How to Create an Effective Behavioral Intervention Plan for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

In this post, we will look at how to create an effective behavioral intervention plan for students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism…

Once the IEP team (including the parents) has conducted a functional assessment, the information obtained from that assessment should be used to develop a behavioral intervention plan. The purpose of this intervention plan is to spell out what behaviors are being targeted for change – and how change will be handled.

Certain items in the behavioral intervention plan are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, while others are simply good information to have included:
  • description of how the child’s behavior will be handled should it reach a crisis stage (called a “crisis plan”)
  • definition and description of the behavior being targeted
  • description of how the success of the interventions will be measured
  • description of previously tried interventions and how well they did - or didn’t - work in changing behavior
  • description of the behavior that will replace the inappropriate behavior (called the “replacement behavior”)
  • description of the interventions that will be used (e.g., who will be involved, specific procedures that will be followed, how data will be collected)
  • description of when and how information will be shared between the home and school
  • information about the child that could impact the intervention plan
  • list of the child’s strengths and abilities
  • measurable description of the behavior changes that all parties expect to see
  • schedule for when and how often the plan will be reviewed to determine its effectiveness
  • statement describing the function or purpose of the targeted behavior

When writing the behavioral intervention plan, make sure that everything is spelled out clearly and specifically so that the intervention plan can be used easily by all parties involved with the child. In most circumstances, the intervention plan should be less than 4 pages in length. If it is longer than that, it may be too difficult for all parties to remember and follow.

The IEP team should make sure that the interventions included are ones that they have the resources and ability to implement consistently (e.g., if “time-outs” are included in the plan, but a time-out space is only available 2 days a week, then it will be more effective to choose a different intervention).

Once the IEP team agrees on the behavior intervention plan, all parties involved must agree to implement it consistently. If even one team member thinks that he or she is unable to support the plan, it needs to be revisited. Inconsistent application of any intervention may result in an increase in the targeted inappropriate behavior, or in the appearance of a new inappropriate behavior.

Sample Behavioral Intervention Plan:

Name: Michael Jones
Grade: 5
Age: 10
School: Big City Elementary School
Date Written: 2/4/13

Strengths of the child:
  • enjoys praise and positive, social reinforcement 
  • likes science and hands-on activities
  • usually responds well to educators
  • wants to be in the general education classes
  • usually wants to do the same work as his peers
  • works hard and participates most days

Individualized information about the child:
  • Biological factors, medication interactions, and anxiety can cause child to react to situations/directions differently on some days. Child will have productive days and not so productive days. 
  • has difficulty with tasks necessitating writing
  • often works and moves more slowly than peers
  • Some behaviors associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Tourettes are apparent (e.g., tapping, noises/verbalizations, some scratching/ rubbing hands and face, repetitive movements). These behaviors are made worse when child is anxious.

Previously implemented interventions:
  • Time-outs, negative reinforcement, and positive reinforcement with tangibles were ineffective interventions. There was some success with a token economy using concrete reinforcers.

Problematic behaviors:

Behavior 1— Incomplete assignments

Baseline: averaging 5 incomplete assignments per week for last 5 weeks

Function of the behavior:
  • allows child to express/feel in control of a situation when he’s uncomfortable with something 
  • relieves anxiety by avoiding a task he dislikes or finds frustrating

Replacement behavior:
  • complete assignments in study period or at home 
  • ask for help (e.g., asking for assistance, modifications or breaks)

  • Modify assignments by reducing the number/length of responses required for each concept.  Where possible, reduce the amount of writing required. 
  • Grading: Teacher establishes a minimum for each assignment. If child does more than the minimum number of responses required, he gets credit/extra credit for each extra response that is correct (no penalty for incorrect responses). If child doesn’t complete the minimum, he is counted off for the missing responses.
  • Child will have a scheduled study period each day. If he has all assignments completed, he can participate in other activities.

  • number of incomplete/missing assignments in each class 
  • assignment grades

Amount of improvement expected:
  • no more than 2 incomplete assignments per week for 3 consecutive weeks

Behavior 2— Unable/unwilling to work in class

Baseline: 20% of assignments completed and 35% completed in class

Function of the Behavior:
  • allows child to express/feel in control of a situation when he’s uncomfortable with something 
  • relieves anxiety by avoiding a task he dislikes or finds frustrating

Replacement Behavior:
  • at least attempt each assignment 
  • verbalize frustration and/or need for modification

  • Child is given 1 prompt to start assignment. After that, refusal is ignored (any behavior disturbing others will be dealt with according to classroom rules and consequences and child earns a 0 on that assignment). 
  • Child receives 2 points for every assignment he attempts (e.g., does at least 1/4th of the assigned task) and 5 points for every completed assignment. Points can be spent before lunch and before child goes home on items/activities on his reinforcement menu (child must have input on what’s on the menu).
  • Child will be given the option of completing an assignment in the resource room for full credit.
  • Child will receive instruction/guidance in how to express needs from the school counselor. Child will earn 5 points for appropriately (according to the guidelines taught by the school counselor) expressing frustration and/or need for help/modifications.

  • record % of assignments attempted and % of assignments completed 
  • record frequency and duration of time in the resource room for this behavior

Amount of improvement expected:
  • at least 60% completed and 75% attempted in class for at least 3 of 4 weeks

Behavior 3— Using profanity around peers

Baseline: average of 8 incidents per week for last 5 weeks

Function of the behavior:
  • vent anger/frustration in a situation less threatening than with teachers/peers 
  • relieving feeling of anxiety due to Tourettes or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • attention-getting

Replacement behavior:
  • recognize anxiety or anger/frustration and get help to vent appropriately (e.g., cool down time, removing self from situation, talking with teachers/peers) 
  • get attention by interacting appropriately with peers

  • when child is verbally inappropriate, he is directed to remove himself to a different location and is not allowed to participate in the activity (e.g., recess) for 5 minutes 
  • provide opportunities for child to practice interacting appropriately with peers (e.g., reading with them)
  • praise for appropriate verbal interaction

  • record number of times child asks for help with anxiety or anger/frustration
  •  record number of times child is verbally inappropriate with peers

Amount of improvement expected:
  • no more than an average of 4 incidents per week for 3 consecutive weeks

Schedule for review:
  • documentation review at least each nine weeks when grade cards are distributed

Provisions for home coordination:
  • On Fridays, a note will be sent home with weekly grade for each class number of inappropriate verbalizations toward peers and number of times child requested resource room and/or cool down. 
  • Assignment notebook sent home daily. Assignments will be marked as attempted, completed or not attempted.

Crisis management plan:
  • If an injury or property damage occurs as a result of Michael’s behavior, a police report will be made and he will be suspended according to district policy. The IEP team will meet as soon as possible within 10 days to review the behavior intervention plan and make modifications where necessary. 
  • If Michael endangers himself or others while in isolation, physical restraint will be used by staff members trained in Mandt procedures.
  • If Michael is not able to demonstrate compliance within 30 minutes, or if he has had more than 3 timeouts, he will be seen by support staff as soon as possible.
  • If Michael endangers himself or others, he will be isolated from his peers and mother or her designee will be called. Michael will remain in isolation until it is determined that he is no longer in imminent danger of hurting himself or others. He will finish his school day in the resource room.
  • Michael will be given a cue that he can use with staff to indicate that he is getting upset and needs to cool down. Once he gives the cue, he can choose from the following options: (a) ask to see a support staff member, (b) go to the resource room, (c) walk in the hall or outside (a staff member will accompany child, but will not talk to child). 
  • If staff sees that Michael is becoming upset and is not using his cue for help, staff will say, “You’re getting upset. I need you to see a support staff member, or go to the resource room, or take a walk in the hall or outside with a staff member.” If Michael is unable to cool down, he will be directed to go to time-out where he will remain until he can demonstrate compliance. 

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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