Whether you’re in the world of education or applied behavior analysis––or both––then you are well aware of the importance of a behavioral intervention plan, or BIP. If you are in a program to become one or the other, are fresh out of school and have started your career, or are a parent with a child with special needs, you will become quite familiar with the BIP and all of its particulars. The behavioral intervention plan is one of the cornerstones of special education and applied behavior analysis.
While we want to keep this article focused on specific interventions that can be implemented with a BIP, we also want to ensure that everyone reading knows exactly what a BIP is, its purpose, and when one would be appropriate with a student or client.
Let’s dive into the wonderful world of BIPs!
The BIP and its purpose
When a child continues to engage in repeated inappropriate behaviors, such as self-injurious behaviors or aggression, a behavioral intervention plan is put into place after a functional behavior assessment (FBA) has been completed by professionals (SPED teachers or ABA specialists). Once the FBA is complete for the target behaviors, the team will make a hypothesis. They will state the function of the behavior(s) (the why) and create interventions based on the antecedents, behaviors, and consequences presented during the data collection period.
From that information, a formal behavioral intervention plan is written, which will ultimately create a clear picture of:
- The operational definitions of the behaviors that are being targeted
- When the child is likely to engage in those certain behaviors
- The function of those behaviors (sensory, attention, escape, tangibles)
- The specific interventions that are chosen specifically for those target behaviors
- Details of those interventions and how those will be put in place
In the end, the goal is to reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of targeted inappropriate behaviors and increase an appropriate response in its place. For example, we don’t want little Billy to hit his peers; however, what do we want Billy to do instead that is a more appropriate response?
Let’s discuss two school-based and two home-based scenarios in which a child needs behavioral interventions in place. From each scenario, a “good” and “bad” intervention will be chosen and we will go into some detail on why those choices may or may not be effective.
School-Based Intervention One: Elopement
Alexia, a 3rd grader with the eligibility of EBD, has difficulties staying in class and will often elope from the classroom. During these occurrences, she will run around the hallway while staff chases her, will attempt to go into other classrooms and disrupt learning and has even tried to run out of the building.
Staff assumed she wanted to get away from certain peers and avoid doing work; however, once the FBA was complete, the teacher noticed that Alexia’s function of behavior was in fact attention. Because the function was completely different than what they originally had thought, new interventions needed to be put in place to target the elopement. It finally made sense to staff why her behaviors were increasing––the interventions they were using were focusing on escape and avoidance and that was not the correct function of behavior according to the data.
Alexia’s teachers and behavioral specialist met to discuss appropriate interventions options and choose three for her new behavioral intervention plan.
- Frequent delivery of high-quality attention from adult
Alexia will receive high-quality attention in the form of specific verbal praise and positive affirmations/language from the staff at least twice in every segment of the school day.
- Communication Training (FCT)-teaching who to communicate with and teaching how to communicate needs/wants
The staff will teach Alexia appropriate ways to communicate feelings of frustration or anger, needs or wants by modeling/rehearsal. She will be immediately reinforced with verbal praise and the requested break when she engages in functional communication after being given the model prompt.
- Response Blocking
Staff will physically block Alexia from leaving the classroom by standing in front of the door and redirecting her back to his assigned seat/area.
School-Based Intervention Two: Disruptive Behaviors
Jamil is a new high schooler who has a specific learning disability in the area of reading and transitions to co-taught classes throughout the day, although he is pulled into a resource class for language arts. All of his teachers follow the academic accommodations from his IEP and help him work toward his academic objectives.
About a month after Jamil entered the ninth grade, he began exhibiting disruptive behaviors on most days during three of his core classes. These inappropriate behaviors looked like Jamil blurting out, throwing erasers and balled-up paper across the room, interrupting the lessons, cursing, and talking to his peers instead of working on his assignments.
After several things were put in place to no avail, an FBA was conducted and it was determined that Jamil is exhibiting disruptive behaviors to avoid completing his work, especially when there is a large amount of reading involved or more rigorous requirements.
Jamil’s teachers and behavioral specialist met to discuss appropriate interventions options and choose three for his new behavioral intervention plan.
Extinction for “escape-maintained behavior”: staff will not allow Jamil to escape from demands or tasks when targeted inappropriate behavior occurs; it is blocked and ignored.
- Provide Physical Boundaries
Arrange Jamil’s seating placement in the classroom away from peers, distractions, and the classroom exit door as the space permits, closest to the teacher or paraprofessional.
Provide Jamil with a visual display (Ex. Card on desk/study carrel) or a verbal reminder of a reinforcer that he will have access to after completing a task/complying with a request and immediately being provided the reinforcement. Provide choice of a reinforcer (ex. computer time, walk, sensory items, board games, coloring, etc.).
Home-Based Intervention One: Physical Aggression
Molly is a 5-year old girl whose concerned parents contacted an applied behavior analyst to come into the home and observe her behaviors. She had been diagnosed with autism at three years old and has had interventions in the past; however, her most recent behaviors that have revealed themselves revolve around physical aggression. In particular, Molly will throw a significant tantrum and start hitting and kicking whoever may be around during that time.
After observations were made and data was collected, it became clear that Molly is engaging in physical aggression when there is a transition between activities and before she is prompted to start her bedtime routine with her parent’s help.
The ABA specialist met Molly’s parents to discuss appropriate interventions options and choose three for the home environment.
- Use of Visuals
Keep a visual calendar up in the main areas of the house along with short social stories to help with transitions (by the front door, in the bathroom, in the bedroom, in the kitchen).
- Token Economy
Provide Molly with a sticker on a chart each time she transitions from a task or event to another appropriately (no tantrums, aggression, property destruction). She will earn a preferred item or activity after 5 stickers.
- Differential Reinforcement
Provide Molly with attention only during the times she transitions appropriately. They will not give her attention when she engages in aggressive behaviors aside from physically blocking attempts.
Home-Based Intervention Two: Socially Inappropriate
Nathan is a 19-year old who is on the higher end of the autism spectrum and lives with his mom. She called for ABA assistance because she cannot seem to ensure that Nathan will behave appropriately out in public. He often will make comments toward strangers that make them feel inappropriate, he gets into others’ personal space and has difficulty maintaining other physical and verbal boundaries.
In their community, stores, a park, and a movie theater are close to their house and Nathan can walk to and from independently when he gets permission. The problem is that when they go out together, Nathan’s mom notices that he is often socially inappropriate. She would like for him to be able to learn more appropriate behaviors and generalize them to different locations and scenarios so that she will feel more comfortable allowing him to go off on his own.
The ABA specialist met Nathan and his parents to discuss appropriate interventions options and choose three for the home/community environment.
- Functional Communication Training
Before going out in the community, the parents will rehearse/role play with Nathan on how to be accountable for his own actions. They will model (social skills training) how to have appropriate interactions with adults and peers and learn about boundaries.
- Token Economy
Nathan and his parents will create and implement a reward system that he can use for exhibiting appropriate behaviors out in the community and later trade for preferred items and activities at the end of the day or week. Provide reminders throughout the day about what he has earned, and what he needs to do (expectations) for earning the preferred activity or item.
Give Nathan a reminder prior to each outing into the community. This can also entail reading a short social story about what appropriate behaviors look like as well as the consequences of not exhibiting them in the community.
Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) Interventions Explained: Conclusion
The creation of an appropriate and effective behavioral intervention plan that is based on ample data is critical to the success of students with special behavioral needs. Whether a SPED teacher or ABA specialist is creating the plan, everyone who is implementing it needs to be trained in it and follow it with fidelity for the interventions to work. If a BIP is implemented for a few months and no change behavior is noticed or the inappropriate behaviors have increased, there is a chance that the function of behavior was chosen incorrectly or improper interventions were put in place. If this happens, it is back to the drawing board. Ultimately, BIP interventions are what SPED and ABA is all about.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University
Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University
Written December 2021