with a classmate (e.g., a computer-based learning activity). If the student enjoys it, access to that activity would later depend on the student engaging in the desired appropriate behavior.
Sometimes, the desired response may call for too dramatic a change in the students behavior (i.e., a change the student is unable and/or unwilling to make all at once). If that is the case, the IEP team will need to accept successive approximations or gradual changes toward the desired behavior. For example, John may not be able to handle the pressure that stems from a highly complex academic assignmentespecially when he has had too little sleep. A first step might be to teach John to ask politely to be temporarily excused from a particular activity (i.e., replacement behavior that achieves the same outcome as the problem behavior). However, the long-term plan would be for the student to develop increased self-control, to master and complete complex academic assignments, and to solicit peer support (i.e., for desired behaviors). Attempts also should be made to encourage the family to find ways for John to get more sleep.
A final consideration in using reinforcers is the process of fading or gradually replacing extrinsic rewards with more natural or intrinsic rewards on a realistic or natural time schedule. Of course, fading will only be a consideration once the student has shown an increased ability and willingness to engage in the appropriate, desired behavior. The process of fading may be made easier by pairing the extrinsic reward with an intrinsic reward. For example, when rewarding David with points for completing a homework assignment, the paraprofessional also could say, "David, youve finished all your homework this week, and your class participation has increased because you are better prepared. You must be very proud of yourself for the hard work you have done."
Ways to Maintain Positive Changes in Student Behavior
The success of any behavioral intervention plan rests on the willingness and ability of the student to continue to use the appropriate behavior without excessive outside support (i.e., the intervention). The most basic way to assure maintenance of behavior change is to be sure that interventions teach the student a set of skills. This will require IEP teams to include strategies in the behavioral intervention plan to teach the student in such a way that promotes the "maintenance" (i.e., lasting over time, even when the extrinsic reinforcers are faded) and "generalization" (i.e., using the behavior in other appropriate settings) of replacement behaviors. One strategy for doing this is to restructure the social environment to benefit from the power of peer relationships to promote positive behavior. These behaviors are then maintained though the natural consequences of having and being with friends. Indeed, there are numerous instances in which students have been taught to encourage or reinforce appropriate behavior and to ignore or walk away from negative provocations of their classmates.
Another way to promote long lasting behavior change is to use strategies based on cognitive mediation (i.e., thinking through a situation before acting on emotion) and self-management (i.e., using techniques to control ones own behavior, such as anger or anxiety). For example, students have been taught to apply various problem-solving strategies by engaging in "positive self-talk" (e.g., telling themselves, "I know how to get out of this argument without having to use my fists") or "self-cueing" (e.g., recognizing that her jaw is clenched, she is getting upset, and she needs to ask to be excused). Students also are taught to:
For example, Gloria may be taught to count and record the number of times she appropriately raises her hand and waits to be called on during class discussion. She can then determine whether she has met the daily criteria of at least three hand-raises. She then can look at her record of hand-raises for the week and determine if she is making progress toward her goal or not, and collect points to use at the class store later in the week.
Some interventions should be implemented indefinitely while others will eventually need to stop. For example, Bruce is learning to use social problem solving skills instead of getting into fights on the playground (an intervention that we hope Bruce will use forever). He is learning to ask for adult support when he feels like he might get into a fight and his team has decided that he can earn points for the class token economy when he seeks help appropriately rather than fighting (an intervention that must end at some point).
Knowing that he cannot get points for the rest of his life, the team has decided to use the technique of fading once Bruce has reached criterion. Bruces teachers will gradually decrease the use of points or other tangible rewards when he asks for help instead of fighting. This could be done in several ways. First, his teacher could increase the amount of time Bruce has to remain "fight free" in order to receive a reward. For example he may initially receive rewards daily, but as he reaches criterion it could be increased to every other day, then once a week, and so on. Another way to fade the intervention is for his teacher to award him fewer points until he is receiving no points at all. For instance, Bruce could initially earn 50 points per day for not fighting. This could be reduced to 40, then 30, and so on until he earns no points at all. It is very important to note that the social reinforcement should continue and eventually replace the tangible rewards completely. If this process is gradual and Bruce is helped to realize the advantages of using appropriate social problems solving, remaining fight free will become intrinsically rewarding to him.
The success of these strategies may depend on providing the student with periodic "booster" training to review the instruction used in the original intervention plan. Some students also may need to receive "self-advocacy training" to teach them how to appropriately ask for positive recognition or appropriately call attention to positive changes in their behavior. This is especially important for students who have such bad reputations that adults and peers do not recognize when their behaviors are changing. Finally, school personnel can support changes in student performance by accepting "just noticeable differences," or incremental changes that reflect the fact the student is taking positive steps toward the desired goal.
IEP teams should consider two things when creating a positive behavioral intervention plan. First, they should understand the use of punishment as an intervention into problem behavior. Second, they should consider developing a crisis/emergency component of the plan if it seems warranted. Both are discussed below.
Use of Punishment as an Intervention
Many professionals and professional organizations agree that it is usually ineffective and often unethical to use aversive techniques to control student behavior (e.g., corporal punishment). Punishments such as suspension should only be considered in extreme cases when the students behavior severely endangers her or his safety or the safety of others. In addition, IEP teams should try every possible positive intervention (for an appropriate length of time, remembering that behavior may get worse before it gets better) before considering punishment. If all options are found to be ineffective, and the students behavior severely limits his or her learning or socialization or that of others, then a more aversive intervention might be necessary to reduce the behavior. It is important to consider all positive interventions before considering punishment as an option, because punishment often makes behavior worse. Further, punishment does not address the function of the behavior; therefore, generalization of the punishments effect does not occur. Punishment may also engage the student (and possibly the teacher) in a revenge-seeking cycle or serve to increase avoidance behaviors. Finally, it is important to remember that a punishment option is only considered a punishment if it serves to reduce the targeted behavior.
When the decision has been made to introduce punishment as part of an intervention, the IEP team should develop a plan to use positive interventions concurrently with punishment and/or a timetable to return to using positive interventions as soon as possible. Use of punishment may necessitate the development of a crisis or emergency component to the behavioral intervention plan, as well.
Crisis/Emergency Component of a Behavioral Intervention Plan
In some cases, it may be necessary for the IEP team to develop a crisis/emergency plan to address a severe or dangerous situation. The plan would be a component of the students behavioral intervention plan. This component would still implement proactive and positive interventions to continue to teach the student alternative skills, even in the midst of a crisis or emergency. A crisis can be defined as a situation that requires an immediate, intrusive, or restrictive intervention to: 1) protect the student or others from serious injury; 2) safeguard physical property; and/or 3) deal with acute disturbance of the teaching/learning process.
We recommend that teams spell out the conditions under which a crisis/emergency plan can be used. This plan also should include frequent evaluations to limit the duration of any plan that does not produce positive changes in behavior and a schedule for phasing out the crisis/emergency plan. IEP teams also should carefully monitor the crisis/emergency plan and make sure it is in compliance with any district policies or procedures regarding the use of behavior reduction strategies. Crisis/emergency steps are appropriate only when less intrusive or restrictive interventions have been unsuccessful. As with all components of the behavior intervention plan, parental input and approval should be obtained before setting up the crisis/emergency plan (see Appendix D for a sample crisis/emergency plan).
If a crisis/emergency plan is introduced, steps should be taken to minimize and control the amount of time necessary to manage the behavior. The crisis/emergency interventions should be replaced with less intrusive and intensive intervention options as soon as possible. Parents, guardians, and school personnel should be notified regarding any incident that requires the use of the emergency plan. A thorough evaluation should be part of the plan so that the team can assess both the impact and possible negative spill-over effects of the emergency plan. Finally, following an incident, the team should write an emergency/crisis report that includes ways to prevent future occurrences of the behavior.
As IEP team members consider all of these elements of a behavioral intervention plan (i.e., strategies to address different functions of behavior, skill and performance deficits, interventions and supports, reinforcement, and special considerations) we remind you to refer to the sample forms included in the Appendices.
8. Monitor Faithfulness of Implementation of the PlanIt is good practice for the IEP team to include two evaluation procedures. One evaluation plan should be designed to monitor the faithfulness of the implementation of the plan. In other words, the team should determine a way to monitor the consistency and accuracy with which the intervention plan is implemented. This will be easier if the team precisely spells out the various components of the intervention plan, along with the individuals responsible for implementing each component. A "self-check" or checklist can then be created to correspond with each component. Another option is to develop written scripts or lists that detail the responsibilities of each individual participating in implementation of the plan. The script might specify both verbal and non-verbal responses organized according to setting events, antecedent events, and consequent events. In either case, monitoring should occur about every three to five days to assess the faithfulness with which the plan is implemented.
9. Evaluate Effectiveness of the Behavioral Intervention PlanThe second evaluation procedure that should be developed by the IEP team is one that is sufficiently aligned with the function of the behavior to be used to accurately measure changes in the behavior of concern, itself. For example, the IEP team should measure the behavior (baseline) prior to starting the intervention. This is done through the direct observation stage of conducting a functional behavioral assessment. The team should then continue to measure the behavior (e.g., direct classroom observation of Charles disruptive acts) once the intervention has been implemented. These progress checks need not be as detailed as the initial functional behavioral assessment observations, but should be detailed enough to yield information that the IEP team can then use to begin to evaluate the impact of the intervention plan. The team does this by using the baseline information as a standard against which to judge subsequent changes in student behavior, measured through progress checks. Team members may see positive changes, negative changes, or no changes at all. Data on student behavior should be collected and analyzed about every two to three days; more complex or intrusive intervention plans may necessitate more frequent measurement.
When a severe problem behavior is resistant to change, complex, intrusive intervention packages may be required. The more complicated the intervention plan, the more likely that its impact will go beyond the behaviors the IEP team has identified for intervention. That is, the plan may have an effect on non-targeted behavior (e.g., it could "spill over" and reduce or eliminate other inappropriate or appropriate behaviors). For this reason, it may be necessary to collect information on non-targeted behavior (e.g., positive social interactions with classmates and adults; appropriate classroom behavior). Throughout this process, IEP teams must determine when reassessment will take place and specify the ultimate goal of the behavior change. Finally, it is important to remember that if a student already has a behavioral intervention plan, the IEP team may elect to simply review the plan and modify it.
10. Modify the Behavioral Intervention PlanThe 1997 Amendments to the IDEA state that a behavioral intervention plan should be considered when developing the IEP if a students behavior interferes with his or her learning or the learning of others. (For specific requirements, see the Federal Regulations34 CFR Parts 300 and 303.) To be meaningful, that plan must be reviewed at least annually; however, the plan may be reevaluated whenever any member of the students IEP team feels that a review is necessary. Circumstances that may warrant such a review include:
In the end, the process of functional behavioral assessment is complete only when the IEP team produces positive behavioral changes in student performance.
Obstacles to Effective Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Plans and SupportsBefore concluding, we would like to share possible obstacles to the development and use of effective behavioral intervention plans and supports. One or more of these obstacles may sometimes require the attention of school personnel to enable the implementation of a positive behavioral intervention plan and supports.
1. Too vague a definition of the behavior(s) of concern.
2. Incomplete measurement/data collection regarding the behavior(s) of concern and the interventions selected.
3. Incorrect interpretation of the functional assessment data collected by the IEP team or others.
4. Inappropriate intervention (e.g., too weak to deal with the complexity or magnitude of the behavior problem; not aligned with the assessment data).
5. Inconsistent or incorrect application of one or more parts of the intervention plan.
6. Failure to adequately monitor the implementation of the intervention plan or to adjust the intervention plan over time, as needed, based on on-going monitoring and evaluation, and to adequately evaluate the impact of the intervention plan.
7. Inadequate system-wide support to avoid future episodes of the behavior problem (e.g., too many initiatives or competing building-level priorities that may interfere with the time and commitment it takes to develop and implement behavioral intervention plans).
8. The behavior is an issue of tolerance rather than being something that distracts the student or others (e.g., a specific minor behavior, such as doodling).
9. Teachers lack skills and support necessary to teach behavioral skills.
10. Failure to consider environmental issues, cultural norms, or psychiatric issues/mental illness outside of the school/classroom environment that are impacting on the students behavior.
At a more basic level, IEP teams can be frustrated in attempts to conduct and interpret a functional behavioral assessment because of student absences due to illness, suspension, or expulsion; an inability to meet with key team members or parents; school holidays or school cancellation due to bad weather; and so on.
We encourage IEP teams and other school personnel to keep these factors in mind when grappling with the sometimes time-consuming and often complex problem-solving process of conducting a functional behavioral assessment and developing a positive behavioral intervention plan and supports. Finally, IEP Teams should keep in mind that differences in behavior may exist that relate to gender, ethnicity, language, or acculturation.
Throughout this series on functional behavioral assessment and positive behavior intervention plans, we have emphasized that IEP teams should develop multi-step programs that capitalize on existing skills and the idea that knowledge of the functions causing the original misbehavior can shape more appropriate, alternative behavior. In that way, emphasis is on building new skills rather than on simply eliminating student misbehavior. Again, it is important to understand that the problem behavior may have "worked" very well for the student for some time. For this reason, IEP team members must exercise patience in implementing behavioral intervention plans and supports.
ConclusionAcross the country, school personnel are working to better understand the exact conditions under which to implement the various provisions of the 1997 Amendments to the IDEA. Educators and others are looking for ways to transform a process of proven clinical success into quality practices that can be realistically and effectively applied in classroom situations. More and more IEP teams are developing intervention plans that are both effective and efficient in producing positive behavior changes for students with (and without) disabilities. Many times, these interventions flow from either an informal or formal functional assessment of the behavior. At the same time, school personnel are exploring ways to promote long-term classroom and building-level changes that increase the range of academic and behavioral supports for students. In some cases, this means changing both the structure and the culture of schools to accommodate a conceptual framework built upon positive student supports.
As we have discussed, the persons responsible for conducting the functional behavioral assessment may vary from district to district, team to team, and student to student. Some, but not all, behavioral assessment procedures may require persons with extensive prior training and experience. Regardless of who is responsible, we believe that schools should adopt a "best practices" approach to the process of functional behavioral assessment. That means school personnel should seek ways to address minor problems before they escalate and become major behavioral challenges. In contrast to simply attempting to suppress the problem behavior, positive behavioral intervention plans allow school personnel not only to eliminate inappropriate behaviors, but also to encourage appropriate, alternative behaviors so that the student can benefit the most from classroom instruction. School personnel can also address minor behavior problems before they become so persistent or severe that formal action is required. In taking this approach, schools can provide all students with the necessary academic and behavioral supports to be successful in school and beyond.
Additional Information on Functional Behavioral Assessment and Positive Behavior Intervention Plans
The following references served as the basis for this monograph and represent useful sources of additional information on functional behavioral assessment and positive behavior intervention plans and supports.
Alberto, P.A., & Troutman, A.C. (1998). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.
Bambara, L.M., & Knoster, T.P. (1995). Effective behavioral support. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Carr, E.G., & Durand, V.M. (1985). Reducing behavior problems through functional communication training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 111-126.
Colvin, G., Sugai, G.M., & Kameenui, E. (1993). Reconceptualizing behavior management and school-wide discipline in general education. Education and Treatment of Children, 16, 361-381.
Conroy, M.A., Clark, D., Gable, R.A., & Fox, J. J. (1999). Building competency in the use of functional behavioral assessment. Preventing School Failure, 43, 140-144.
Conroy, M.A., Clark, D., Gable, R.A., & Fox, J.J. (1999). A look at IDEA 1997 discipline provisions: Implications for change in the roles and responsibilities of school personnel. Preventing School Failure, 43, 64-70.
Donnellan, A.M., Mirenda, P.L, Mesaros, R.A., & Fassbender, L.L. (1984). Analyzing the communicative functions of aberrant behavior. Journal of The Association of Persons with Severe Handicaps, 9, 201-212.
Dunlap, G., Kern, L., dePerczel, M., Clarke, S., Wilson, D., Childs, K.E., White, R., & Falk, G.D. (1993). Functional analysis of classroom variables for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 18, 275-291.
Durand. V.M. (1990). Severe behavior problems: A functional communication training approach. New York: Guilford.
ERIC/OSEP Special Project. Positive behavioral support. (1999). Research Connections in Special Education. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, 4, 1-8.
ERIC/OSEP Special Project. School-wide behavior management systems. (1997). Research Connections in Special Education. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, 1, 1-8.
Fox, J.J., Vaughn, K., Bush, M., Byous, M., Orso, M., & Smith, S. (1998). Translating the IEP into practice: Ensuring positive educational outcomes for students with emotional and behavioral disorders in the area of conduct and social skills. In L. M. Bullock & R. A. Gable (Eds.), Implementing the 1997 IDEA: New challenges and opportunities for serving students with emotional/behavioral disorders (pp. 7-15). Reston, VA: Council for Children with Behavior Disorders.
Gable, R.A. (1996). A critical analysis of functional assessment: Issues for researchers and practitioners. Behavioral Disorders, 22, 36-40.
Gable, R.A., Quinn, M.M., Rutherford, R.B., & Howell, K.W. (1998). Addressing problem behavior in schools: Functional behavioral assessment and behavioral intervention plans. Preventing School Failure, 42, 106-119.
Gable, R.A., Quinn, M.M., Rutherford, R.B., Howell, K.W., & Hoffman, C.C. (1999). Addressing student problem behaviorPart II: Conducting a functional behavioral assessment (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, American Institutes for Research.
Gable, R.A., Sugai, G.M., Lewis, T.J., Nelson, J.R., Cheney, D., Safran, S.P., & Safran, J.S. (1998). Individual and systemic approaches to collaboration and consultation. Reston. VA: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders.
Gresham, F.M. (1985). Behavior disorders assessment: Conceptual, definitional, and practical considerations. School Psychology Review, 14, 495-509.
Gresham, F.M. (1991). Whatever happened to functional analysis in behavioral consultation? Journal of Educational Psychological Consultation, 2, 387-392.
Howell, K. W., & Nolet, V. (2000). Curriculum based evaluation for special and remedial education (3rd ed.). Atlanta, GA: Wadsworth.
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Korinek, L., & Popp, P.A. (1997). Collaborative mainstream integration of social skills with academic instruction. Preventing School Failure, 41, 148-152.
Knoster, T., & Llewellyn, G.C. (1997). Screening for an understanding of student problem behavior: An initial line of inquiry. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Department of Education, Instructional Support System of Pennsylvania.
Lawry, J.R., Storey, K., & Danko, C.D. (1993). Analyzing behavior problems in the classroom: A case study of functional analysis. Intervention in the School and Clinic, 29, 96-100.
Lewis, T.J., Scott, T.M., & Sugai, G.M. (1994). The problem behavior questionnaire: A teacher-based instrument to develop functional hypotheses of problem behavior in general education classrooms. Dianostique, 19, 103-115.
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Quinn, M.M., Gable, R.A., Rutherford, R.B., Nelson, C.M., & Howell, K.W. (1998). Addressing student problem behavior: An IEP teams introduction to functional behavioral assessment and behavioral intervention plans (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, American Institutes for Research.
Quinn, M.M., Jannasch-Pennell, A., & Rutherford, R. B. (1995). Using peers as social skills training agents for students with antisocial behavior: A cooperative learning approach. Preventing School Failure, 39, 26-31.
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Yell, M.L., & Shiner, J.G. (1997). The IDEA amendments of 1997: Implications for special and general education teachers, administrators, and teacher trainers. Focus on Exceptional Children, 30, 1-20.
OTHER AVAILABLE RESOURCES
The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice has produced additional materials on improving services for children and youth with emotional and behavioral problems. Most of our products are free of charge and available by contacting the Center, except where otherwise indicated. These and other related Center documents are also available on our web site, and we encourage you to download them and make and distribute copies.
The fourth document in this seriesAddressing Student Problem BehaviorPart IV: A Trainer of Trainers Guideis forthcoming.