Behavior Plans for Students with Special Needs

Posted By Tom Blessing || 29-Dec-2017

If your child has special needs and attends public school, he should have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Assuming he’s had a good educational evaluation and if it’s written correctly, his IEP should address all of his identified areas of need: academic, social, behavioral and functional. But if his behavior is interfering with learning or getting him into trouble at school, having an IEP may not be enough. He may also benefit from having a written document kept on file with the school that addresses problem behaviors he’s having and provides staff with guidelines for dealing with them. You might want to consider getting a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) for your child. Almost every student I represent engages in challenging, disruptive and sometimes violent behaviors at school. They either don’t have a BIP or the BIP which was created by the school isn’t working. Sometimes the school has tried multiple BIPs and all of them have failed.

Before an effective BIP can be developed for your child, a qualified professional has got to determine the purpose or function of the behavior: why your child is behaving a certain way. This is done with what’s called a Functional Behavioral Assessment, or FBA. An FBA is simply a series of observations of your child in the different settings where (and when) the behaviors have occurred: the classroom, cafeteria, school bus or transitions. It can be done by a psychologist or by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and entails data collection, interviewing teachers and parents and observing the student with the goal of identifying the cause of or reason for the undesirable behavior.

If you think your child needs a behavior plan (BIP), you should ask the school to conduct an FBA. Be sure and put your request in writing. The school should ask you to sign a consent form allowing its staff (usually a school psychologist or a behavior specialist) to observe your child in the school setting. If the school refuses or ignores your request, contact an Indiana special education attorney.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the circumstances under which a public school should conduct an FBA are not clearly defined. There are three different provisions of IDEA which require or contemplate schools conducting an FBA. The first is the general provision on educational evaluation procedures, which does not expressly mention FBAs but requires schools to “use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child,” “use technically sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors” and to assess students “in all areas related to the suspected disability.”

The second part of IDEA which clearly contemplates public schools conducting an FBA is in the rules for evaluating students for a specific learning disability (SLD): “the public agency must ensure that the child is observed in the child’s learning environment (including the regular classroom setting) to document the child’s academic performance and behavior in the areas of difficulty.”

One area where IDEA expressly requires public schools to complete an FBA is when the student is removed from school for disciplinary reasons (suspended, expelled or placed in an alternative setting) for more than 10 school days—what IDEA calls a disciplinary change in placement.

Once the FBA is completed, the evaluator and IEP team (case conference committee) can develop a BIP for the student. When a student’s “behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others,” IDEA requires public schools to consider the use of “positive behavioral interventions” and supports as part of his IEP. In other words, a BIP. There’s an element of trial-and-error to any BIP; the first draft of a BIP usually requires revisions over time as the staff implement and “tweak” it. There’s no such thing as writing a good BIP—only re-writing one. It is essential that parents and school staff be trained on the BIP so that it can be followed in different settings, including the student’s home. This involves putting the student in situations (contrived, if necessary) known to trigger a behavior while being observed by the evaluator so the parents and staff can learn how to implement the BIP to address it.

Although it is a time-consuming process, getting an FBA and BIP for your child can help ensure that your child’s behaviors are addressed in a constructive way which keeps everyone safe. Feel free to email or call me for a free consultation.

Get the legal help you need now!

Start with a consultation with our lawyers.

Send My Message