Welcome to a new series here on the blog-The ABCs of IEPs. Each day we will be picking a new topic in special education to go with the letter of the alphabet, and explaining it further to help you better advocate at IEP time. Even better is that I have some really great guest contributors lined up to do some guest posting on these topics. Today is B for Behavior!
Behavioral Issues in School
If your student has behavioral challenges that are impacting his learning or that of his peers, then it is considered best practice for the district to complete a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA). It’s important for parents and educators to understand the basics of the student’s behavior before arriving at a plan on how to handle it.
A – Antecedent – anything that occurs before the target behavior
Fast triggers – the event that a occurred just before the target behavior
Slow triggers – the event that occurred some time in the past
B – Behavior – the undesirable (target) behavior that needs to be modified
Must be operationally defined in observable (can you see it?) and measurable (can you count it?) terms
C – Consequence – any event that occurs after the target behavior
Reinforcing – a consequence that increases the likelihood that the behavior will repeat itself
Punishing – a consequence that decreases the likelihood that a behavior will repeat itself
Form – What does the behavior look like? Must be defined in observable (can you see it?), measurable (can you count it?) terms
Function – What purpose does the behavior serve?
Nearly all behaviors fall into one or more categories when determining the function (1) to gain or obtain something desirable or (2) to avoid or delay something undesirable.
Once we know the function of the target behavior, we need to identify a replacement behavior that is as effective and as efficient as the target behavior
In order to determine a behavior’s function, it may be necessary to have a FBA completed. There are three levels of FBA.
- Informal – may include record review and interview with key team members
- Indirect – may include record review, interview with key team members, behavior checklists and a brief observation
- Complex – will include record review, interview with key team members, behavior checklists, a structured, extensive observation across settings and time periods, sophisticated data collection systems and analysis of behavioral data
A FBA is a process that will be completed over a period of several weeks. Steps include:
- Indirect data collection
- Record review
- Interview with parents, support staff, individual
- Define and prioritize behavior
- Direct observation and data collection
- Analyze the data
- Develop hypothesis
- Design a support plan and test hypothesis
- Monitor and evaluate
There are several options when choosing a person who should complete the FBA
- School district behaviorist
- Behavioral health professional/agency with whom your student’s district contracts
- Independent evaluator
Whomever completes the assessment, be sure that they (1) have experience conducting FBA, (2) they have been properly trained and certified, (3) they have experience with the behavior challenges/diagnosis of your child.
Once the FBA has been completed, the next step is to develop a Positive Behavior Support Plan
- Determine who is going to be collecting data
- How frequently? (hourly, daily, weekly)
- What measurement will be used? (frequency, duration, latency, intensity)
- What tracking tool will be used? (find the tool that will effectively capture the data)
- Have the data collectors been properly trained?
- Do all data collectors have the same understanding of what the target and replacement behaviors look like?
When determining what reward will be used to reinforce replacement behavior, consider:
- Quality – is the reward meaningful to the individual?
- Quantity – how little can be delivered in order to gain the desired effect?
- Immediacy – how soon after the desired behavior is demonstrated do we offer the reward
- Satiation – be careful that the individual doesn’t “get their fill” of the reward and it loses its potency
- Fading – be sure that the individual doesn’t become too dependent on the reward and only perform the desired behavior as long as he receives the reward
Many students have very large and supportive school teams. It’s important to determine who will be responsible for each aspect of the positive behavior support plan. Consider:
- Who will be enforcing the limits?
- Do all support staff/team members have the same expectations for what behavior is being targeted?
- Are all support staff/team members consistently enforcing the limits?
- Are all support staff/team members being proactive and respectful of the individual?
- What are the norms for the target environment?
ALWAYS pair limit setting with a replacement behavior. What are you trying to teach as the alternative?
Be sure the interventions are simple and doable for those enforcing the strategies.
If the FBA yielded results to confirm that a student’s behavior is negatively impacting his learning or that of his peers, then a Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP) should follow. The PBSP will become part of the IEP. As part of the IEP, the IEP team is then obligated to implement it and to record data on the behavioral goals. To this end, there must be a behavioral goal that is clearly defined and measurable. A measurable goal will include three key components.
- Condition – describes the setting or environment in which the individual will perform the desired behavior
- Behavior – describes the desirable replacement behavior to be demonstrated in clearly defined terms
- Criteria – describes how the replacement behavior will be measured so that we can determine when the goal has been met
E.g., (Condition) When Lydia is invited to play at recess by at least one peer, (behavior) she will accept and engage in a mutually agreed upon activity (criteria) for a minimum of five minutes in 8 out of 10 opportunities for four consecutive weeks with less than two prompts from supporting adults.
The PBSP may not cover all probable behaviors. We cannot possibly predict and plan for EVERY behavior. To address issues that may exceed the limits of the PBSP, the team may need to develop a Crisis Plan. The crisis plan should be included to cover those more intensive (severe and dangerous) behaviors for which the PBSP didn’t address. It should include the school’s general protocol that addresses how unsafe and severe behaviors would be handled for any student. It should also include strategies that are specific for your student and include strategies to employ before, during and after the crisis occurs.
Staci McCullough, MS, LBS
Founder, ACT of PA, LLC
~Advocacy, Consulting, Training~
Serving Berks, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery Counties
Staci has worked in the behavioral health field for 15 years. In 2014, she shifted her focus on supporting families to become a special education advocate. In this manner, she continues to use her extensive knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD and other behavioral challenges to assist parents as they navigate the world of special education, 504 plans and IEPs. Staci has a master’s degree in counseling psychology with a specialization in child and adolescent therapy and is certified by the Bureau of Autism Services as a trainer in Functional Behavioral Assessments. She lives in Montgomery County with her husband and two school aged sons.