Thursday, October 22, 2009

FAQ regarding Behavior Support Plans

What is a behavior plan and when do our students need it? We asked Joel Vidovic, MDUSD Educational Consultant and Behavior Management Specialist.

What is a Behavior Support Plan?
A Behavior Support Plan (BSP) is a formatted document that specifies all of the strategies that the IEP team members have identified as necessary to address behavior that is impeding the learning of the individual or their peers (i.e. the student is doing something too often, the student is not doing something enough, or the student is doing something other than what they should be doing). In the BSP, the IEP team identifies why they believe a student is engaging in the problematic behaviors and how the environment should be changed to support a behavior change. Once created, the BSP is attached to the student’s IEP and is viewed as a supplementary support to maintain enrollment in the Least Restrictive Environment.

How can a parent tell if their child would benefit from a BSP?
The decision regarding whether or not a BSP is appropriate for a student is made when the IEP team answers the question of whether or not the student’s behavior is impeding learning (their own or that of their peers). If the IEP team does not feel that the student’s behavior is impeding learning, then no additional steps need to be taken. However, if the IEP determines that the behavior IS impeding learning, then the IEP team moves to examine several additional factors prior to developing an individualized BSP. The first step is to identify whether or not the classroom is utilizing a class-wide behavior management system. Class-wide behavior management systems can often curb the need for a more intensive individualized plan and serve to improve the behavior of the students in the classroom as a whole. The second step is to examine whether or not the classroom is implementing evidence-based instructional practices. Evidence-based instructional practices can often improve behavior class-wide and decrease the need for an individualized behavior support plan. These options should be considered prior to developing an individualized BSP because they are consistent with the federal mandate to provide instruction in the Least Restrictive Environment. If the classroom is utilizing class-wide behavior management systems and evidence-based instructional practices with fidelity, and the behavior of the student is still impeding learning, then the team should develop an individualized BSP to help support the student.

Who completes a BSP and how do they decide what goes into it?
BSP’s are typically developed by members of the student’s IEP team. School psychologists are often contacted first to support the development of a BSP with the student’s IEP team. Occasionally, when behaviors are deemed of a serious nature (i.e. behaviors that are assaultive, self-injurious, result in serious property damage, or other pervasive maladaptive behavior) then someone with formal training in behavior analysis should become involved in the development of the BSP. In Mt. Diablo Unified, the Educational Consultants and Behavior Management Specialists are all Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA’s) and they are well-equipped to assist in the development of a support plan for serious behaviors.

When the IEP team develops a BSP for a student, the first step is to identify the function of the problematic behavior or “why” the student is engaging in the behavior of concern. Once they identify the function of the behavior, the next step is to identify the type of behavior that the IEP team would rather see the student exhibit. This behavior should be one that will meet the same need for the student that the inappropriate behavior currently meets. This behavior is referred to as a Functionally Equivalent Replacement Behavior (FERB). At this point, it is important to identify whether or not the FERB is a behavior that the student is currently capable of demonstrating or whether specific instruction must occur to teach the student how to engage in the FERB. Next, a well-written BSP outlines the specific reinforcement procedures (i.e. ways for the student to access the outcome that were the result of the problem behavior) are outlined in the BSP to support the student’s use of more appropriate behavior. Finally, the BSP should include specification of agreed upon reactive procedures for instructional staff to follow should the student engage in the problematic behavior again.

Who implements the BSP?

The BSP is implemented by relevant members of the student’s IEP team. This may include the student’s teacher, the site principal, support staff, and/or parents of the student.

How do we decide if the BSP is working?
Regular progress monitoring should occur once a BSP is included in a student’s IEP. The IEP team determines if the BSP is working based on the impact that the plan has on the student’s behavior. A well-written BSP will include operationally-defined behaviors that are readily subject to direct-observation measurement. IEP teams should avoid writing BSP’s for behaviors that are not observable.

What is the next step if the BSP is working or not working?
If the BSP is working, the next step is to begin identifying a plan for systematically fading the supports. If the BSP is not working, the IEP team should meet to discuss next steps. At this point in time, the IEP team may need to consider several options ranging from a revision to the BSP with the support of someone with formal training in behavior analysis or a discussion of whether or not the student would benefit from a change in placement.
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