Approximately 1-5% of students will continue to experience difficulty after participation in ongoing Tier 1 support and inclusion in a Tier 2 intervention. In many cases these students have school histories of significant academic and behavioral difficulties over an extended period of time. Because their needs may be more intense and chronic, Tier 3 support systems are individualized. 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 chronic and/or intense problem behaviors require specially designed and individualized interventions that match the function of the problem behavior. A simple functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is conducted to create a summary statement that forms the basis for a student’s behavior intervention plan (BIP). 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. Teams that 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.

The team beings the FBA process by 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 and determines the settings where the behavior is most likely and least likely to occur. 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. After the summary statement has been confirmed through observation, the FBA information will then be used by the team to design a BIP.

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 is 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 difficulties 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 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 necessary to increase the likelihood of the plan’s success.