Guest Author - Kristie Melkers
1. Behavior = Communication. When persistent, undesirable behaviors are occurring, it can be helpful to use this simple statement as a mantra, allowing yourself first to center and organize as you seek to better understand how to help the student find resolution to whatever the unmet need might be that he or she is attempting to communicate.
2. PBS is research-based and considered to be best practice. Know and trust the effectiveness of Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS). Whether you are a parent or an educator, take the time to learn more about PBS. Think about the student's strengths and needs, possible sources of frustration caused by the way curriculum is presented, the presence of environmental triggers, and the student's current level of health and wellness. Reach out to collaborate with the student’s parents and other staff to identify and develop appropriate behavioral supports.
3. Before strategizing, first seek to understand. A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) provides valuable insights and data that leads to identifying effective interventions. A good FBA incorporates a team approach (staff and parents) to conducting a comprehensive evaluation that is accomplished across multiple environments over an appropriate period of time, and seeks to answer many questions related to the behavior. The following questions are just a few that are commonly answered by a functional behavioral assessment:
• What activity is the student engaging in when the behavior occurs?
• What preliminary, subtle signs does the student demonstrate to show that frustration is building?
• What activity preceded the current one?
• What environmental factors are present just prior to and while the behavior occurs?
• What is the student seeking to achieve by demonstrating the behavior? In other words, what is the function of the behavior?
• Who is present when the behavior occurs?
• Where and when does the behavior occur?
• What is the overall health and wellness of the student?
• What relevent family or social considerations may be a factor, if any?
Currently, there is no federal requirement mandating that functional behavioral assessments be conducted according to any one particular protocol. Find out what your school or district has in place to serve this purpose. Many districts are currently training staff on conducting FBAs. Some districts contract with consultants who are qualified to supervise the administration of the assessment. No matter how a school or district chooses to implement the assessment, the collected information needs to be objective and measurable so that it provides the most accurate information possible as the team sets out to develop the strategies that will aid the student in decreasing undesirable behaviors and learn to replace them with new, acceptable ones.
4. A Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) uses the information derived from the functional behavioral assessment to arrive at sound strategies to assist in resolving behavior issues. These strategies ensure, in part, that when undesirable behaviors occur, that they are not inadvertently being reinforced by an ineffective response from the staff or the parents. These strategies are communicated to all staff and to the family for the purpose of increasing the consistency of their implementation. Considerations are also made to identify modifications and accomodations that will alleviate the student’s sensitivity to environmental conditions, curriculum, classroom management styles, etc.
5. Consistency is key to the success of the behavior intervention plan. It is often said that a poorly implemented behavior plan can be worse than not having done one at all. Everyone must give their best effort to generate the energy and focus necessary to implement the behavior plan so that it is possible to meet the student’s needs. When the plan is well-implemented, the end result is that not only does the individul student benefit from PBS, the whole classroom begins to benefit as well, because over time, solid behavioral supports commonly become generalized to the entire classroom.
6. After an agreed-upon period of time, the team can reconvene to analyze collected data regarding the behavior plan. This data will eventually reveal the appropriateness of the behavior plan or indicate if modifications should be made. Simple charts can be created to track the student’s responsiveness to the behavior plan. Sound data collection is vital to the effectiveness of this document.
7. Share what you learn with your peers or with other families. This allows for rapid communication of effective practices that can assist others who might be experiencing similar challenges. Teams often express gratitude at the opportunity to use the team approach in arriving at meaningful solutions that make a real difference for children.
8. Disabilities carry with them inherent difficulties in certain aspects of students’ daily living. These difficulties may or may not lessen or resolve over time, but positive behavioral supports can be the ever-present foundation from which students derive a sense of stability, safety, reliability, and trust during times of stress. For parents and educators alike, the ability to offer these things to any student is an empowering realization and a strong motivator for becoming more knowledgeable about the best practice known as PBS.
For further information, please visit www.pbis.org .