BIPs & FBAs & Manifestations, Oh my!
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If you have a learner that has behavioral concerns, this post may be for you. As I’ve stated in previous blog posts, there are a plethora of acronyms and verbiage that we use in this profession and forget that parents don’t always understand. So let’s start at the beginning and discuss those annoying, but necessary, acronyms.
FBA stands for Functional Behavior Assessment. There are a few steps to this process, the first of which starts with identifying the problem behavior. Usually, there has been some behavior from a student and if they are already in special education, a special meeting called a manifestation is called. This meeting is to determine whether or not the behavior has to do with the student's disability or not. If your learner is not in Sped yet, then they will call a meeting to determine if the behaviors need special education assistance. There will be a team in place to facilitate this, and these team members measure and record behaviors, address cultural considerations, etc. The team usually consists of the school counselor, a school psychologist or diagnostician, teachers, and paraprofessionals.
Step 2 would be collecting data and determining the function of the behavior. Behaviors usually have specific patterns and in order to establish what the triggers, antecedents, etc. are, this step is very beneficial when trying to put together a supportive plan. There is an ABC form (yes, another acronym, it stands for Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) that allows the team to graph the times, people, and places where the behavior is occurring to help narrow down why the behavior is happening.
What are antecedents and triggers? They are basically what happens right before the behaviors occur. So, if little Henry’s behavior consists of throwing his pencil across the room three to four days a week during math class we need to know what is happening just prior to the throw. Did the teacher give him work that was too hard and it’s a frustration issue? Or is it because he doesn’t know his facts and he’s using this as an avoidance tactic to get out of the work? There are many different factors, and this is why the data collection stage is so important.
Step 3 is categorizing the behavior. Is it functional (attention-seeking), a skill deficit (student does not have the skills to complete the tasks asked of them), or performance (lack of motivation or student doesn’t like the subject)? These are just a few of the categories we look for, but it’s to give you an idea of what we are looking for.
Step 4 is planning the interventions. Here comes the BIP, the Behavior Intervention Plan. Once the team has agreed that the behaviors are due to a specific cause, they come up with accommodations to make the student more successful. These are basically clear instructions for anyone working with this student to follow to keep everyone safe and productive. These goals are written the same as a regular IEP goal i.e., “When given a task or direction Henry will begin the task within one minute independently with no more than two prompts on eight out of ten independent tasks, as measured by staff data.” This allows for easy data tracking so that results are clear and to the point. All personnel at the school who interact with the student should be aware of and following the BIP.
I think it’s important to note here that when creating a BIP we will usually only focus on the top three most pressing behaviors. So if there are behaviors that are more dangerous than annoying, we will obviously focus on the former.
Step 5 is evaluating the effectiveness of the plan. Here we are looking over the data that’s been collected to see if the improvements are as anticipated. Ideally, we eventually want the behavior to be eliminated, however, that may take a long time. Many factors play into how long it takes to extinguish a behavior. And in some cases, they may even get worse before they improve. Essentially, when the behavior is not getting the desired result, some students might amp it up to see if that gets the reaction that they are looking for in this circumstance.
A really important take-away from this FBA/BIP process is that Sped should be very data-driven. If your teacher or team cannot back up what they are telling you with data, you need to request it as proof. Recently, in an advocacy case, we were requesting a student’s data on tardies to prove that his behavior was preventing him from consistently getting to school on time. The data should be there for you, and if they can’t provide it after your request, you may need to speak to an advocate.
As always, please keep in mind, this is based on my experience in Texas. Each student is unique and needs goals specified to their learning style and needs. If you are in a different state, go to your state’s (or district’s) governing body of education, and search for their BIP or FBA information. If you can’t find it, someone that’s a part of your IEP/ARD committee should be able to help you.