-by Dr. Tim Grivois, Executive Director, TGS Educational Consulting
When schools develop school-wide systems to meet students’ social, emotional, and academic needs (usually, but not always, within a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports framework), they typically develop fewer individualized behavior support plans. Nevertheless, when students need extra love and support to be their best, knowing how to create an Individualized Behavior Support Plan is essential. However, because Individualized Behavior Support Plans require considerable staff time, effort, and resources, effective leaders take the time to ensure that the supports we put in place are likely to succeed. Individualized Behavior Support Plans fail when they are too big, too shallow, or written by a behavior expert.
The quickest way to ensure that a Behavior Support Plan fails is to make it too big. A Behavior Support Plan is too big when the plan requires more than the team can do. Often, ideas that seemed good at the meeting are more challenging to maintain in real life. Signs that your Behavior Support Plan might be too big are:
- Collecting, tracking, and reporting more than one new data point.
- Reassigning or hiring personnel.
- Expecting youth to address more than one issue at a time.
- Purchasing resources out of personal funds.
Another way to prevent a Behavior Support Plan from succeeding is to create one that is too shallow. A Behavior Support Plan is too shallow when the team focuses only on what triggers behavior without considering all aspects of wellness. Signs that your Behavior Support Plan might be too shallow are:
- The plan only supports behavior without considering the youth’s entire social, emotional, and academic well-being.
- Youth and family are not co-creating the plan with the school team.
- The plan explains what the youth will do in great detail, with minimal explanation of what school adults, family, and outside providers will do.
Written by a behavior expert.
I routinely work with schools to implement Individualized Behavior Support Plans. While I am always happy to support their local team with ideas, I will only write one with the entire team’s input, including youth and family. While an outside expert can provide valuable perspective, we will always need considerable input from the site-based team to create anything worthwhile. Signs that a behavior expert wrote the plan are:
- The plan contains obvious strategies that the school has already tried.
- Strategies may not match the team’s knowledge about the youth, family, and school setting.
- The plan expects school personnel to implement practices for which they’ve never received any training.
In my experience, Individualized Behavior Support Plans fail when they are too big, too shallow, or written by a behavior expert. The best way to address these issues is to do the opposite. The next time your team meets to create an Individualized Behavior Support Plan, strive to make the plan small enough to implement well, deeper than just the behavior we’d like changed, and written by the real experts: the youth, family, and school staff who are providing support. When outside help is necessary, get the most value from their expertise by developing systems and ideas that make sense for you.
Finally, you’ll find resources for Individualized Behavior Support Planning throughout the blog and at our next PBIS webinar on the 26th of October. Click here for more information and to register.