Boy covering face sitting backwards in his classroom chair

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

Links updated, November 2017

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.  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.
Why function or purpose does a student’s inappropriate behavior serve? There are generally six common purposes (such as to obtain a preferred item or activity). How do you discover which purpose is motivating the student’s behavior? Have a look at this article that also discusses ABC–antecedent, behavior, consequence.

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? (Resources in Spanish)
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 in English and Spanish 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 aggression; 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

Functional assessment: What it is and how it works.
This article from includes discussing who should be on the team that conducts a functional behavioral assessment of a student, the steps involved in an FBA, and the role of the parents. It’s also available in Spanish.

What is a functional behavioral assessment? Overview for parents.
A 3-page brief for parents on functional behavioral assessment.

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

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 children by building on their personal strengths and resources, rather than focuses on their problems.

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.

Lots of training modules for professionals at the IRIS Center.
The IRIS Center offers many different training modules on behavior management, intended for educators but useful to all those seeking to learn more about this important subject. Check out three in particular for starters:

Functional Behavioral Assessment: Identifying the Reasons for Problem Behavior and Developing a Behavior Plan

Addressing Disruptive and Noncompliant Behaviors (Part 1): Understanding the Acting-Out Cycle

Addressing Disruptive and Noncompliant Behaviors (Part 2): Behavioral Interventions

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Behavior Intervention Plans

Also see resources listed above under “Functional Behavioral Assessment.” Many include discussion of creating behavior intervention plans based on the results of the FBA.

Behavior intervention plans: What you need to know.
This article from explains what BIPs are, describes several behavior interventions as examples, and and includes “key takeaways.” Also available in Spanish.

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.

Dear Colleague Letter from OSEP | Behavior supports in the IEP.
OSEP issued guidance on including behavior supports in the IEPs of students whose behavior was a concern. Hear all about it in CPIR’s webinar and connect with multiple resources that can help.

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!