Is your child struggling with their behavior at school? Maybe they’re having a hard time following the rules or getting along with others. This can be a hard place to be as a parent.
Often, children with disabilities or special health care needs use their behavior to tell us something isn’t okay with them. That behavior may be the only way that they can get their message across. But that doesn’t mean that they know why they’re acting a certain way or what’s wrong. Many times children who are younger or who have a younger developmental age don’t understand why they do what they do. If your child is having a lot of meltdowns, disrupting class, being aggressive, refusing to do schoolwork, or using very inappropriate language at school, you might feel like whatever you or your child’s teachers are doing just isn’t working.
This is when schools or parents might decide to use a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) or Behavior Support Plan (BSP). These positive behavior support plans are designed to help children replace problem behaviors with more positive ones. A BIP or BSP says how the adults in your child’s life (parents, teachers, school staff, and other caregivers) are going to support your child and teach them the skills that they need to use more positive behavior. The things the adults do are usually called positive behavior supports, or just behavioral supports.
You can read stories from other parents about creating a behavioral intervention plan at home and using and understanding positive behavior support. On this page, we’ll focus on the BIP process at school.
Here are the steps to get a BIP for your child:
The first step in developing a behavior support plan for your child is to figure out the cause of problem behaviors. Are they happening because your child doesn’t have certain skills? For example, a child might hit or yell at another child who confronts them or isn’t doing what they want because the child doesn’t know another way to respond.
Or does the behavior give your child something that they want? For example, a child might call out or make noise in class to get extra attention from a teacher or other children. An FBA identifies the purpose or “function” that the behaviors serve – the “why”. This means why the behavior is happening.
An FBA is usually done by someone the school hires who has a background in applied behavior analysis. This might be a psychologist or a behavior specialist. They will probably interview your child, the teacher, the school staff, and you. They will try to identify triggers (or causes) for the behavior and any skills they think your child needs to learn or get stronger in. The FBA might even give you some new ideas about your child that you can use to help them at home too.
The BIP is designed to help children use more positive behaviors. It can help your child learn problem-solving skills and better ways to get their needs met so that they don’t have as many problem behaviors in school. A good BIP focuses more on the rewards your child will get for positive behavior than on anything negative that might happen after a problem behavior. It should include information on what the teachers, school staff, or other caregivers are expected to do––and what your child is expected to do too.
Your child’s BIP should include:
Here is an example of a BIP from Understood.org.
A BIP might be something you can adapt to use at home and help your child use more positive behavior there too.
Your child’s school should review the BIP often and change it if needed. After all, your child is always growing and changing; things that worked at first might not work later. Here are questions you can ask to help your child:
Different schools involve parents at different levels in the BIP process. They might only ask you to agree to let them do an FBA and to sign off on a BIP. Or they might ask you a lot of questions about what your child’s behavior looks like at home so that they can identify needs and triggers or causes. You and your child have the right to ask questions and share your opinions about how the plan will work. After all, you are the biggest expert on your child and will probably have a lot of ideas.
If you need help working with your child’s school to get a BIP that is right for your child, you can get help from the TIER trainer at your regional education service center (ESC). Learn more about ESCs and other government-funded organizations that can help your child and family on our Government-Funded Organizations page. If your child’s school doesn’t seem to be following the BIP, see our page on Your Child’s Right to a Public Education for ideas on what to do.
Sometimes your child’s BIP just isn’t working as well as everyone planned. There are a few reasons why this could happen:
If you think your child’s BIP just isn’t working, it needs to be adjusted. You can call the school and ask for a review meeting. You’re an important part of your child’s educational and behavior support team.