Behavior Assessment, Plans, and Positive Supports

Conceptual image of closeup male face, with gears turning.

What’s the student trying to communicate with his or her behavior?

Revised, December 2009
Links updated, July 2015
A legacy resource from NICHCY

Why is a student exhibiting challenging behavior? Behavioral assessments can help you answer that question. They also are helpful in developing a behavioral intervention plan that reduces problem behavior, including positive behavior supports.  The CPIR is pleased to focus this page in the Behavior Suite on these three elements:  conducting behavioral assessments, developing behavior plans, and providing positive behavior supports.  The resources we’ve listed below aren’t exhaustive of all those available, but they will certainly get you started and connect you with lots of other useful information.


Behavior as Communication

Why does my kid do that?
This document helps you find the reasons behind misbehavior in children.

What does defiant behavior mean?
PBS offers many resources for parents of children with disabilities, including this series of web pages called Challenging Behavior in Children.

Behavior serves a purpose.
The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice (CECP) offers a number of family briefs on behavior, but if you want to know more about how behavior is a form of communication and why some children choose inappropriate behaviors as a way of communicating, try CECP’s brief called Functional Communication Training to Promote Positive Behavior. A natural follow-up is CECP’s brief called Planned Ignoring as an Intervention Strategy for Parents and Family Members.

What are children trying to tell us?
What Works briefs from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning summarize effective practices for supporting children’s social-emotional development and preventing challenging behaviors. This 4-pager talks about functional behavior assessment and how it’s used to figure out the purpose or function of a child’s problem behavior–in effect, what the child is trying to say.

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Is this behavior normal, a phase, a development issue, or something more serious?
Family members and teachers may see a range of behaviors out of children and still not be sure if a particular behavior they’re seeing indicates a childhood behavior disorder. Visit Medline Plus’ page, which connects with various resources to help you decide, including Development and Behavior; You and Your Child’s Behavior; Children’s Threats: When Are They Serious?; and specific aspects of behavior, such as aggresion; children who won’t go to school; conduct disorders; fighting and biting; helping the child who is expressing anger; and know when to seek help for your child.

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Behavior Assessment

So what exactly is a Functional Behavioral Assessment?
This page answers the basic questions of “FBA: What is it?” It covers how to conduct and FBA, and how to use the results to create a positive behavioral intervention plan and supports. The information is broken down into digestible sizes and is easy to read and consume.

Details about the process involved in FBA.
This 6-page newsletter defines the process of FBA. It gives clear descriptions and specific examples. A great, reader-friendly overview!

Training modules: FBA and behavior support plans.
Need to train others about how to conduct an FBA and write the subsequent behavior plan? Check out this 7-module suite, which comes with trainers’ manual, videos, tools, and more. Modules include: Defining And Understanding  Behavior;  Interviewing;  Observing; Critical Features;  Selecting Function-Based Interventions;  Implementation and Evaluation; and Leading a BSP Team.

Here’s another reader-friendly overview.
An 8-page brief for parents on functional behavioral assessment and positive behavioral interventions.

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FBA: What, why, when, where, and who?
From Wrightslaw.

Functional analysis of behavior: A review of the research.
This research review was originally published in Applied Behavior Analysis in Summer 2003.

What is “Multimodal Behavior Analysis”?
The Duquesne University School Psychology Program provides a thorough description of the process of conducting an FBA and writing a behavior intervention plan.

What do they mean by “strength based assessment”?
This method of assessment empowers child by building on their personal strengths and resources, rather than focuses on their problems.

The IEP team is definitely involved!
The IEP team might find these two resources helpful in understanding FBA and what comes next:

An IEP Team’s Introduction To Functional Behavioral Assessment And Behavior Intervention Plans

Conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment

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Behavior Intervention Plans

How do you go about developing a behavioral intervention plan?
This article explains the requirements of the IDEA regarding addressing problem behavior. It provides a step-by-step guide to conducting a functional behavioral analysis, and writing a behavior plan.

Writing the plan for school involves the IEP team.
The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice (CECP) offers a number of family briefs on behavior. Two were mentioned above under “Behavior as Communication.” If you’d like to know more about how to write a BIP, read CECP’s Behavioral Planning Meetings, which describes what BIPs are and how parents and the school system work together to write one.

Suppose the IEP team doesn’t know much about behavior, FBA, or BIPs?
If the IEP team isn’t real sure how to address a student’s problem behavior, then members might find these CECP resources helpful:

Addressing Student Problem Behavior, Part I: An IEP Team’s Introduction to Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans.

Creating Positive Behavioral Intervention Plans and Supports

How about examples of BIPs for children with specific disabilities?
This landing page tells you, bullet-fashion, why to write a BIP for a child, when, and how, and then connects you with many examples of BIPs for students with specific kinds of disabilities. A rich resource.

More examples, you say?
Here’s another place to look for example BIPs for children with: ADHD, Asperger syndrome, autism, bipolar disorder, fetal alcohol effects. LD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Positive Behavior Support

What exactly is Positive Behavior Support?
There’s no one better to ask than the PBIS Center funded by OSEP. There’s so much info on this site, you may never be seen again!

What are the components of behavioral support?
This site offers information on a 3-tier model of behavior support: (1) school-wide, (2) small group, and (3) individual. It gives information on what all students need to be successful.

Positive behavioral interventions and supports.
This article from LDOnline explains why PBIS is important and outlines key principles of practice.

More about PBS and its individualized approach to managing challenging behavior.
This What Works brief from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning summarizes PBS and talks about how it works, factors that will limit its effectiveness, and whether it’s really just “giving in” to the child.

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Tips for parents: How to get behavior supports into the IEP.
This guide, a collaboration between the Beach Center on Disabilities and the Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, contains a wealth of suggestions for parents.

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Yet More Resources

There’s a center focusing exclusively on PBIS.
The Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to provide information, training, support, and guidance to the nation on addressing behavior problems in research-based and effective ways. They offer information in English and in Spanish.

Check out this one-stop-shop on behavior!
This site has info for both families and teachers on FBAs, behavior intervention plans, bullying, and discipline issues.

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Would you like to visit another page in the Behavior Suite?

If so, use the links below to get there quick!