A smaller group of students, approximately 1-5%, will be provided with ongoing Tier 1 support, will probably have been included in a Tier 2 support, and will still be experiencing difficulty. In many cases these students have school histories significant for academic and behavioral difficulties over an extended period of time. Because their needs may be both more significant and more chronic, the types of support systems employed will be individualized and specific. Just as with the Tier 2 level, schools must build on the established schoolwide system to accurately identify these students, and data-based decision making is essential.
Students with these types of behavior problems require specially designed and individualized interventions that match the needs, or function, of the behaviors. This is where functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and behavior intervention planning (BIP) are utilized. Expertise in the science of behavioral assessment is necessary for the development and implementation of individualized support plans. The school’s tertiary system must include: (a) personnel who are trained in the basic principles of behavior, functional assessment, and behavior support planning, (b) a system for early identification and referral, and (c) an organizational structure that allows for flexible teaming and planning. The process can be initiated through a teacher’s, family member’s or student’s request for assistance or through systematic tracking of data to monitor students, or other means defined by the school/district.
The school teams which are formed to design and implement individual student plans should include those adults who are typically involved with the student on a daily basis along with other staff who have more specialized skills (i.e. school counselors, social workers, special education staff, school psychologists, administrators, and school nurses). The team also includes the family members and if appropriate the student. If the team is to be successful, they must be given the time to meet on a regular basis.
A functional behavioral assessment (FBA) begins by the team working with the teacher(s) to identify the interactions between the student’s behavior and the environment(s) where it is most likely to occur. The team then defines the behavior in operational terms (what it looks/sounds like, how often, in what circumstances). For instance, “When Joe is asked to turn in his homework in math class, he verbally refuses on approximately 4 out of 5 days.” This definition not only serves as a means to correctly identify the behavior, but phrases it in such a way that another person could understand the problem and could directly observe it. Also included would be a setting where the occurrence of the problem behavior is low in order to confirm the summary statement. Next a designated person(s) will observe the student in the problem setting for the identified behavior. Other information will also be gathered (i.e. interviewing others who have and/or currently work with the student, review school records, interview family members and student) in order to develop a summary statement.. All information gathered will then be used by the team to design a behavior intervention plan (BIP). Another term sometimes used for this plan is an individualized positive behavior support plan.
The BIP is designed to change contributing variables associated with the student’s behavior, the teacher’s behavior and the environment. The BIP is based on an instructional approach, similar to that used by teachers for academic instruction. Follow-up observations by team members, on-going monitoring of specified data and other means may be employed to revise, refine, end or continue the plan. The BIP will be reviewed by the team on a regular basis until such time as the team and the teacher(s) make a decision to do otherwise.
Because many of the problems exhibited by students in need of a FBA and BIP are long-standing and significant, school personnel should understand that it is likely to take extended periods of time and intensive intervention before the problems will begin to improve. Any plan may be influenced by unforeseen changes in the student’s or school’s situation. For these reasons it is important for all involved to continue to dedicate the time, resources and personnel as necessary to increase the likelihood of the plan’s success.
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