The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) requires schools to provide positive behavioral interventions and supports for students with disabilities when behavior impedes their learning or the learning of others.
Q: Who is responsible for addressing a child's behavior problems in school?
A: Supports and services for students with disabilities are determined by the student’s educational team. There are two types of educational teams: the Individualized Educational Program (IEP) team and a Section 504 team. The team must address behavior and develop a positive behavioral support plan (also called a Behavior Intervention Plan, or BIP) if necessary.
Q: What is a positive behavioral support plan?
A: This plan outlines the steps that will be taken by the members of the student’s team to modify the environment and teach the student new skills. It outlines the interventions and services provided to the student, establishes accountability for completing tasks and ensures communication and consistency. This plan is usually based on a functional behavioral assessment (FBA).
Q: What is a functional behavioral assessment?
A: The FBA identifies the possible reasons why students may be exhibiting problem behaviors so that educational teams can select interventions to directly address them. The assessment usually involves a series of observations of the student in the school environment. When the team understands “why” a student misbehaves it can develop specific interventions addressing the biological, social, environmental and other factors affecting the behavior.
Q: Who conducts the FBA?
A: A variety of school personnel can help to conduct the FBA. This includes teachers, aides, principals and school psychologists. Behavior specialists can also be used to conduct the FBA. The student’s educational team should determine how best to assess the behavior. This can include direct observation, interviews with teachers and parents and formal evaluation tools.
Q: How is the FBA used for behavior support?
A: Information gathered by the FBA can be used to determine if there are patterns to behavior. For example, a student who talks disruptively in class may be doing so to get attention or avoid difficult work. Once the reason for the behavior is determined, a plan can be developed to specifically target the reason for the behavior. If the talkative student is trying to gain attention, a behavior plan can be developed that gives the student attention in a way that is not disruptive to the classroom.
Q: What types of behavioral supports are available?
A: Behavior support plans should include a variety of services and supports appropriate to the unique needs of the student. They can include positive strategies, classroom or curriculum modifications, supplementary aids and services including a classroom aide, and changes in instructional techniques (such as using visual instruction for a student who has auditory processing difficulties). All behavior support plans should include strategies for teaching the student acceptable behaviors that can effectively replace the student’s inappropriate behavior.
Q: Why is positive behavioral support important?
A: Positive behavioral supports reduce negative behaviors and reduce the likelihood that a student with disabilities will have to be formally disciplined. Formal discipline is ineffective for many students with disabilities because their behaviors are often caused by their disabilities and beyond their control. Reducing negative behaviors in a positive way increases the chances that a student with disabilities can learn in the least restrictive environment possible with typical peers and with full access to the general educational program.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Kristin Hildebrant,senior attorney for Disability Rights Ohio in Columbus.