Designing and Implementing Effective and Efficient Behavior Intervention Plans (page 3)
You now are familiar with the student's strengths and interests and have a good hypothesis about which setting events, triggering antecedents, and maintaining consequences are contributing to the problem behavior or why it is occurring. You are now ready for the final three steps of the process: designing a behavior intervention plan based on this information, testing and confirming the functional behavioral assessment hypothesis by determining whether the behavior improved, and monitoring the behavior plan over time and adjusting it as needed.
Step 4: Design a Behavior Intervention Plan Based on the Functional Behavioral Assessment
A behavior intervention plan has these essential components:
- A definition of the acceptable or desired replacement behavior that serves the same or similar function as the problem behavior and other important target behaviors—that is, what you want the student to do instead
- A plan for directly teaching these behaviors
- Prevention strategies that remove or modify the influence of each identified setting event and triggering antecedent or provide additional support
- Planned, systematic reinforcement for the student when he or she exhibits the desired behaviors
- Logical undesirable consequences for the student if he or she continues to exhibit the problem behavior
All of these components should sound familiar: they provided the framework for and are focused on in detail in the previous chapters. Now the goal is to organize them into a written, usable framework. Reproducible 10 provides a template for creating behavior intervention plans.
Step Five: Monitor and Adjust the Behavior Intervention Plan as Needed
This step involves collecting data on levels of the problem and/or replacement behavior over time and comparing them to baseline levels in order to confirm the hypothesis about the function(s) the problem behavior is serving. This process of confirming the hypothesis is much more complex in school settings than in clinical settings, because variables are constantly changing and therefore problem behaviors and their functions can also change. Too often, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) team meets once a year, develops the behavior intervention plan, and then does not review it again until the next IEP cycle twelve months later. In order to test and confirm the hypothesis, the following two questions must be answered on a regular basis. (1) Was the plan implemented as written? (In clinical settings, this is referred to as fidelity.) (2) Did the plan result in an improvement in behavior (testing and confirming the initial hypothesis), and did this improvement continue over time (progress monitoring)?
Was the Plan Implemented as Written?
We recommend that all behavior intervention plans include a simple checklist of essential components to determine at approximately what level of fidelity it is being implemented. Many times such plans are well designed but fail to improve behavior because they are not adequately implemented. Potentially effective plans can be prematurely abandoned when this happens, resulting in the loss of a great deal of valuable time spent creating multiple plans when the true issue is lack of fidelity during implementation.
If the plan is overly detailed, it is impossible to follow with 100 percent fidelity, which means it is out of compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and will likely cause frustration for implementing team members. Consider this example: "Johnny will check in every morning with Mrs. Jones at 9: 00 and have access to his individualized reinforcement menu every two hours based on exhibiting his replacement behavior." This statement is pretty much impossible to implement as written all the time. What if Mrs. Jones is sick? What if there is a fire drill at 9: 00 and check-in doesn't happen until 9: 15? There must be enough flexibility so that teams can realistically stick to the plan while still being able to adjust it based on unforeseeable changes in routine. Amore workable plan would be: "Johnny will check in every morning with an available adult and have regular access to his individualized reinforcement menu throughout the school day based on exhibiting his replacement behavior."
If the team needs an extremely detailed document to make sure everyone is on the same page and provide accountability, write a teacher- and paraprofessional-friendly implementation plan and summarize it in the official and legally binding behavior intervention plan.
Did Behavior Improve, and Was This Improvement Maintained over Time?
Coming to an IEP meeting with everything marked "teacher judgment" simply does not work in this era of accountability. Decisions not based on objective data are often emotional and unreliable. We call this a "cardiac assessment": "I feel in my heart that he or she is doing better [or not doing better]." We would not make decisions about our health without objective data such as monitoring vital signs. In addition, it is impossible to make an objective and accurate judgment about whether the plan is working if ongoing, consistent data are not available. Moreover, you will save considerable time when you have objective data that show whether or not progress is being made, and you won't lose time in confusion and debate.
If the behavior goal is an IEP goal that is intended to be met in one year's time, the team should use a decision rule to determine if adequate progress is being made. For example, if the student's behavioral goal is, "Seth will demonstrate on-task behavior and earn 85 percent of his daily points as documented on his daily point card and graph" and the baseline data said the student was on task 71 percent of the time, the teacher would need to establish a graph with a goal line that starts at 71 percent and ends at 85 percent. The goal line would map out how much progress Seth would need to make in the year in order to meet the goal. The team could decide that intervention would be changed if Seth's growth plot showed that he was not on track to meet the set goal.
Our preferred method of collecting progress monitoring data is to use target behavior sheets because they collect data daily, are often part of a student's plan, and can easily be graphed. Every student in our program had data taken on target behaviors from the day they stepped foot in our program so we had data to evaluate progress sometimes over several years. Figure 15.1 shows what these data, collected using daily target behavior sheets, might look like for an individual student. The line graph shows overall behavior, and the bar graph is broken down by individual target skills.
Progress monitoring data can be collected in a variety of ways (see Table 14.3), but they must be collected consistently using the same format in order for the data to be compared over time. Although data can be compared through graphing by hand, we highly recommend electronic graphing. Because the graphs can easily be printed, faxed, or e-mailed, this is especially helpful for reporting progress on IEP behavior goals to parents and sharing information on a student's behavior at school with doctors who are making medication adjustments. Paraprofessionals can enter the data, and even students can work on their self-management and technology skills by entering their own data. Table 15.1 provides a quick reference for graphing data using Microsoft Excel. We also recommend Goal Tracker, a software program developed specifically for special education service providers. More information and a free trial can be found at www.goal-tracker.com.
Quick Reference Sheet for Graphing Data with Microsoft Excel
Target Behavior Sheet Graphs
Key Points to Remember
- A behavior plan has five essential components: (1) a specific definition of the acceptable or desired replacement behavior, (2) a plan for directly teaching this replacement behavior, (3) prevention strategies, (4) planned, systematic reinforcement for exhibiting replacement behavior, and (5) logical undesirable consequences if the student continues to exhibit the problem behavior.
- The hypothesis about the function(s) of the problem behavior is confirmed by answering two questions:
- Was the plan implemented as written?
- Did behavior improve, and was this improvement maintained over time?
- Educators should rely on data taken consistently over time and a decision rule when determining if interventions are working or not working.
- Electronically graphing data collected with daily target behavior sheets is an easy, consistent way to monitor progress over time.
- You are on an IEP team that has developed a behavior plan for one of your students. The classroom teacher called a meeting because the plan is not working. In your review, you find that some components of the plan are not being implemented. How would you bring this up tactfully for team discussion?
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