Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Does My Child Need a Behavioral Intervention Plan?

By Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy and Affairs
The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Updated October 28, 2008

In determining whether or not a child’s behavior warrants an intervention plan, consideration should be given to the following factors:

1. Is the behavior interfering with the child’s or other children’s ability to learn?

If the behavior is interfering with the child's or other children's ability to learn then a behavioral intervention plan should be developed to replace/modify the inappropriate behavior. If the behavior is merely annoying, but not disruptive, then the problem is not the child's - but those bothered by the behavior - and should not be replaced/modified.

2. Is the behavior dangerous to the child or to others?

Any time a behavior is dangerous to the child or to others, the behavior needs to be addressed, no matter how frequently or infrequently the child engages in such behavior. Since all behavior serves a function, it is crucial to identify what function (or purpose) such a behavior serves so that replacement/modification strategies can be put into place to protect the child and others.

3. Can the behavior be modified by applying consequences?

If the child is not motivated to change their behavior when consequences are enforced, then a behavior plan based solely on consequences will not be effective.

4. Can the child engage in a desired behavior consistently?

If the child is unable to consistently engage in a desired behavior, observations should be conducted and information should be gathered to determine why the behavior is inconsistent. A plan should then be put into place to help positively reinforce desired behaviors. If a plan is already in place, but the behaviors are still inconsistent, the following questions should be answered: Is the behavior plan being applied consistently; do expectations need to be scaled back to reinforce the desired behavior; and, since new habits are typically formed in approximately twenty-one days, does the child simply need more time to learn or adjust to the replacement/modified behavior?

5. Can the behavior plan or interventions be implemented consistently?

Children with disabilities often have a variety of needs that can only be met through therapies, trainings, or other interventions. Since "behaviors" can occur virtually anywhere at any time, it is imperative that ALL STAFF involved in your child's education be able and willing to consistently apply your child's intervention plan. If for some reason an intervention that is practical and works in one setting, but is not practical to use in another, alternate interventions - that are used consistently - should be developed. Otherwise, your child's progress - and improvement - could be derailed.

6. Has the child been thoroughly assessed for other disabilities?

What some educators see as willful non-compliance could simply be a misunderstanding. By this I mean that some children may have an undiagnosed language/processing disorder that is preventing them from complying with or behaving in a certain way. They simply may not understand what is being asked of them or may need more time to process the information they are receiving. A neuropsychological evaluation and language-based evaluation should be conducted to rule out any previously undiagnosed disabilities that could be contributing to undesired behaviors before any plan is put into place.

7. Is there a skill deficit or sensory intolerance/dysfunction that could be contributing to behaviors?

As was mentioned above, a skill deficit or sensory intolerence/dysfunction could be contributing to a child's behaviors. Evaluations and assessments should be conducted to rule out any previously undiagnosed deficits and/or sensory intolerences/dysfunctions.

8. Are accommodations, therapies, or other interventions already in place?

If accommodations, therapies, or other interventions are not already in place, and the behaviors are not dangerous to the child or others, the IEP team should determine whether putting accomodations, therapies, in place would help reduce/eliminate undesirable behaviors.

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